The best books for starting your own band

The Books I Picked & Why

The Disenchantments

By Nina Lacour

Book cover of The Disenchantments

Why this book?

In a certain sense, musicians are like athletes. The vast majority will never come close to turning pro, but they continue to do it for the love of the experience. I like this book because it focuses on a group of young people at a crossroads in their lives and their relationships with each other. They decide to kick around one summer on a low-profile band tour of the Pacific Northwest. Not concerned with record deals or writing hit songs, they just play music because they can, and why not? Along the way, they discover a realization about who they are as individuals and the different directions they might be going in as they mature.


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The Commitments

By Roddy Doyle

Book cover of The Commitments

Why this book?

In my opinion, few writers have expressed in words the sensation of what it's like to make and listen to music quite like Roddy Doyle has in The Commitments. The book abounds with youthful energy and humor. His nearly complete reliance on dialogue rather than description creates an immediacy that I've rarely experienced elsewhere. He eschews tired cliches in favor of presenting music-making as a craft that requires prodigious amounts of labor and a high tolerance for BS. This also happens to be the source material for one of the best band movies ever made.


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How to Write One Song: Loving the Things We Create and How They Love Us Back

By Jeff Tweedy

Book cover of How to Write One Song: Loving the Things We Create and How They Love Us Back

Why this book?

Unless you plan on exclusively being a cover group, you're going to have to come up with your own songs eventually. Their quality, or lack thereof, will absolutely make or break your band. Jeff Tweedy of Wilco and Uncle Tupelo fame discusses the process of writing a song from beginning to end.

The route he takes leans more philosophical than towards the nitty-gritty details of music theory. He encourages you to be less self-critical, illustrates how to draw inspiration from personal experiences, and notes the importance of infusing your everyday life with creativity. One of my own book's main characters struggles mightily with self-acceptance. She could have benefitted from Mr. Tweedy's advice.


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How to Make It in the New Music Business: Practical Tips on Building a Loyal Following and Making a Living as a Musician

By Ari Herstand

Book cover of How to Make It in the New Music Business: Practical Tips on Building a Loyal Following and Making a Living as a Musician

Why this book?

You've read it all before. The standard trope of a rockstar genius turned slow-motion trainwreck through drug-fueled self-indulgence has become all too common in music fiction. The truth is a successful career in the music business requires lots of hard work and smart decision-making. This is especially so in today's world of rapidly shifting technological and social dynamics. Herstand, in plain language, tells it like it is, offering both a sobering assessment of the many challenges you'll face, but also practical real-world advice on how to overcome them. Even if you have no intention of becoming a musician, it's an eye-opener into how the modern business works.


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Women Who Rock: Bessie to Beyonce. Girl Groups to Riot Grrrl.

By Evelyn McDonnell

Book cover of Women Who Rock: Bessie to Beyonce. Girl Groups to Riot Grrrl.

Why this book?

In many ways, my trilogy is an open love letter to the many female singers and musicians I've admired ever since I was young. While extensively referencing numerous artists as befitting the context of my story, it pained me I had to leave out many noteworthy examples for practical purposes. Women Who Rock goes a long way towards making up the difference. This powerhouse book represents a compendium of extraordinary ladies who have contributed to the evolution of pop music in our culture, but who rarely get as much credit as they deserve collectively. The assembled stories force you to sit up and take notice of their impressive accomplishments. 


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