If you are a musician concerned about making money in your chosen field, you know you need to educate yourself about the business of music. Of all the great music business books out there that I’ve seen, two stand out as ideal for the musician ready to make a serious study of music industry.
Donald Passman’s All You Need to Know about the Music Industry is a great choice for the performing artist; in addition to getting deep into the nitty-gritty of copyright, royalties, and record contracts, he walks musicians through the critical process of picking lawyers, managers, accountants, and other professional managers. The great strength of this dense book is in its detail; Mr. Passman takes common music business terms and explains what they are and how they affect artists. Mr. Passman’s grimly humorous explanations and illustrations of recoupment, the practice of record companies charging back all album expenses against artists’ royalties, are excellent examples of information musicians need, presented in a way that is easy to swallow.
Eric Beall’s Making Music Make Money is more geared toward songwriters, particularly in the field of pop, urban, rock, and adult contemporary music. Mr. Beall’s book walks you — also with a twist of humor, more irreverent than grim — through the process of getting music from your writing desk through the Copyright Office, to music industry executives, past details of standard record contracts, to the release party, into record stores, advertising, films, and into money in your bank account. Mr. Beall’s anecdote-rich explanations and instructions on the art of “song plugging,” that is, getting your song to people that can use it, are worth the price of the book. So are the lights he sheds on the work of musicians who decide to share publishing work more closely with their publishing companies (that’s called co-publishing) or handle all the publishing themselves (that’s called self-publishing).
Musicians that hope to have a profitable career should consider purchasing both of the above books. Together they give a well-rounded view of what awaits musicians in the business of music. The first book gives artists excellent detail on what they will face and the teams they can build to assist and protect them. The second book gives songwriters the knowledge they need to get their music from their desks into making them actual money. Do not think of these books as the end of your study, and do not take them for a quick or casual reading assignment. If you need information at a glance, neither will be quite right. On the other hand, the music business is a complicated beast; the time you spend with these two books will repay you throughout your career.