The best books to supercharge your arts career

Rich Holly Author Of Marjoring In Music: All the Stuff You Need to Know
By Rich Holly

Who am I?

When I look back at my childhood, I can easily find examples of my mother grooming me for leadership – she taught me how to budget my money while I was in kindergarten, helped me understand contracts when I was in seventh grade, and so on. Little did I know how important those skills would be while navigating (first) the music world and later the world of all the arts. I’ve been fortunate enough to perform worldwide and serve in several noted arts leadership positions thanks to the guidance and support of several mentors, and I would love for all artists to have those same opportunities.

I wrote...

Marjoring In Music: All the Stuff You Need to Know

By Rich Holly,

Book cover of Marjoring In Music: All the Stuff You Need to Know

What is my book about?

Having spent my career as a music professor, mentor, advisor, executive director, and arts dean, I commonly met students who didn’t understand or weren’t prepared for what being a music major in college really entailed. My book highlights the major components for survival and success during the years in a college, university, or conservatory and provides examples and strategies to assist the student musician. I’ve included what I consider to be no-nonsense advice and practical tips, and this guide will prepare music students (and their parents!) to meet the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities afforded them during the glorious college years. And, I’ve had students and parents in other arts fields tell me the book translates extremely well to other arts media! 

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The books I picked & why

Good to Great

By Jim Collins,

Book cover of Good to Great

Why did I love this book?

I believe it’s important for aspiring artists of any ilk to realize that the arts are a business. You may be anticipating a career in education, where you’ll need negotiating, supervisory, and budget skills, or as a freelance artist where you’ll need to understand contracts and accounting, and so on.

Good to Great provides excellent insights to the world of big business successes which you can use to further your own career.

By Jim Collins,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Good to Great as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Can a good company become a great one? If so, how?

After a five-year research project, Jim Collins concludes that good to great can and does happen. In this book, he uncovers the underlying variables that enable any type of organisation to make the leap from good to great while other organisations remain only good. Rigorously supported by evidence, his findings are surprising - at times even shocking - to the modern mind.

Good to Great achieves a rare distinction: a management book full of vital ideas that reads as well as a fast-paced novel. It is widely regarded…

Book cover of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Why did I love this book?

As artists, we seemingly have no end to our creative ideas.

Some of those ideas are more related to an idea that can help others and have broad impact, and the advice and examples in Made to Stick are extremely helpful for getting the reader to understand how they can take their idea from conception to reality.

By Chip Heath, Dan Heath,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Made to Stick as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why does fake news stick while the truth goes missing?

Why do disproved urban legends persist? How do you keep letting newspapers and clickbait sites lure you in with their headlines? And why do you remember complicated stories but not complicated facts?

Over ten years of study, Chip and Dan Heath have discovered how we latch on to information hooks. Packed full of case histories and incredible anecdotes, it shows:

- how an Australian scientist convinced the world he'd discovered the cause of stomach ulcers by drinking a glass filled with bacteria

- how a gifted sports reporter got people…

Book cover of Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative

Why did I love this book?

Steal Like an Artist is a short yet powerfully poignant book providing numerous short sayings and philosophies that people in the arts can take to heart.

I’ve found that it helps people easily come to an understanding of what their personal philosophy is and what they want their own strategic plan to be about. A fun read, too!

By Austin Kleon,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Steal Like an Artist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When asked to talk to students at Broome Community College in upstate New York in the spring of 2011, Austin Kleon wrote a simple list often things he wished he'd heard when he was their age: 'Steal like an artist; Don't wait until you know who you are to start making things; Write the book you want to read; Use your hands; Side projects are important; Do good work and put it where people can see it; Geography is no longer our master; Be nice (the world is a small town.); Be boring (it's the only way to get work…

Book cover of Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.

Why did I love this book?

The arts world needs more great leaders. Heck, the world needs more great leaders! What makes a leader great?

Compassion, listening, serving, etc. In Dare to Lead, Brené Brown lays out and describes a number of truly important factors and approaches to becoming a successful leader. Our communities thrive when the arts thrive – I encourage all artists to become a leader!

By Brené Brown,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Dare to Lead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Brené Brown has taught us what it means to dare greatly, rise strong, and brave the wilderness. Now, based on new research conducted with leaders, change makers, and culture shifters, she’s showing us how to put those ideas into practice so we can step up and lead.

Don’t miss the five-part HBO Max docuseries Brené Brown: Atlas of the Heart!


Leadership is not about titles, status, and wielding power. A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and…

Book cover of The New Arts Entrepreneur: Navigating the Arts Ecologies

Why did I love this book?

Much like my previous recommendation, The New Arts Entrepreneur will help artists understand the items they need to consider and the steps they can take in order to move their career to the next level, whether their focus is an arts-related business endeavor or their own personal artistry.

By Gary Beckman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The New Arts Entrepreneur as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New Arts Entrepreneur is the first uniquely designed pedagogy for arts entrepreneurship educators and students. Melding an arts-first approach with understandable entrepreneurial concepts and newly formulated tools, the text helps arts students to envision themselves as an entrepreneurial CEO, not simply another random entrepreneur flailing through a maze of well-worn entrepreneurial suggestions that don't fit.

At the core of the text are the entrepreneurial ecologies of the arts. The ecologies provide a framework to envision an entrepreneurial horizon for almost any arts-based business, included those ventures seeking to impact the production of art. In addition to this revolutionary framework,…

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