About The Book
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE MUSIC BUSINESS
By Donald S. Passman
Dubbed “the industry bible” by the Los Angeles Times, All You Need to Know About the Music Business by veteran music lawyer Donald Passman is the go-to guide for everyone in the music business through ten editions, over thirty years, and over a half a million copies sold. Now with updates explaining why musicians have more power today than ever in history; discussion of the mega-million-dollar sales of artists’ songs and record catalogs; how artist access to streaming media, and particularly TikTok, has completely reshaped the music business; the latest on music created by AI; and a full update of the latest numbers and trends.
For more than thirty years, All You Need to Know About the Music Business has been universally regarded as the definitive guide to the music industry. Now in its eleventh edition, Passman leads novices and experts alike through what has been the most profound change in the music business since the days of wax cylinders and piano rolls: streaming. For the first time in history, music is no longer monetized by selling something—it’s monetized by how many times a listener streams a song. And also, for the first time, artists can get their music to listeners without a record company gatekeeper, creating a new democracy for music.
The “industry bible” (Los Angeles Times), now updated, is essential for anyone in the music business—musicians, songwriters, lawyers, agents, promoters, publishers, executives, and managers—and the definitive guide for anyone who wants to be in the business.
So, whether you are—or aspire to be—in the music industry, veteran music lawyer Passman’s comprehensive guide is an indispensable tool. He offers timely information about the latest trends, including the reasons why artists have more clout than ever in history, the massive influence of TikTok, the mega million dollar sales of artists’ songs and record catalogs, music in Web3 and the Metaverse, music created by AI, and a full update of the latest numbers and practices.
OPEN UP AND SAY “AHHH”
For many years I taught a class on the music business at the University of Southern California Law School’s Advanced Professional Program. The class was for lawyers, accountants, record and film company executives, managers, agents, and bartenders who want to manage groups. Anyway, at the beginning of one of these courses a friend of mine came up to me. She was an executive at a film studio and was taking the class to understand the music industry as it relates to films. She said, “I’m here to open up the top of my head and have you pour in the music business.” I loved that mental picture (because there are many subjects I’d love to absorb that way), and it spurred me to develop a painless way of infusing you with the extensive materials in this book. So if you’ll sit back, relax, and open up your mind, I’ll pour in all you need to know about the music business (and a bit more for good measure).
HOW I GOT STARTED
I really love what I do. I’ve been practicing music law for over thirty years, and I represent recording artists, record companies, film companies, songwriters, producers, music publishers, film music composers, industry executives, managers, agents, business managers, and other assorted mutants that populate the biz.
I got into this gig on purpose, because I’ve always loved creative arts. My first showbiz experience was in grade school, performing magic tricks for assemblies. I also started playing accordion in grade school. (I used to play a mean accordion; everyone applauded when I shook the bellows on “Lady of Spain.” I gave it up because it’s impossible to put the moves on a girl with an accordion on your chest.) In high school, I graduated from accordion to guitar, and in college at the University of Texas, I played lead guitar in a band called Oedipus and the Mothers. While I was with Oedipus, we recorded a demo that I tried to sell to our family friend, Snuff Garrett (more about him later). Snuff, a powerful record producer, very kindly took the time to meet with me. That meeting was a major turning point in my life. Snuff listened to the record, smiled, and said, “Don . . . go to law school.”
So I took Snuff’s advice and went to Harvard Law School. While I was there, I played lead guitar with a band called the Rhythm Method. However, it was quickly becoming clear that my ability to be in the music business and eat regularly lay along the business path. So when I graduated, I began doing tax planning for entertainers. Tax law, like intricate puzzles, was a lot of fun, but when I discovered there was such a thing as music law, the electricity really turned on. In fact, I took the USC class that I later taught, and it got me so excited that I left the tax practice for my current firm. Doing music law was so much fun that it wasn’t even like working (I’m still not over that feeling), and I enjoyed it so much that I felt guilty getting paid (I got over that).
My first entertainment law experience was representing a gorgeous, six-foot model, referred to me by my dentist. (I promised him I would return the favor, since most of my clients had teeth.) The model was being pursued (I suspect in every way) by a manager who wanted a contract for 50% of her gross earnings for ten years. (You’ll see how absurd this is when you get to Chapter 3.) Even then, I knew this wasn’t right, and so I nervously called up the guy to negotiate. I still remember my voice cracking as I said his proposal was over the industry standard, since most managers took only 15% (which was true). He retorted with “Oh yeah? Who?” Well, he had me. I wasn’t even sure what managers did, much less who they were. So I learned my first lesson in the art of humility.
As I began to really understand how the music business worked, I found that my love of both creative arts and business allowed me to move between the two worlds and help them relate to each other. The marriage of art and commerce has always fascinated me—they can’t exist without each other—yet the concept of creative freedom, and the need to control costs in order to have a business, are eternally locked in a Vulcan death match. Which means the music business will always need lawyers.
Anyway, I now channel my creative energies into innovative business deals, and I satisfy my need to perform by teaching, lecturing, and playing guitar. Just to be sure I don’t get too straight, however, I’ve kept up my weird assortment of hobbies: magic, ham radio, weight lifting, guitar, dog training, five-string banjo, karate, chess, poker, backgammon, and real estate investment. I also write novels, which you are all required to buy.
Speaking of marrying creativity and business, I’ve discovered that a rock star and a brain surgeon have something in common. It’s not that either one would be particularly good at the other’s job (and I’m not sure which crossover would produce the more disastrous results), but rather that each one is capable of performing his craft brilliantly, and generating huge sums of money, without the need for any financial skills. In most businesses, before you can start earning big bucks, you have to be …
Donald S. Passman’s remarkably easy-to-read primer, “All You Need To Know About The Music Business,” continues being an essential asset for those in the music industry.