My top 7 books every musician needs to read about business (and life)

 
 

In a recent Q&A session, I was asked to suggest books to help a musician start out with a project and it really got me thinking as to which books I've found most useful on my own journey. Over the last 3 years I’ve rattled through a fair few books on business, as well as some others about self-awareness that have really helped me survive the world of business.

So… whether your musical projects are big or small, full blown business or a side hustle, here are my top 7 books I think you should read.

 
 

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck

– Mark Manson

“In life, we have a limited amount of f*cks to give. So you must choose your f*cks wisely”

In the music world you have to put yourself out there in some way, shape or form. When you pair that with the world of business you are opening yourself up to the world, so finding ways of building resilience are hugely important to keeping you going and, well, staying sane.


If you don’t fancy the traditional “self help” book, then this is the one for you. More F-bombs than you can shake a stick at. But don’t let the swearing fool you, this book is succinct and surprisingly deep. A great way of getting your head in the game and working out how you’ll define success.

 
 

Crushing It! 

– Gary Vaynerchuck

“You’re going to hear the stories of people who were scared, just like you. Who had obligations, just like you. Who were told they were being foolish, reckless, or irresponsible, or immature. They did it anyway and reaped the rewards. If there’s anything this book should teach you it’s that the only thing stopping you from achieving lasting career and life happiness is you”

When it came to writing this list, the hardest part was working which Gary Vaynerchuk book to include. “Crushing It” is the follow up to his 2009 book “Crush It” giving an incredible insight on to how to market yourself and your business in 2018, as well as bit size case studies.


Energetic, brash and enthusiastic, “Gary Vee” gives you the tools to get started and motivation to do it. With testimonials on the back from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jessica Alba, Kristin Lemkau, Casey Neistat, and John Mayer, you really can’t ignore this one


(Honourable mention to “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” as a 101 guide to social media marketing. He also puts and insane amount of free content on his podcast, YouTube and every social media channel going.)

 
 

The Score Takes Care of Itself 

– Bill Walsh

“Bill Walsh is a towering figure in the history of the NFL. His advanced leadership transformed the San Francisco 49ers from the worst franchise in sports to a legendary dynasty. In the process, he changed the way football is played. Prior to his death, Walsh granted a series of exclusive interviews to bestselling author Steve Jamison. These became his ultimate lecture on leadership.”

As you can tell by the fact that this book is a bit battered, this is one of my favourite books of all time. Even if like me you know nothing about the NFL, this book follows an amazing journey and shares a lot of the lows on trying to change the world and stay true to your vision.


Particularly amazing for anyone in leadership or trying to change culture in an organisation, but is equally inspiring for anyone on their journey in the pursuit of excellence.

 
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The Chimp Paradox 

– Professor Steve Peters

"He is the best. I’ve played my most consistent form for Liverpool and England since seeing Steve."- Steven Gerrard

"The mind programme that helped me win my Olympic Golds"- Sir Chris Hoy

"Steve Peters is the most important person in my career"- Victoria Pendleton, World and Olympic Cycling Champion

"Steve's been excellent. He is a specialist in what he does and a genius in that field, and is such an understanding guy."- Brendan Rodgers


“This book is fantastic… it really does offer simple but effective ways to really improve your life” - Ronnie O’Sullivan

I’m not really sure what I can add to those quotes. The fact that so many world class, record breaking elite sportsmen speak so highly of this book tells you everything you need to know. An exceptional and accessible book that helps you understand how your brain works, the direct implications for music performance are immediately obvious.

Out side of performance, it is an invaluable guide to all aspects of life, from work stress, relationships and even road rage.

If I’m being honest, I still haven’t finished this book as I keep re-reading chapters over and over again after getting it a couple of weeks ago, but it has already been life changing.

 
 

The Lean Startup 

– Eric Ries

“The Lean Startup is a new approach to business that's being adopted around the world. It is changing the way companies are built and new products are launched. The Lean Startup is about learning what your customers really want. It's about testing your vision continuously, adapting and adjusting before it's too late. Now is the time to think Lean”


Quite simply, a phenomenal guide to entrepreneurship. Not only a great way to get started, but hits home the need to continually evaluate your business and how to do it. It’s likely that whatever you’re doing will be on a shoe-string budget… and this book tells you exactly what to do to maximise your resources.


I was going to list some testimonials about this book… but there are five pages of them, ranging from The Independent, Sheryl Sandberg  (COO Facebook), Forbes, Wired, and Harvard Business School… long story short… it’s good.

 
 

Zero to One: Notes on Start Ups, or How to Build the Future 

– Peter Thiel

“Peter Thiel has built multiple breakthrough companies, and Zero to One shows how.”  - Elon Musk

“This book delivers completely new and refreshing ideas on how to create value in the world.”- Mark Zukerberg

Wanting to change the world with a new idea? This so the book for you. It provides a great guide on getting the foundations of your business right and how to grow. It’s very concise, so may take a few reads to fully get your head around, but it’s though provoking on every page.

 
 

Philosophy for Life: And other dangerous situations 

– Jules Evans

“This book is an invitation to a dream school with a faculty that includes 12 of the greatest philosophers from the ancient world, sharing their lessons in happiness, resilience and much more. Discover how soldiers, psychologists, gangsters, astronauts, anarchists and others use these ideas today”

Both powerful and personal, Jules Evans shares how philosophy saved his life and how the lessons of the ancients can be used today. Far from old and stuff, this proves that philosophy is engaging and useful, providing a great guide to building all the resilience you’ll need for both the music and business world, as well as life in general

Jules also works with Arsenal football team and Saracens rugby team, help to build resilience in performance situations… something that is directly applicable to your work as a musician.

David Taylor