Confessions of a Record Producer – 5th Edition, by Moses Avalon

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To sign or not to sign with a label: that is the question. Here’s a thrilling book that supplies some answers about how to make intelligent decisions about contracts and deals in the music business.


by Alex Arsov, Nov. 2016


Moses Avalon is one of the world’s top music business experts, having been active in the business for over 30 years. He has also written many books about various topics related to the music business and the one that we are talking about here was released back in 1998, having been updated regularly since. The subtitle for this book explains everything: “How to Survive the Scams and Shams of the Music Business”.

At first I was a bit skeptical, as we all know how fast the industry is changing, and thought that such an old book can’t be relevant for the new “downloadable” decade when nothing is the same as it was the year before, let alone a few years ago. What a mistake! First, this book is still very relevant, and secondly, Moses has added all the new changes that have taken place in the last year, explaining at the same time why the old way of doing music business is actually more or less still the same, no matter what has happened with the industry as a whole.

Most books about music can be quite boring, with plenty of theory that you need to know but without offering anything else, so it comes as a pleasant surprise for me that this book can be read almost like some of the best crime stories or almost like one of Dan Brown’s summer reads. If you are serious about your music career then this is an essential read. If you are just a hobby musician then I can still recommended this, just out of curiosity, to get a feeling what is going on behind the curtains in the music business. After all, as Moses says (I couldn’t find a quote, but more or less the thought is): this is the music business, so it is more or less a business just like any other, and much more than just being about music.

The book starts with details explaining what happens when you sign for a major label, then with an indie label. It goes into detail who is who in this process, what can you expect, where all money goes. How much, if any, the musician will get, what you should be aware of. There is also a good math exercises explaining what is left for the band when they get a standard $200,000 USD for the first record. What you can expect in the long term, what producers do and why they do what they do. The fee that producer gets. When you should hire a lawyer, what sort of contracts you should sign. Who really owns the publishing rights when you think that you are the one who owns them.

Actually, the book goes through all the topics where the picture is not the same as we see it. All scams and shams, as promised in the subtitle. I know that maybe this doesn’t sound so interesting to you, but when you start reading it’s a totally different story. There are some piquant details and facts that you never even dreamed about it. Anyway, how could you afford not to read such a book, considering yourself a musician, finding in the few first pages a sentence telling us that being a musician is the worst thing that could happen to you in the music business? Moses also explains why all those legal download services are not so relevant for the music industry. It turns out that the profit that record labels and musicians make through all those Spotify and other similar downloadable services is significantly lower than that from hard media. It is true that profit from CDs and records is not the same as it use to be, but still much bigger than the miserable profit they get from all those downloadable music services.


In General

The book is very well written, intriguing and well structured, containing everything that you thought that you knew, but putting it in a totally new light. Its aim is not to turn you off being a musician, but to let you know what you should expect when you decide to go down this path, and most of all, warning you about all the traps that can kill your career. It is some sort of modern bible for recording artists. It is a guide that leads us through the reefs, helping us to survive in the music world. A book full of various details, exposing truths behind some phrases and lies that you hear from A&R people, producers, managers and all the other people that are involved in the music business. In the book you can find some advice about what is the most wise thing to do in some situations, along with helping us find the the truth behind some well-known myths in the music industry, giving us a bigger picture perspective with all the tiny details.

Enough stories, get your own copy and enjoy reading. No, I’m not an employee of Hal & Leonard, neither their advertising representer. I’ve read all the other books about the music because I’ve had to, only to learn something that I didn’t know before. Reading this book was a joy for me and I can honestly recommend it to everyone who considers himself a musician.

This is one of those rare books about the music business where I didn’t skip whole sections. 😉

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