Donald Passman on ‘All You Need to Know About the Music Business’

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If there is a bible for the music industry, it’s Donald Passman’s book, “All You Need to Know About the Music Business.” Since the first edition came out more than 30 years ago, it has guided countless musicians and executives, and has prevented many of them from making decisions they’d later regret. Considering the deep detail Passman gets into about contracts, royalties and other complicated business arrangements, his tone is remarkably conversational, and he makes sure readers don’t miss the important stuff: The section on business managers begins with him saying “Listen to me!!!” in italics with several exclamation marks.

Passman, of course, is one of the most successful and experienced attorneys in music business history, with a client list that over the years has included Taylor Swift, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Adele and many more, but the book is definitely what he’s best known for.

In the latest edition of Variety’s “Strictly Business” podcast, Passman speaks a bit about his process of writing the book, but mostly about what’s in it and the state of the music industry today: everything from AI and the threat it brings to intellectual property, catalog sales, the new models for streaming services and lots more. Like a true lawyer with his eye on billable hours, he answers the questions thoroughly but concisely, which means we covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time.

It’s a fascinating, insight-filled conversation that is essential for students of the game.

“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. (Please click here to subscribe to our free newsletter.) New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud. 

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