12 Books That The Record Industry Needs To Read
Grab a book off the list and enjoy it.
Over the last few months, we’ve been asking some of the leading voices in our field to send in their summer reading lists for the Hypebot community. I won’t go as far as to say that this is a definitive list of the books that the music and record industries needs to read, but it’s certainly a good start. There’s a couple of great titles missing that I’ll try to call attention to in my own reading list. That is, when I get around to putting it together.
Summer is winding down and you likely won’t be able to dive into these before the season’s end. However, if you’re looking for a few great books to read this fall and winter—go no further. Each book was pulled from the lists of some of the smartest people that I know, or, rather, those that still kindly answer my emails.
12 Books That The Record Industry Needs To Read:
by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
This book is written by the founders of the software company 37signals; it explores new ways of looking at working and living and challenges the behaviors we call normal. As well, the book gives a great overview into the reality of starting a company and the lack of resources that are needed with the proliferation of digital technologies and the emergence of the social web.
2. Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates
by Adrian Johns
In this book, Johns explores the history of piracy and reveals that it is far longer and intertwined with our cultural lives than we had imagined. It explores the intellectual property wars from the advent of print culture in the fifteenth century to the reign of the Internet in the twenty-first. This title provides a needed context into the claims that the sky-is-falling on the recording industry and makes chicken little look like he's been screaming bloody murder for centuries.
3. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
by Seth Godin
Never one to mince words, Godin flat out tells readers that they are remarkable — that something that they do matters much, much more than they believe it does. After spending years in an education system that's almost designed to squash out all creativity and uniqueness from people, preparing them for the ultimate corporate bargain, Godin urges us to wake up and use our full potential. Not because we are some special butterflies, but because right now, in this instance, the world needs us to be remarkable and use those very talents.
4. You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto
by Jaron Lanier
Lanier has written a cautionary tale that challenges us to think about whether or not the web is transforming our culture and society for better or worse. He argues that we take every day technology for granted and don't truly understand the biases of the mediums we use — that they were designed at very specific moments in history by people with specific intentions. The operating system that our world and computers work on is just one representation of reality and many minor design decisions in it have real and unintended consequences.
5. Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age
by Clay Shirky
Whether you read this book shaking your head or nodding in agreement, Shirky provides much food for thought and interjects a theory about how the abundance of our free time could be used. In the digital sphere, we are active participates in our cultural lives and if we spend our surplus of downtime working on something that matters, rather than watching reruns of Lost, something great could emerge. If harnessed properly, we can produce value that benifits society as a whole and not just our own lives. Embbrace the chaos and don't look back.
6. Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music
by Greg Kot
From the perspective of a music critic and journalist, Kot analyses the cultural and organizational shifts that underpinned the profitability of the record industry long before the proliferation of digital technologies revolutionized it. He weaves together a brilliant narrative about the decline of traditional social institutions and talks about how the young and the digital are redefining the roles of cultural creators and their art. Contrary to Knopper's title, Kot explores the new music business from the musicians who shaped and changed it forever.
7. Fans, Friends And Followers: Building An Audience In The Digital Age
by Scott Kirsner
We talk about the DIY movement, but Kirsner goes into the trenches and gains insight into the careers of those whom are actually doing it and making a living off their works. Rather than relying on the gatekeepers of yesteryear, the people outlines in this book have gained access to the tools needed to produce, market, and distribute their work. This book features of range of interviews across a broad number of disciplines in the cultural industries; it provides practical strategies and resources for the reader to stand up and join the movement — if they so wish.
8. The Music Industry: Music in the Cloud
by Patrik Wikström
Communications scholar and online music fandom analyst Nancy Baym said it best, "Like Kot's book, this is a readable analysis of recent changes in the music industry, but where Kot focuses on case studies to make his case, Wikström offers a critical theoretically-grounded perspective and a rich analysis of the changing nature of the many industries involved in the industry."
9. Mashed Up: Music, Technology, and the Rise of Configurable Culture
by Aram Sinnreich
I will admit, I haven't read this title yet. So, I will have to leave you with the Barnes and Noble description: "Mashed Up chronicles the rise of 'configurability,' an emerging musical and cultural moment rooted in today's global, networked communications infrastructure. Based on interviews with dozens of prominent DJs, attorneys, and music industry executives, the book argues that today's battles over sampling, file sharing, and the marketability of new styles such as 'mash-ups' and 'techno' presage social change on a far broader scale."
10. Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry In The Digial Age
by Steve Knopper
Knopper explores the rise and fall of the record industry through a people and executive driven narrative that gives insight into many of the organizational problems they faced. This provides a much more historical perspective into specific periods of time during the last few decades of popular music. He looks much more into the business side of recorded music than Kot and the many characters that drove it into the ground. This is a tale of short-sighted capitalism and greed and luddite ignorance, where Kot tells of the more music based story.
11. Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars
by William Patry
This book is still one of my favorites to date; it gives a scathing review of the cultural industries and tells how they often only want to give consumers what they want to give them — not what they actually want. It studies the language used in the Copyright Wars and gives an in-depth argument as to why those in the industries, whom piracy has been a problem for, tend to demonize their opponents, rather than answer the much broader question of why they refuse to innovate. Creative destruction is a force of change — lobbying government and issuing massive lawsuits are just methods to deny the future and hope that things stay the same forever and ever — freezing business models in the present.
12. Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music
by David Suisman
Suisman provides a much needed history of the rise of the commercial music industry, ranging from Tin Pan Alley to Black Swan, the first major black-owned record company, charting its immense complexity on the way. He tells of how music become a commodity in America and gives deep insight into the truth that the music that permeates in our everyday lives has much less to do with our preferences than of the deep pockets and marketing budgets and tactics that the record industry has employed for decades. In reality, it's the music they want us to hear, not the other way around. Sadly for them, most of us quit buying it.
I really love Rework…Ive read it 2x already and just recently DL’d the audiobook.
Personally, Linchpin was my least favorite of Seth Godin’s books. I’d recommend Purple Cow or Tribes for music execs.
The self help junkie in me would also recommend anything by Robert Green.
I will have to check out rework. Elements of pirates dilemma and No Logo have inspired out of the box thinking.
Great article though!
I really liked “Selling Sounds.” A bit on the academic side and not the easiest of reads (how about a paragraph break every now and again?) but a very good book. However, the book’s main thrust is not that the most popular products are merely pushed on people by well-bankrolled entities (name an industry, especially in entertainment, where that doesn’t happen, by the way).
I took away the fact that popular music was no less commercial over 100 years ago than it is today. The songs people now consider the best in America’s pop music history were overtly commercial — and for a good reason. Sheet music brought an economy of scale that didn’t exist with public performances.
Consumers do/did indeed have a preference. They can choose to buy or not to buy. But the creator’s goal is scale, and that requires a certain type of song that will appeal to the masses.
And the book made me appreciate Enrico Caruso a lot more than I used to.
It may be best for people to better understand the nuts and bolts of the industry a lot better. That means Donald Passman should be required reading.
Well said. I was getting to the end of the post and cut it off on that note. While not entirely misleading, your right, the biggest point of the book is that many of the romantic notions about a non-commercial record industry are false. It’s almost always been that way.
In american history pop musics are comercial but thanks for Elements of pirates dilemma and No Logo have inspired out of the box thinking.צילום אירועים
Greg Kot’s book quite literally changed my perspective on the music industry.
He's pretty amazing like that.
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