Book Review: What They’ll Never Tell You About The Music Business

What They’ll Never Tell You About The Music Business:  The Complete Guide For Musicians, Songwriters, Producers, Managers, Industry Executives, Attorneys, Investors, And Accountants, by Peter M. Thall

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/Watson-Guptill Publications in exchange for an honest review.]

It is easy to see, upon reading this book, how this more than 400 page tome fulfills its obligation to be a complete guide to the business side of the music business.  For those of us reared on horror stories about how much trouble artists and songwriters have had because of various trickery in the music industry and how artists have struggled to maintain business success as well as personal integrity [1] for a long time, this book offers a guide to how to survive in the music industry no matter what one’s role that sits somewhere in the sweet spot between cynicism and realism.  The author is an entertainment lawyer and he definitely has written something of use to a wide audience, and if he does not spare too many feelings in the process, he tells a straightforward story that will hopefully be a wake-up call to many.  There is no doubt, for one, that this book is immensely worthwhile for anyone who has any sort of role in the music industry, and as someone who sings, writes, and has been a college radio dj [2].  If there are any friends or acquaintances similarly involved even on the margins of the music industry or with any ambitions as far as writing and performing are concerned, this is a good book to buy and I will happily lend it to those who are curious about reading it.  It is a demanding read, but an excellent one.

The lengthy and detailed contents of this book are divided into reasonably short but extremely detailed chapters about such matters as:  investing, advances, royalties, personal management, managing one’s financial future, employment agreements, record producers, marketing and promotion, touring, merchandising, audits, music publishing, songwriter credits, owning one’s own music publishing company, internet entrepreneurship, largely unknown royalty opportunities, urban music, classical music, termination of copyright grants, compliance with copyright law, catalogue valuation, copyright issues, and solving piracy.  The book’s contents are of use to business-savvy musicians as well as those who are songwriters or A&R people and help the readers become aware of special concerns in various genres, and aware of the legal demands as well as the general business climate.  As might be expected, the laws and customs in the United States are fairly backward about the property rights of intellectual property creators and much stronger at seeking to protect the privileges of business, but that ought to surprise few readers.

Seeing as many artistic types of people are the sort of people who are easily taken advantage of when it comes to business deals, the main purpose of this book is to be a reference so that if artists are going to have to sign dodgy contracts or engage in trade-offs between present comfort and future security, or avoid giving away huge revenue streams, they will at least be forewarned about the dangers faced in contracts and will be well-equipped to at least think seriously about the need to hire good counsel in those aspects where they do not wish to be directly engaged on a regular basis.  Many artists have to wear many hats–part time businessmen aside from their duties in writing and performing, and this book is worthwhile in equipping artists on how to do what they want to do best, and to earn a decent living at it.  And when it comes to enjoying the fruits of one’s creative labor, it is worthwhile to at least have some insight in how one can go about living a decent life while one creates beautiful art, and how one can continue to earn after one’s active career is over.  If you want to make any money in any part of the music industry, this is a good book to have as part of one’s library.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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