Reference works on building a career as a performing musician?

A friend of mine is a very talented singer-songwriter who is interested in a career as a performing musician. She has produced and published four albums on her own, and has been fairly successful on the local coffeehouse circuit and local indie radio stations. She would like to find a larger audience for her music, but she doesn’t have connections in the music industry, so she is looking for information about how the industry works and how to break through to the next level. Are there references that I can point her to that would be helpful? I would be interested either in how-to guides for breaking into the music industry, or biographies of other musicians who have moved up from the coffeehouse circuit. (In case it matters, her genre is folk – I would compare her to Nanci Griffith or Joni Mitchell.)


I am related to this kid. He’s my first cousin once removed.

From what I’ve heard over the years, he hasn’t made a penny. Just the opposite, in fact: his family members have had to shell out big bucks to keep him afloat.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s extremely difficult to make any money via performing music. Tell her to maintain a regular, paying job and do the performing on the side.

Sorry to hear about your family’s experience. Please feel free to start another thread. But the OP contains a factual question and is seeking factual answers to that question.


There was a book called something like “Breakin’ In To The Music Business” that was pretty good. It covered not only being a musician, but also the various business functions around music. I read it during a career-change phase.

Several years ago Mr. S was seriously considering getting into working as a booking agent for local musicians. He ended up going a different way, but he acquired some reference books during his research. I can’t vouch for how useful they might be, but I seem to recall that someone recommended them to him, and you can certainly check them out:

How to Be Your Own Booking Agent, by Jeri Goldstein
This Business of Artist Management, by Xavier M. Frascogna, Jr., and H. Lee Hetherington

I had thought there were a few others, but I couldn’t find them. I’ll ask him when he gets back from the dentist.

Thanks! I’ll take a look at those books. I appreciate the help.

OK, Mr. S is back, and he found a bunch more:

The Billboard Guide to Music Publicity: Techniques and Tools of the Professional Publicist for Musicians, Managers, Publicists, Promoters, Record Companies, by Jim Pettigrew, Jr.
This Business of Music: The Definitive Guide to the Music Industry, by M. William Krasilovsky and Sidney Shemel
The Touring Musician: A Small-Business Approach to Booking Your Band on the Road; An Invaluable Survival Manual for Musicians, by Hal Galper
All You Need to Know about the Music Business, by Donald S. Passman
Ruthless Self-Promotion in the Music Industry, by Jeffrey P. Fisher

Thank you! This information is just what I was looking for.