Notice: In this piece on books every musician should read, you will see affiliate links in this post and I may make a commission from sales – rest assured, however – these are all books I have read, have on my shelf, and recommend. There are other books I think suck 🙂
As a musician or any other independent creative, not only are you an artist, you’re also a marketer, content creator, and business owner. As such, education should be one of the main ongoing investments you make. That’s what going to help you avoid the pitfalls most of us fall into when building our business.
But sometimes all online courses and YouTube vids and blogs can be a bit disjointed and overwhelming. Not to mention, when it comes to “making it” it can be hard to know who to trust.
Plus, online courses can be expensive. They’re awesome – but expensive. So, sometimes the best thing you can do is turn off the screen and read an actual, old-school book. With that in mind, here are 13 books I’ve read that I think every musician should read ASAP.
The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron
The quintessential and necessary foundational mindset book for any creative professional. This is the book on how to deal with what it means to have art as your mission and/or job.
Confessions of a Record Producer: How to Survive the Scams and Shams of the Music Business – Moses Avalon
A must-read in its millionth edition, for getting a real perspective on how the old-school music industry works. Necessarily foundational.
How To Make It in the New Music Business: Practical Tips on Building a Loyal Following and Making a Living as a Musician – Ari Herstand
One of the very few books on “making it” or being in “new music business” that I would recommend.
The Musician’s Guide to Licensing Music: How to Get Your Music into Film, TV, Advertising, Digital Media & Beyond – Darren Wilsey and Daylle Deanna Schwartz
Not the only knowledge you’ll need about licensing, since the game has evolved so much since it was written, but important foundational information so you don’t get confused by people’s unclear explanations of the business.
Master Handbook of Acoustics, Seventh Edition – F. Alton Everest and Ken Pohlmann
Before you screw around with audio, it’s helpful to understand the physics of sound itself. This is a slog, but it’s the root source of everything else you’ll learn about sound.
Mastering Audio, Third Edition: The Art and the Science – Bob Katz
Incredibly valuable for fundamentals of audio, not just for aspiring mastering engineers.
The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook: 5th Edition – Bobby Owsinski
I consistently go back to this book as a reference. Super concise, clear, and systematic methodology for improving mixes.
Zen and the Art of Mixing – Mixerman
Totally different approach than Bobby Owsinski’s book. This book is more of a philosophy around mixing, including being a mixer for hire. For me, this book and Owsinski’s go hand in hand to give a well-rounded picture of mixing.
Zen and the Art of Producing – Mixerman
More of the same basic philosophy, but from a producer’s perspective. Great for actually understanding what the word “producer” means, which is an important thing to understand.
How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck: Advice to Make Any Amateur Look Like a Pro – Steve Stockman
Like it or not, music is a visual art as well as aural. In this world, you need to at least have some competency with video.
The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help – Amanda Palmer
The famous Dresden Dolls singer who then raised about a gazillion dollars in the early days of Kickstarter has always been ahead of her time when it comes to nurturing fan relationships. This is philosophical and inspiring but also fundamental knowledge.
No B.S. Direct Marketing: The Ultimate No Holds Barred Kick Butt Take No Prisoners Direct Marketing for Non-Direct Marketing Businesses – Dan S. Kennedy
Dan Kennedy is one of the premier digital marketers on Earth. Don’t get squicked out, digital marketing is what music marketing is, largely, and digital marketing is simply direct marketing online.
The Copywriter’s Handbook, Third Edition – Robert W. Bly
I read this to help with launching my copywriting business, but as it turns out, strong copy is the biggest difference maker you can hope for in any business endeavor. It pays to understand it.
I’m a producer, vocalist, and writer. I’ve been in this indie game for 28 years and this list of books I think every musician should read is a small piece of a vast firehose of knowledge I’ve come by – some of which is hogwash. This list is good stuff. Let’s talk about it on Facebook or Instagram