Essential Books for Musicians: 2 You Know, 2 You Don’t

These books speak for themselves, helping DIY musicians become better artists and entrepreneurs.

Book cover, How to Build a Sustainable Music Career And Collect All Revenue Streams by Emily White

1. How to Build a Sustainable Music Career And Collect All Revenue Streams, by Emily White

This book is the most straightforward guide to recording, releasing, and monetizing your music. White offers step-by-step instructions for what to do in every phase of your album or EP, from recording basics to touring strategies. Her emphasis on all the things you need to do before recording is especially important—building an email list, setting up a pre-order, sorting out your social media. You can finish it in about a day, so read this before you start your next musical project.

Book cover, Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg

2. Several Short Sentences About Writing, by Verlyn Klinkenborg

A book about writing? On a music blog? You bet. It’s intended for writers, but the book’s subject matter is the creative process in general. It’s a relatively short read offering practical actions for creatives of any field to improve their craft. Klinkenborg goes beyond platitudes about “getting in the right mindset” and challenges you to really reflect on your own creative process. This is surprisingly easy given his choice to structure and style the book like a poetry collection. The result is a meditative reading experience that will make you excited to create art and give you tools to be better at it.

Book for Musicians: Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath

3. Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath

Brothers Chip and Dan propose six qualities that have historically made ideas “sticky”: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotionality, and story-based. Each of these qualities is accompanied by real-world examples which show how they can be applied. While this may seem like an odd book to recommend musicians, its concepts are incredibly useful. After all, whether it’s through your lyrics or your EP’s packaging, music is all about communicating ideas. The book is a soft introduction to branding that will help you make those ideas stick with your audience.

Book for Musicians: All You Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald Passman

4. All You Need to Know About The Music Business, by Donald Passman

This book is the musician’s holy text. It’s exactly what the title promises: a comprehensive guide through virtually all aspects of the industry. Trying to register your songs with ASCAP? Not sure what ASCAP even is? Need to start assembling your team? Ready to learn what the heck publishing actually is? This book answers all of it and more. Plus, Passman writes in a casual, conversational tone that makes this not just an informative read, but a fun one. If you pick up only one of the books on this list, make it this one.

What did we miss? Let us know what you think belongs in every musician’s library by tweeting at @tonicaudiolabs!

By Mike Powers

Mike is a composer, arranger, and artist manager who writes for Tonic Audio.