10 Business & Productivity Books Every Composer Should Read

1. The Power of Habit


What it’s about:

The author provides us with a list of scientific discoveries that explain exactly  how habits are formed, and how to change them. He uses some incredibly interesting case studies to show us how companies use the science of habit formation to influence what we buy, as well as how humans subconsciously allow habits to rule us.

For example – how did Procter & Gamble start making people use toothpaste after the World War? How did the army know that when a food vendor shows up at big crowds in Iraq, a riot would normally happen?

Why you should read it:

Being self-employed as a composer means you are responsible for your own productivity. We all have bad habits in some form or another, and by understanding how they’ve formed, and how to change them, you will be able to increase productivity, and have a better work/life balance because of it.

2. Likeable Social Media

likeable-social-mediaWhat it’s about:

How and why “word of mouth” marketing is the most powerful form of marketing and how to harness the power of social media to increase the reach of your word of mouth marketing.

Written by the owner of a highly successful social media company, the book has tons of great examples and exercises and is written from the point of view of the customer.

Why you should read it:

Marketing is the most important aspect in the business side of being a film / TV /game composer. Without marketing, you don’t get work. But how do you market effectively?

Word of mouth if one of the most powerful ways of getting more work as a composer in any industry, and knowing how to push your word of mouth marketing further using social media is incredibly important.

3. The eMyth Revisited


 What it’s about:

40% of business fail in 1 year, and of those who get past year one, the majority will fail within 5 years. The book looks at the similar characteristics of those who fail and those who succeed, finding a number of characteristics that people in successful small businesses share.

The book looks at how franchises work, and discusses how you should treat your small business as a franchise, even if it isn’t one.

Why you should read it:

Again, to be a composer is to run a small business. The book has a huge amount of relevant information and ideas on how not to fail in business, that can be applied directly to the business of composing.

4. The 4 Hour Work Week


What it’s about:

How to work less by working more efficiently, using tools to automate processes and outsourcing work to assistants or virtual assistants. The whole “4 hour workweek” is a silly title as its just not possible, but the book gives a lot of useful information on exactly how to delegate work and boost your productivity.

Why you should read it:

While it contains a decent amount of over-the-top inspirational fluff, it’s an enjoyable and inspiring read. The most valuable information is on delegating workloads and introducing assistants/virtual assistants to your business.

(See 10 Lessons I Learned in Hiring a Virtual Assistant for more on the subject)

5. ReWork

reworkWhat it’s about:

Written by the founders of Basecamp.com, the book discusses a number of fallacies in the business world, like “Learning from mistakes is overrated”, “Workaholism”, “Planning is Guessing” etc.

Why you should read it:

It’s a very quick read and full of useful advice. My favourite takeaway from it was “You’re better off with a kick-ass half than a half-assed whole.” For composers and musicians, this means, focus on doing one thing incredibly well and just dominate it.

Don’t try to be the composer who can do everything – create your own niche and dominate it.

6. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People


What it’s about:

The title gives it away – 7 habits that productive people follow and how to adopt those 7 habits.

Why you should read it:

Why shouldn’t you read it? You’ll find at least one or two things in this book that will stick and make you become a more productive person.

Better productivity means a better work/life balance, and as composers, that’s really important!


7. The Miracle Morning


What it’s about:

A personal development book about morning routines and how improving your morning routine can have knock on effects throughout your entire life. Although it doesn’t contain anything new (meditation, affirmations, visualisation, exercise, reading, writing), it does package these ideas in a very easy-to-digest way.

Why you should read it:

Improving your morning routine can and will improve every other facet of your life. Before reading this book, I started to exercise in the mornings, and noticed a boost in my productivity for the rest of the day.

By including the rest of the suggested “daily rituals” in the book, you can seriously improve your productivity, energy levels and happiness levels which means more musical output and better work life/balance.

8. The One Thing


What it’s about:

How focusing on just one activity at a time can make incredible changes in your productivity levels. The complete opposite of multi-tasking – fewer distractions from emails, messages, meetings, calls, Facebook etc. and focusing on just one thing, means you’ll be able to complete that task and move onto the next quicker.

Why you should read it:

There are so many different aspects to focus on as a composer – marketing, networking, software upgrades, training, composing, admin work etc. Its easy to try and do multiple tasks at the same time, but by focusing on just one thing at a time and absolutely nailing it, you’ll find your productivity will go through the roof.

This book shows you exactly how to do that, by eliminating all of the noise and creating a workspace that is free from distraction.

9. The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

the-elementWhat it’s about:

“The element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. When people arrive at the element, they feel most themselves and most inspired and achieve at their highest levels. The Element draws on the stories of a wide range of people, from…Paul McCartney to Matt Groening…Arianna Huffington to…Richard Feynman…

It explores the components of this new paradigm: The diversity of intelligence, the power of imagination and creativity, and the importance of commitment to our own capabilities.”

Why you should read it:

Anyone working in a creative industry should read this book. It discusses how our creativity as children is stifled through schools and education. The real world examples of people like Matt Groening and Paul McCartney are incredibly interesting and shine a light on where creativity comes from, and how passion and creativity are interconnected.

10. Likeable Business

likeable-businessWhat it’s about:

How businesses can fail when their customers don’t like them, and what it is that makes a customer like your business.

The book discusses 11 principles of business likeability and how to apply and build upon these principles to ensure your business is likeable and your customers keep returning.

Why you should read it:

Its far easier to get more work from a previous client, than to get work from a new client. Without repeat work as a composer, you’ll find yourself constantly spending all of your time and money on advertising and networking. Ensuring that you have a “likeable” business means you’ll get the most out of previous clients and get repeat work in the future.

Word of mouth advertising is also the best form of advertising out there, and having customers that like you and your business, you’ll find word-of-mouth referrals increase.


What books do you think I left out of the list that should be in there? Let me know in the comments!

Written by: admin

Emmett Cooke is an Irish composer for film, tv and video games. His music has been used around the world by high profile companies including Sony Playstation, Ralph Lauren, ABC, CBS, NBC, Lockheed Martin and many more.

  • Mike_Marino

    Great article!

    If there were room for a couple of more books, I’d look at Tribes by Seth Godin and The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Two quick reads with lots of takeaways for composers.

    • EmmettCooke

      Thanks Mike! I’ve heard good things about Tribes – its on my wishlist.

      Must checkout the War of Art thanks!

  • http://www.robschroeder.info/ Robert Schröder

    Great stuff in here! +1 on The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It”s such a valuable book and helpeed me personally a lot!

    • EmmettCooke

      Cheers Robert – Mike suggested that one too. Must check it out thanks!

      • http://www.robschroeder.info/ Robert Schröder

        You are welcome Emmet! Maybe also check “Turning Pro” which is the sequel to “The War of Art”.

        • EmmettCooke

          Sweet thanks!

  • John

    Great list, I’ve read a few of these and they’re good.

  • Ryan Briggs

    Like others suggested, The War of Art is a great book you should add to the list too!

  • Phil O’Mara

    Cool list bro.

  • Joshua Smith

    Brilliant list. Subscribed!

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