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Low Budget Rockstar is a Solid Primer on Professional Musicianship

Book Review

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Thanks to file sharing, the days of musicians making rent by selling albums are quickly fading in the rearview mirror. There are other sources of revenue but the new media environment can make them trickier to search out, as the impetus is now on the musicians--whose specialty is making music, not marketing--instead of the record labels who previously did that legwork.

Low-Budget Rockstar, a new book by independent touring musician Scott Ibex, aims to point artists in the right directions to make money on their own.

To do so, it starts at the beginning. And don't be confused about the severity of the term "the beginning." The first opening sections of the how-to guide are devoted to things like making sure your instruments work and showing up on time. The following chapter is on how to set up a home office, including suggestions on calling plans and laser printers.

This sort of stuff could easily be wrapped under the title, "Becoming a Musician for Dummies." One would hope that people who can't figure out that they should have extra strings and make sure their amps turn on aren't likely to make it as musicians, anyhow.

But dummies do buy books on how not to be dummies.

The more interesting sections on more-complex topics come later in the book. Ibex, who has a degree from Whittier Law School, discusses issues like contracts and riders, and what sorts of insurance are worth considering. He offers his own as samples to work from. Those are the sorts of complex details musicians are notorious for avoiding outright and regretting later.

Still, in many ways, the book is less a how-to guide than it is a checklist, as so much of what is covered should be obvious.

Aside from having something to sell, the choice to put all of this information in a book instead of an app is somewhat curious. Once a book is printed, it is static. And so much of what is covered in Low-Budget Rockstar changes daily, as new websites and technologies emerge. Even the space-saving equipment section can become quickly dated. Ibex discusses the usefulness of roof racks for schlepping gear, but I once saw a band that toured with only a midi-controller plugged into an iPhone, a setup small enough that a Big Wheel could have served as the tour vehicle.

Much of what is contained in Low-Budget Rockstar might work better as a smartphone app that bands could access from the road to get specific connections to specific needs as they arise. But the book does serve as an ink-and-paper primer on a wide variety of topics musicians are likely to face if they try to pursue their art as a career.

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