Any book that wants to help struggling musicians get a leg up in the industry with practical tips and tools will always get my seal of approval--even if the book's style and execution get in the way of its intention.
In Artist Development: A Distinctive Guide to the Music Industry's Lost Art, author Eugene Foley clearly has new musicians' best interests at heart. He discusses everything from the most obvious--"sell a ton of CDs and merchandise"--to topics that a musician would be hard-pressed to succeed without, such as issues of copyright infringement and the importance of promotion. The book itself is a small, self-produced primer that can easily be thrown in a backpack or amp case and used as a reference tool when a band is out on the road. The language in the book is very friendly and approachable (just as I suspect Foley himself would be) and any musician reading the book will feel as though the author is talking directly to him or her. Foley explains the value of a good hook and a great press kit, but instead of stopping there, also explains how a musician goes about having both. Foley covers advisers (managers, legal representation), publicity and promotion, touring, record labels, distribution and more.
I can say from my perspective, without compunction, that what Foley writes is fair and honest. He doesn't try to find a common enemy with musicians in an "us-against-them" stance, but tries to help them understand that while a label may seem like an uncaring monolith, without it, a band who wants the world to know and love their music might as well stay in the garage.
However, this helpful little book is not without its flaws. Had Foley only taken some of his own advice, I wouldn't have a bad word to say about Artist Development. While Foley stresses in his book the importance of a good support team when it comes to releasing a great product, the author himself failed to heed his own advice--the tiny tome is rife with grammar and punctuation errors that should have been caught (a common complaint about self-published books). An English professor once told me, "In writing, mechanics are everything and nothing." What she was telling me was that if the material has no merit, it doesn't matter how beautiful it looks on the page. Conversely, no matter how brilliant the material, if the basis on which we understand language (syntax, context, punctuation) is missing, the material might as well be, too. In the case of Foley's book, I found myself somewhere in the middle. The information was valuable and Foley's voice is clearly one of care and concern for musicians. Now if the book were just re-mixed and re-mastered, it could become a definitive must-read for up-and-coming musicians.
I would definitely recommend Foley's book to anyone considering music as a career, or to any green musician or band already trying to make a go of it. Just remember that you'll be wading through some stylistic snarls--not to mention poor grammar and punctuation--to get to Foley's kernels of wisdom.
Find out more about Artist Development and its author on the Web at www.foleyentertainment.com.
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