I picked this up last week while browsing in a bookstore on a trip to Pasadena, CA, and what a great find! I have dozens of books on songwriting and recording, and a few on performing, but this is the best book I've found on the special job of creating, performing, and recording your own music. Some key benefits:
1. Good depth -- At some 200 pages, the scale is just right -- you can actually read this book. Rodgers doesn't attempt to cover everything in depth, but he has useful tips on everything from chord progressions to how to connect with an audience to recording a CD (including how to decide if you SHOULD record one). Good references too, including Steve Rapson's wonderful "Art of the Solo Performer" ([...]) but omitting my favorite, Livingston Taylor's fine "Stage Performance" (unfortunately out of print).
2. Well organized, not only in the overall structure but in the subheads that locate individual topics, often illustrated with photos and quotes from songwriters Rodgers has interviewed, from Paul Simon to Ani DiFranco. Great for reference and browsing. The writing style is easy to read, informal but not chatty.
3. Up to date -- New in October 2003, the book is savvy about the internet, home recording options, and on artists working at various levels, with quotes from major label superstars like Paul Simon and James Taylor as well as a number of true and current DIY'ers with self-released CD's who use the internet as their main outlet (I think he should have mentioned CD Baby and Amazon.com as A-list choices for distributing independent music).
4. Realistic -- The book is helpful for people who are singer-songwriters as a sideline or hobby as well as those who are trying for a career. He talks about things like house concerts, booking in general, and even why and how to select a producer for recording.
5. Inspiring and supportive -- One cover blurb says that everyone needs a mentor, and this book is it. While the right human mentor would be better, you'd be lucky to find one with this range of knowledge. Rodgers helps you see that being a singer-songwriter is a big job, but with some organization and the right attitude, you can do it. Of course part of the process is to define what "it" is -- but I say, if you are creating music and sharing it even with a few people, it's a cool thing, even if there are already a zillion CD's in the world. This book can help you do it better.
I would have liked to have this book a year or so ago when I was starting on my first CD project (my recently self-released "Jardin du Luxembourg"). Although I found a local producer who is really great, decisions on song selection, preparing for and organizing sessions, staying focused on the project, and other topics in the book would have helped me. I'm now working on getting more gigs, promoting the CD, and preparing to record the first few songs for my next project. This book will help me to refine my blueprint for this process.
Being a singer-songwriter is a sideline for me, but it's an important part of my life, a creative outlet that I really value. If you have a passion for creating and sharing your music, whether as a career or as a sideline, you should read this book.