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Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business
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Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  454 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Copiously researched and documented,Hit Menis the highly controversial portrait of the pop music industry in all its wild, ruthless glory: the insatiable greed and ambition; the enormous egos; the fierce struggles for profits and power; the vendettas, rivalries, shakedowns, and payoffs. Chronicling the evolution of America's largest music labels from the Tin Pan Alley days ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published July 2nd 1991 by Vintage (first published July 7th 1990)
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Best Non Fiction About Music
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Best True Crime
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Jul 23, 2011 Jon added it
In some ways, Fred Dannen's rock-industry expose HIT MEN is less compelling than Marc Eliot's similar ROCKONOMICS: it covers only the 70s and 80s (with a bit of dirt about earlier eras) while Eliot surveys the entire history of the recording industry (through the late 80s). In one way, it's better: unlike Eliot, Dannen documents his sources, leaving you feeling that events really happened as he says they did, instead of thinking (as all too often with Eliot's book) "How interesting--wonder how t ...more
If you come into it expecting tales of rock-star debauchery, you'll be disappointed. Actually, you'll be disappointed if you're expecting anything more than passing mention of actual musicians; here, they're little more than names on Billboard charts, or clients of superstar lawyers. In fact, the juiciest "rock star" story here involves an irate Paul Simon tersely suggesting Clive Davis should read a particular book. "Backstage Passes" this is not.

What you will find is an involving story about t
Andrew Tollemache
A super interesting read about the importance of record promoters in the 70s and 80s to drive album and singles sales. Dannen sets out to tell the story of how the industry began to turn against paying these promoters as those expenses ate up more and more of the revenue. Payola, in which cash (and drugs and women) payments were made to DJs and program directors, had been around for decades, but many had assumed that the big Federal crackdown in the early 1960s had killed it. Dannen describes ho ...more
"Despite being published 20 years ago, this paperback edition of Dannen’s explosive music industry exposé is an enthralling read. Dannen casts a wide net in detailing the shady practice of goosing record airplay and sales — going back to the payola scandal of the ’50s and earlier — but mostly the book focuses on a ring of sleazy 'independent promoters' who racked up millions in the freewheeling late ’70s and early ’80s. The book has a large cast of colorful characters (too large, to be honest), ...more
Darin Strachan
This book is an intriguing history of major players and executives in the music business. It primarily focuses on CBS records and its subsidiaries, including direct quotes and interviews with a lot of those executives. The spark that seemed to inspire the book was a resurgance of payola charges in the late 80's. The end of the book highlights some court cases that were beginning to be filed against independent promoters for payola charges. The only disappointment about the book is that the court ...more
What a great detailed book about the music industry. I would recommend, however, that you do not use this as your bible. Read other books (and there are many) about the same topic by insiders who were around the see it. Somewhere between this book and the others is the complete truth. This book give you a great sense of those who made the music BUSINESS what it is today.. For music junkies out there.. until you understand the history, you don’t know really know everything you need to.
Steve Bogen
If you want in inside look at the record business, as it once was, this is the book to read. The old days....when money talked and nobody walked.
I wanted to like this account of corruption in the music industry more; the subject matter is really interesting. But it was a little too inside baseball for me. The book was at its best when it focused on the larger-than-life personalities of the music industry in the 1970s and '80s, but when it got into excruciating and unnecessary detail on the minutiae of the business transactions, it lost me.
A little like the Bible in it's history ("Clive begot Walter who betrayed Dick. . .") but still an interesting account of the '70s-'80s music biz. I only paid attention to some of this from a distance, since I was in the small indie world at the time, but it's still fascinating today. It reminds me that the music industry has faced challenges before (though it's looking pretty bleak in 2008).
Scott Fuchs
The subtitle of course, gives credence [along with a broad smile] to the double entendre to the title.
Although I read this book over 20 years ago, much of it has stayed with me, especially the 'saga' of Morris Levy, dubbed the 'Father of Payola'.
All in all I recall it as a well written account of the recording business in in one of its early heydeys.
My copy is the hardcover
An essential read for anyone in the music business, a tale of the 20th century birth of the 'record business' which starts with shellac and ends up in the late 20th century.

All the greed, drugs and corruption, all the big names and scams, deals and hustles.

People being hung out windows, drug crazed bosses, sex, booze, glamour and greed.

Grindy Stone
Very uneven, and for a couple of chapters the author has the habit of showing off his dimestore Yiddish. But the chapter on Casablanca Records is pretty good.
This book is exactly what the subtitle states. It looks at the big power brokers behind the major record labels in the 1970's and 1980's. It was published in 1991 so it is rather dated, but it does show how the record industry is dominated by personalities rather than musicians or businessmen. (and they're all men, too).
Davon Washington
I'm very easy to please when it comes to the history of the music business as it is MY background. This book however just lacked the stories and the depth to keep me interested pass a few dozen pages.
Anna Bond
I would love to reread this now, in light of the major-label profit hemorrhaging of the past few years. Less gloating than there could be, though, as the indies are catching up. Amazing stories of rich, corrupt, powerful men who were responsible for all the popular music of the Woodstock generation and beyond.
Lord Humungus

Recommended by a fellow music fan, this was an absolutely fascinating look at the inner workings of the (now faded) music industry. There was stuff I'd read before, stuff I'd suspected and then whole new vistas of nepotism, corruption and general slime that I hadn't quite expected. Great read.
Matt Jasper
This book was informative and helped understand what it was like to be a part of CBS Records in the 60s through 80s. It really framed the payola scandals of the 80s as a power play between labels and independent radio promoters. If that sounds interesting to you, you'll like the book.
Paul Harris
Hit men is a very entertaining read bout certain aspects of teh music industry in the US in the 1970s and 1980s. Probably quite dull to anyone who couldn't care less about the music industry. But it is surprisingly impartial and not overly critical of what must have been a very fun time.
Matt Ringler
Interesting look behind the scenes of the record industry. Provides incredible insight into the behind-the-scenes dealmaking of the music industry. Only wish that this didn't end in 1991. Would have liked to see today's industry in the context of these tales.
Miguel Peguero
I found this book very engaging. Enough so that I'm reading it again two whole years later. The behind the scenes corruption, drug use, and manipulation exposed by this book will change your view of the music industry.
Timothy Urban
Whether you are in the music biz or not, this is a racy, entertaining read that, amongst other things, explains why Phil Collins had such enoumous success despite being worse than a rectal haemorrhage.
A kind of interesting read about the scumbags and lowlifes who ran the record business up through the early 90's. But also kind of a slog. I'm glad I'm finally finished.
Sergio GRANDE films
Mild compared to the behaviour of Hollywood at the time, this is a good look at the world of payola in the music industry. It reads like a novel.
Digitalheart Vinylsoul
Safe to say the jew runs the music industry.
Judy Turianska
Not an easy read. For me in any case. Astonished of the underworld of the music industry and how major acts got cheated out of air play.
Riveting cover to cover. The experimental debut of Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' still stands out though I read this more than a decade ago.
classic. read it if you work in music, are intrigued by it, are a fan of dylan, springsteen or neil young
a textbook for music industry history, i'm just thankful that i don't work for walter yetnikov
the key to learning that the music industry is all about fucking people over to get to the top!
If you want to understand the promotions side of the music business, this is the book for you.
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