After all, there are books galore if one wants to learn about medicine, law, or how to choose the best doctor to suck the fat out of one’s thighs, but hardly a paperback for those interested in presenting shows by such artists as Jimmy Buffett or Monte Montgomery.
But that’s not to say that today’s concert professional is illiterate. For example, delve into any industry insider’s reading shelf and you’re liable to find such standard business literature as Spencer Johnson’s One Minute Manager, Bambi Holzer’s Getting Yours and Stephen King’s Carrie. Clearly, these self-help books have had a major impact on the concert business and one need look no farther than shows by Pat McGee Band, Prong and Mannheim Steamroller to understand the roles these tomes have played.
Age is also a factor when it comes to selecting books in order to understand the mechanics of routing tours by Indigo Girls and Michael Buble. Older artist managers, for instance, still cite Mary Shelley’s classic, Frankenstein, while newer managers look to Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby as well as the collected works of Tom Clancy for tips on how to build the careers of tomorrow’s stars.
More fascinating is the long list of literary works that has guided concert promoters in booking dates for such well-known acts as Brian Howe, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Kid Rock. For many who cut their teeth in the ’60s, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest provided inspiration. In the ’80s it was Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire Of The Vanities that influenced a new generation of promoters, and lately many professionals point to Bryan Burrough and John Helyar’s Barbarians At The Gate as the ultimate in live music advice.
Of course, there are other books. Venue owners hosting acts such as Little River Band or Red Hot Chili Peppers often fall back on the knowledge contained in Dante’s Inferno, while road managers constantly quote from Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace. And you would be hard-pressed not to find a roadie without a well-worn copy of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita sticking out of his or her back pocket.
Now we’re not saying that reading the aforementioned books will make one a concert professional. Experience in presenting shows by today’s top artists such as Sting or Bob Dylan is still the most important factor in becoming a successful promoter, artist manager or booking agent.
However, a long journey begins with but a single step, and after reading these books you’ll probably find that you understand the concert business as well as anyone. And that’s a start.