Living under quarantine gives you ample time to read something new. Here are my top five music-related books if you’re looking for a way to get smarter while you pass the time.


Everything you Need to Know About the Music Business by Don Passman


This is a must-read for anyone who is interested in pursuing a career in the music industry.  In the book, music attorney Don Passman breaks down the notoriously complex business of music. His concise style breaks down tough in a way that is both compelling and easy to understand, even for beginners. He discusses concepts like royalties, publishing, masters, distribution, and record labels in a way that is communicative and bereft of all the complex language that may turn casual readers away.


This isn’t to say it’s light reading. It’s 500+ pages of some of the most confusing intellectual property concepts known to man. But if you’ve looking for one definitive text to guide you through the labyrinth that is the music industry, then this is your best bet.


LIFE by Keith Richards


If you’re looking for more casual reading, LIFE by Keith Richards is a great read. It’s a long, yet fascinating autobiography of one of the most iconic rock stars of all time. Even if you’re not a fan of the Rolling Stones, LIFE is a hair-raising portrait of one of the most turbulent times in western culture and one of the most important eras of modern music.


Part rock & roll epic, part sanguine memoir, LIFE gives you the real experience of being a rockstar – through all the parties and excess as well as the pain and disillusionment. Richards does a great job of giving you the good, the bad, and the ugly of that era. The result is an unflinching look at the idealism of the 1960s and nihilism that followed.



The Tanning of America by Steve Stout


If you’re interested in hip hop or cultural theory as it relates to music and fashion, then The Tanning of America by Steve Stout is a great read. Stout is a music industry veteran who has worked with everyone from Nas to Lyor Cohen. The Tanning of America discusses how hip hop irrevocably changed the fabric of pop culture. It documents the shift of popular culture from one dominated primarily by Western Anglo-Saxton ideas into a creative melting pot of different cultural trends and aesthetics.


Black culture has always had a major impact on America. In the book, Stout explains how hip hop specifically opened new doors for collaboration between corporations and artists. He claims it also articulated a sense of hipness and rebellion that crossed racial and class boundaries in a special way. This set into motion a phenomenon Stout calls tanning, in which all cultural trends begin to merge into one collective identity.


Creative License by Kembrew McLeod & Peter Dicola


If you are an artist or producer who uses samples in their music, Creative License is a fascinating read. It covers the rise and legal history of the art of sampling. Also, it attempts to explain why it’s such a complicated process.

The book goes through numerous case studies of famous albums that used samples. It starts with the golden age of hip hop all the way to modern-day. It provides a holistic look at how the sampling system functions.

This book demystifies one of the most elusive concepts in the recording industry. Those who are interested in sampling will find it entertaining from start to finish.


Please Kill Me


This may be the most esoteric book on the list. However, it’s a great read if you’re a fan of punk rock. Please Kill Me is an oral biography of one of the most controversial music genres of all time. It’s an honest and well-researched account of punk rock in its original incarnation.


Please Kill Me attempts to give an unbiased account of a musical period that changed the world. It features iconic interviews with figures like Iggy Pop and Richard Hell. The book is over four hundred pages on interviews with the people who originated the genre. It gives the reader a glimpse into the psychology and cultural influences that sparked that moment in history.


It’s raw and unapologetic. It gives as much weight the energy and ideas as it does to the bad drug trips and sexual escapades. So, It’s a book that is both enlightening and fun to read.