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One of the most valuable tools that a DIY artist can have is the desire and ability to constantly learn and improve their skills. Everything from online music courses to educational podcasts exist at our digital fingertips. But you should never overlook the timeless source of constant inspiration and information that is your bookshelf.
Put them in your home, your home studio, or your pro studio — we don’t care — so long as you put these books in front of your face at some point. Here are our eight favorite books to inspire the inner DIY artist in you to get out there and uncompromisingly create!
Ari Herstand — How to Make It in the New Music Business (2016)
If you’re an avid follower of the DIY music scene, or familiar with Soundfly’s free course on how to get all the royalties you never knew existed, then Ari Herstand needs no introduction. As someone who has turned the industry on its head since the birth of his blog, Ari’s Take, in 2012, Herstand has taken all that knowledge and more and compiled it into one concise DIY manual about how to navigate this rapidly changing industry of ours. With over 130 five-star reviews on Amazon, and a foreword by CD Baby’s Derek Sivers, it’s pretty obvious why this book has remained one of the best on the business of being a DIY artist.
Simon Sinkek — Start with Why (2011)
This name should also sound familiar if you read Flypaper often — we’re big fans of Sinek’s work, and for good reason. Through this book, Simon Sinek explores why some people and organizations are more innovative, influential, and profitable than others, and it all has to do with the mission you bring into your work. Finding inspiration in concrete examples and anecdotes throughout the book, this is one of those reads that has the ability to really transform the way you view the world and approach your artistic career.
Rick Barker & Wade Sutton — The $150,000 Music Degree (2014)
This one is more for your e-shelf, as it’s a downloadable PDF, but it’s just as valuable, as some of the others, if not more so. Written by Taylor Swift’s former manager and private consultant, Rick Barker, and radio journalist and professional artist developer, Wade Sutton, this book dives into everything from marketing, to live performance, to building a fan base, and so much more, with insights and stories from years spent working directly in the music industry.
Derek Sivers — Anything You Want (2015)
This is one of those rare books that you can pick up in the morning and finish by the afternoon — a quick read packed with insight from CD Baby founder Derek Sivers, it’s a how-to for carving your own path, and making a career that works for you, on your own terms.
Mark Manson — The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (2016)
If you like a little humor and bluntness mixed into your motivational pep talk, this book is for you. With a refreshing approach that helps readers choose what, exactly, they want to worry about and what they need to just let go of in order to live a more fulfilling, purposeful, focused life, it’s a hearty dose of reality checks and encouragement all rolled into one. It may not be concerned solely with music or art-making, but as artists, we can find a lot of interesting passages to move us forward on our path.
Bree Noble — The Musician’s Profit Path (2019)
Written by the music career mentor and podcast host, Bree Noble, who has carved out her own professional career in the music industry by helping DIY musicians build their fan bases, create consistent income from their music, and hone their skills, this book helps musicians get clear on their goals, stay focused, and create a sustainable income from their music. And, if reading about this stuff isn’t your thing as much as watching videos and engaging in lectures and panels, you’re in luck because Noble is hosting an online summit in late April about diversifying your DIY revenue streams! Head here for more info.
Austin Kleon — Steal Like an Artist (2012)
A sort of manifesto for creatives, Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist is another non-music industry book that we’ve added to the list because of its vast ability to help you think and act more creatively, while breaking down the walls that so often plague us, like fear of failure, fear of sharing your work, or fear of being totally unoriginal.
Suzanne Paulinski — The Rock/Star Life Planner (2019)
We wanted to add this one in at the end because, while it’s not a traditional book, it has the power to transform your workflow and productivity. And it’s specifically geared towards musicians. Suzanne Paulinski’s planner is a must-have for any DIY musician or industry professional. It poses thought-provoking questions to help you get closer to your goals, such as:
- Where do I want to be a year from now?
- What has to happen for me to get there?
- Whose support do I need?
- What habits do I need to change?
- What do I need to budget for?
It can keep you organized and, at the same time, gives you a place to write out your monthly and weekly goals and tasks. There’s plenty of space for reflection, like asking yourself what a highlight from the previous week was, three connections you need to develop, and how you’ll practice self-care this week. There’s even a space to outline what you’ll share on social media that week and on what platform, as well as a space to record what this week’s newsletter looked like and its open rate!
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