The TEN COMMANDMENT for your music career!

paul sanderson_10 commandments

The Ten Commandments, for your music career, is the Top ten “to dos” list from the author of the so-called “bible” of the Canadian music industry – “Musicians and the Law in Canada and author of “Music Law Handbook for Canada”.

1. Get it in writing

I know this is a cliche, but I’m a lawyer and this really does mean something in practice. Even a simple agreement in writing can be more protective of your rights than an oral arrangement which is often hard to prove. Also, in some instances - a grant of an interest in copyright, for example, must be in writing to be valid.

2.  “Know your rights”.

Yes the music business is complicated and it keeps getting more so, but in this day and age, information is often readily available. You can forearm yourself and with knowledge you can also assist your team. How? By being able to give informed instructions, you can save yourself money on fees. You don’t need to be up on all the details – that’s up your counsel and other advisers, but being able to get the big picture and give good instructions to your manager, lawyer and accountant will stand you in good stead in your career. For example, a lawyer well utilized can both make you money by negotiating better deals on your behalf and save you money by helping you avoid costly legal career pitfalls.

3. “You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate”.

Guess what? Almost everything is negotiable and is a negotiation. For example, even deciding where to go for lunch with a friend can be a negotiation. This one is a truism in law and in life. It is something that you can “take to the bank” and live by.

4. “Trusted advisers are worth the money.”

No one can succeed wholly on their own. It takes a team. You need a team you can trust and information that you can rely on. Definitely budget and spend your money wisely, but at the end of the day, whether it be good equipment or professional advice, you get what you pay for. Pay your team what they are worth. They are worth the investment.

5. “It’s always about the money”.

When they say its about trust, honesty, artistic integrity… that’s when … it’s about the money, because its always about the money.

6. “Actions speak louder than words”.

When you are confused, don’t listen to what the other side says, watch what they do. Pay attention to their actions. They may be confused themselves. Actions are where you get the truest sense of what someone one wants or is about.

7. “Have fun!” It’s the music business.

We live for the moments and the stories we live become us. If you didn’t want to have fun you could have done something that was more secure, lucrative and much more boring.

8. ” The basics apply”.

Always have. Always will. Great songs. Great performances. Great production. Apply the basics. Always.

9. “The facts are often 3/4 of the law“.

This is a quote from the late great Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India who was also a lawyer. So who am I to question this? Besides, I’ve found in practice this statement often affords very good practical insights into legal issues and legal problem solving. So get the facts.

10. “Know yourself. Be true to yourself“. 

It’s been said “It takes 30 years to build a reputation and 30 seconds to destroy it.”  Longevity is about integrity. Stay true to yourself and your vision as an artist and person. That way the success that you do achieve will be meaningful.

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Submitted by: Paul Sanderson



8 Steps For Developing Your Musical Brand

Everyone has a brand, but one of the problems that most musicians, artists, bands, songwriters, engineers and producers have is that they don’t understand exactly what their brand is. It’s difficult to stand out from the crowd unless you know how the essence of that brand and how to develop it.

19Here’s an excerpt from Social Media Promotion For Musicians: The Manual For Marketing Yourself, Your Band And Your Music Online, that describes the 8 steps to develop your brand.

“While the music that you play or create is totally up to you and outside the realm of this book, what we can deal with is the second part of the brand – your image. Here are some steps to take to refine your brand.



Make sure your brand image accurately portrays your music and personality. ico_Brand_identity If you’re a biker band, you probably don’t want a website that’s all pink and flowery. On the other hand, the pink works great for Katy Perry.
Likewise, if you’re an EDM artist you wouldn’t want your site to show the woods and trees, although that could work well for an alt rock band from Minnesota or someone doing music for meditation.


Don’t try to be who you’re not, it’s too hard to pull off. You are who you are and people will either love you for it or they won’t. While you can concoct a backstory where you were taught a new form of music by aliens, then honed your technique in the jungles of Brazil, that just sets your brand up to fail if you really can’t live up to the image that’s been painted. Best to keep things simple and be honest about who and what you are and where you came from. If people like what you do and can relate to you, that will shine through and your fans will not only find it interesting enough, but will be totally fascinated as well.


While it might seem tempting to proclaim that you’re just like Coldplay, that doesn’t immediately make you their equal in the eyes of the public. The fact of the matter is, there already is a Coldplay, why does the world need another one? It’s their brand, not yours. The only way that a brand can be successful is to differentiate itself from the competition. A great example is the seminal punk band The Ramones, who decided that all their songs would be as short as possible and played without solos. There must be something that makes you unique in even a small way. If you can’t find it, it may be time to go back to the drawing board.


 Consistency of product and image are the key to branding. That’s why you need to use the same logo and fonts and have the same general look and feel across all your promo for it to be effective. That includes your website, press kit, blog, newsletter and all social media.


This is a requirement if you’re planning to promote your brand. You need this for your website, social sites, merchandise, press kit, promo and on your stage during gigs. In short, it has to be part of everything you do. You may start promoting yourself without it, but it’s a big plus if you already have a logo. It separates you from the newbies. If you’re a musician without a band, a producer, songwriter or engineer, it doesn’t mean that you must also have a logo as well (although it would be better), but at the very least, use the same font for your name on your blog, website, newsletter and anywhere else it might appear.


Great photos are a necessity. You need first class photos for posters, merch, website, social networks, press kits, and a lot more if you want to build your brand. This is as important as the logo – you need a great photo in order to begin any kind of promotion. Have you ever seen a Facebook page or website of a major artist without an artist or band photo?


Learn this phrase well as it will be repeated throughout this book…
That means that you can’t look at your music as your product. It may bring in some money eventually but not all that much in the grand scheme of things. Remember that 90 to 95% of the money that a major artist earns is not from recorded music. It’s from concerts, merchandise, publishing and licensing.
TIP: Don’t be afraid to give your music away. It’s your best marketing tool and the best way to build your brand.


You cannot proclaim how new and unique you are. If such a statement is in fact true, people will find out soon enough and tell the world. You can use quotes from other people, but telling the world that you think you’re cool does not make it so.


These are not the only steps that you can take, but they’ll take you a long way to creating a brand image that works for you.”     Bobby Owsinski

Bobby Owsinski

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