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Article from Making Music, July 1987

A couple of guides to making it big in the music business get the critical twice-over from Making Music

Can books help you to get on in music? Resident bookworm and all-round clever person Jon Lewin looks at two recent tomes designed to make you big.

How To Make It Big In the Music Business

by Bob Monaco & James Riordan; £4.50

In comparison to Ms Davies' book below, this American "How To..." volume is a witty and valuable encyclopaedia of sense. The book places a strong emphasis on the psychological aspects of being a professional musician (see last month's 'Deal Blaggers' piece) — you have to know what you want to do before you start.

It argues in favour of sensible planning, and stresses the painful realities of making a career in music. The authors draw extensively and helpfully on their own experience in the studio, with plenty of entertaining and helpful anecdotes. The chapter on cutting, an area normally ignored in books like this, is particularly useful. The text is well organised, with plenty of referring of the reader to advice in earlier chapters.

However, it is an American book. All prices are in dollars, and bands are advised to move to New York, LA, or Nashville as soon as they start becoming successful. The advice on not making your own record is simply wrong for the UK, while the chapters on record labels and publishing are in part irrelevant. The example contracts (v good idea) printed in the appendix would, I believe, not be applicable in this country. Worse than this, we are expected to read and take seriously a prose style that uses phrases like "Staying Hot & Not Blowing The Vibe".

Should you be strong-willed enough to wade through the American vernacular verbiage, this is actually quite a good read, as well as being an excellent primer for the rock 'n' roll undergraduate. With the advice from this, a copy of the Music Week Directory for your up-to-date addresses, and the latest issue of Making Music, you can't fail. Or can you?

How The Music Business Works

by Norena Add Davies; £4.95

This and the book above claim to help aspiring musicians find their way through the shark-infested jungle (phew!) of the music industry, and this, 'How the Music Business Works', no less, is scribbled by "a freelance music journalist working in London".

Had Norena Ann Davies stuck to her title, we'd have a slim volume with some useful explanations of the component parts of Da Biz.

Unfortunately, the book has been bulked up with quantities of addresses (a number of which are already out of date) and several very poorly assembled sections on more musical topics. On top of that, the whole volume is so generously dosed with factual errors that I was tempted to scribble all over the cover and lob it straight in the bin.

Firstly, there are small but irritating mistakes: "Meihl" and Paiste do not make drums — Meinl and Paiste make cymbals; Fender make Squier, not Squire guitars; TDK do not make C45s; guitarists use Picato, not Picata strings; Duran Duran co-produce their albums with Alex Sadkin, not Shadkind... while not hugely important in themselves, these cock-ups are symptomatic of the general sloppiness of the book.

What is important is that some advice given is wrong: it is not necessary, as Ms Davies suggests, to "de-tension the strings after playing to alleviate the tension on the neck". Choosing guitar strings is not "another complicated business". Big venues do not require guitar amps "a great deal more in excess of 100 watts". Telling portastudio users that "the wider the tape, the better the quality" is both wrong and an indication of a profound lack of understanding of the subject on the author's part.

How are new musicians picking up this book with their first instruments to know that the information given here is incorrect? Writers, particularly "freelance music journalists", should have enough sense either to research properly, or to leave well alone.

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Guitar Guru

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Publisher: Making Music - Track Record Publishing Ltd, Nexus Media Ltd.

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Making Music - Jul 1987

Review by Jon Lewin

Previous article in this issue:

> Guitar Guru

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> Synth Sense

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