5 Books every musician should read

5 books every musician should read
Image Credit: Renee Sturgill

They say reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. As musician it is important to be inspired or look for inspiration in order to hone your craft and compose great music.

In the following blog post I will take you through 5 books that you should check out. I have personally read these books and I would advise any artist, label owner or talent manager to get a copy (okay you can borrow from the Library if you’re lucky).

  1. CEO Manual by JT the Bigga Figga
  2. Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money and God by Russell Simmons and Nelson George
  3. Guaranteed Success by Master P
  4. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
  5. Lessons from the boot of a car by Reg Lascaris

1. CEO Manual by JT the Bigga Figga

jt the bigga figga ceo manual book

For those of you who might not be familiar with JT the Bigga Figga, he is a US-rapper, music producer and label owner of Get Low Recordz (Don’t confuse this with Get Low Records owned by Memphis Bleek).

JT (Joseph Tom) is not a household name in Hip Hop but he managed to achieve success as an Independent artist dating back to the early 90s. He made his name in the Bay Area after working with the likes of Master P, Sean Quinn, Daz Dillinger (Tha Dogg Pound fame) just to mention a few.

At some point in his career, it was reported that JT was releasing close to 20 albums in a calendar year through his independent label Get Low Recordz.

One of his biggest achievements was discovering The Game in 2001. He produced two albums for the then unknown artist namely Untold Story and QB 2 Compton before The Game left for Dr Dre’s Aftermath label.

The CEO Manual, which is the title of his book, was written strictly for the aspiring/unsigned and Independent artists.

In the book JT shares his journey and experiences in the music industry and advises young artists on what to look out for.

The message of the book is loud and clear: Be self-sufficient, don’t wait for labels to sign you, do it yourself if you have to, create your own opportunities!

You can download the e-book for free.     

2. Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money and God by Russell Simmons and George Nelson

life and def book by russell simmons

I purchase a physical copy of this book because I have always been a Def Jam Records fan. So I was keen to find out how the label came about.

Life and Def was penned by Russell Simmons with the assistance of George Nelson. Russell Simmons needs no introduction and he is credited as the co-founder of Def Jam Recordings alongside his former partner Rick Rubin.

Russell talks about his childhood, growing up in Hollis, Queens and how he made the transition from selling fake cocaine to getting involved in Hip Hop as a party promoter, manager then label owner.

Contrary to popular opinion, Russell Simmons did not found Def Jam, Rick Rubin did. But they joined forces in 1984 and that’s when the label took off.

He always gives details about how he almost lost control of his company to Sony Music in the early 90s because of a huge debt incurred from records which never sold. 

The book makes interesting reading especially for ambitious artists/entrepreneurs.

3. Guaranteed Success by Master P

master p guaranteed success

Master P aka Percy Miller is one of the biggest success stories in Hip Hop and a self-made millionaire. He started his own business No Limit Records as music retailer in 1990 when he received a $10 000 insurance pay out after the death of his grandfather.

In 1991 he launched his own music career with his debut album Get Away Clean – and No Limit Records the label was born.

Master P kept releasing albums consistently (and independently), selling most of his tapes and CD’s from the boot of his car for a 5 year period.

In 1995, he finally signed a lucrative P&D deal with the now-defunct Priority Records. The deal allowed Master P to keep 100% of ownership of the masters and 85% of the gross profits which made him a very wealthy man.

Between 1996 and 1999, No Limit enjoyed commercial success but things started to change by the new millennium.

The label faced various lawsuits and was declared bankrupt by 2001. However, Master P had plenty of investments outside of music and he continued to thrive as a businessman.  

4. Shoe Dog

shoe dog by phil knight

Nike has been a part of music and street culture for the longest time. So I had to include this book just so you can understand how the Nike brand came about.

Shoe Dog is a memoir by Phil Knight – the co-founder of the iconic brand Nike.

The company was founded as Blue Ribbon Sports in 1964 after the then young Phil Knight had a vision of creating and selling a sneaker that could compete with German brands (Adidas and Puma).

He started importing Onitsuka (Asics) running shoes in bulk and selling them to athletes in the states.

His company grew slowly over the years but by 1970 his relationship with Onitsuka began to crumble. This led to the formation of Nike the company in 1971.

As an Independent recording artist, you should always think long-term and know what your brand stands for and represents.

5. Lessons from the boot of car by Reg Lascaris

lessons from the boot of a car book

The name Reg Lascaris in South Africa is synonymous with Advertising and Marketing. He is the co-founder of TBWA Hunt Lascaris, an advertising agency with offices across the globe.

Now you might be wondering what this book has to do with music. Well not everyone is a marketer but marketing is essential in all industries. If you don’t market your product nobody will know that it exists – That’s just stating the obvious but it’s that simple

As an artist you have to understand and know your market first in order to achieve any type of success.

If you are not clued up about marketing, Lessons from the boot of a car will help you to understand the basics of advertising and marketing.


If you are not much of a reader you might want to start by reading any of the above books. The best way to enjoy reading is to pick a genre which tickles your fancy.

What’s your favorite book?

You can drop your comments below.  

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