Ari Herstand is an LA-based singer-songwriter, blogger, and actor. He graduated with a degree in music business from McNally Smith College of Music in Saint Paul, Minnesota. After conquering the Twin Cities scene, Herstand moved to California and made his name there. In this book, Ari shares his first-hand experience. He breaks down booking, touring, planning a release, recording, crowdfunding, and just about anything else you’d want to know. He also demystifies Performance Rights Organizations, sponsorships, and placements. If it’s music related, Ari has done it. I found it incredibly helpful and enlightening, a must read for serious musicians. Here are three lessons I learned from this book.
You need to hustle. According to Ari, “Building a music career requires working at it for twelve hours a day. Every single day” (17). He writes that you should “split your time equally between the music and the business” (32). That’s six hours on music and six hours on business. If you’re not sure how you would even use all that time, this book will give you some ideas. Ari says, “If you’re ever bored as a musician, you aren’t doing it right” (32).
Music is a marathon, not a sprint. Not only do you have to work your ass off, you have to be working your ass off for years. In chapter 1, Ari makes you write out a spreadsheet and title it “My Music Marathon.” You divide it into four sections: 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, and 26 years. In each section, you write out where you want to be in your career. Doing this kind of long-term planning really helps you clarify what you want in life. It’s hard not to think 26 years in the future without gaining clarity about what’s really important.
You must have a story. “Whether you like it or not, your story is just as important as your music” (24). Ben Weaver toured on his bicycle, Bon Iver recorded in a Wisconsin cabin, Porter Robinson did the whole anime thing, and Daft Punk were robots. You need something other than “Singer-songwriter from _________. Sounds like _________.” It doesn’t have to be as extensive as the Gorillaz virtual band, but it has to be something. What makes you special?
The advice in this book focuses on making it professionally as an artist or band. If you’re someone less serious about music, it’s still worthwhile. Plenty of these tips are helpful for hobbyists and artists alike, and the portions that aren’t relevant are still interesting to read. For instance, I’m not going to be doing a lot of college gigging, but there’s a detailed account of how to get into it that’s fascinating. I will definitely be referencing this book during my musical adventures.