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Rockonomics: A Backstage Tour of What the Music Industry Can Teach Us about Economics and Life
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Rockonomics: A Backstage Tour of What the Music Industry Can Teach Us about Economics and Life

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  433 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Alan Krueger, a former chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, uses the music industry, from superstar artists to music executives, from managers to promoters, as a way in to explain key principles of economics, and the forces shaping our economic lives.

The music industry is a leading indicator of today's economy; it is among the first to be disrupted by
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by Currency (first published 2019)
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Jason Furman
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
No one else could have written a book with this range. Rockonomics draws on economic theory, standard government surveys, proprietary administrative data, a unique survey fielded by the author, and interviews with a range of people in the music industry. It covers just about every aspect of the music industry. The book focuses on the economics of the music industry, including a number of familiar themes like how streaming revenue is rising but recorded music primarily drives touring revenue, how ...more
Thomas Ray
Rockonomics, Alan B. Krueger, 2019, 325pp, ISBN 9781524763718

A light introduction to the money aspect of the music business.

See also:
Kurt Dahl, entertainment lawyer and musician: advice at

All You Need to Know About the Music Business, Donald S. Passman, 9th edition 2015, ISBN 1501104896

The Economics of Music, Peter Tschmuck, 2017, ISBN 1911116088


There are millions of very able musicians who can't earn a living at it. And a minuscule number very highl
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Princeton economics professor Alan Krueger examines the music industry, hoping to demonstrate the study of economics through the prism of popular music, and hoping to draw parallels to the economy at large. The result is more of a book about the music business than about economics, but I wager that most readers are more interested in the business than in economics, so consider that a success.

I may be an exception to the rule, having come close to getting a doctorate in economics myself -- Will B
Athan Tolis
Sep 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved loved loved Rockonomics, it makes my heart break that Alan Krueger will not live to see the success this book is guaranteed to have with the general public.

Yes, it’s an exaggeration to say you will learn economics from this. But if you’re a loser like me, who knows the economics and wants to find out about the music industry, you’re in for a treat. The author was basically friends with all these people who work in music and they told him how their industry works.

The summary is as follows
Loring Wirbel
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Let's get one thing out of the way: This is neither the sort of exhaustive coverage of recorded and performance popular music that David Byrne gave us in How Music Works, nor is it the popularization of macroeconomic theory and pop culture provided in light-hearted studies such as Dubner & Levitt's Freakonomics. Nevertheless, it's a fun and fact-filled study of how modern music shifted from physical artifacts to streaming, and what that means to the business behind the star-making machinery. I g ...more
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alan Kruger passed away earlier this year. He was a prolific and widely cited Princeton economist. I was most familiar with his research on minimum wage laws and their effects, but he was active in many areas. Then I heard about this book, on the economics of the music business. Anyone seriously interested in the music business, especially since Napster, will likely learn much from this book - and will miss Alan Krueger after reading it.

The rap on economics research applied to business is that i
Joe O'Donnell
“Rockonomics” is a somewhat frustrating read, a potentially excellent idea that isn’t executed as adeptly as it could be and ultimately falls a little flat. It might sound strange to say this about a book by a Princeton economics professor on the financial underpinnings of the music industry, but it’s major failing is that it focuses too much on the inner machinations of the music business at the expense of in-depth economic analysis. In the haste to make the financial and economic elements of “ ...more
Nuno Pereira
Apr 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are a music geek/fan or if you want to know more about music industry this a book for you. If you aren't...think twice. ...more
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Alan Krugers last book is indeed a doozy: it answers pretty much every question one might have about the Economics of the music industry and how it relates to the overall trends our economy has been facing for the past few decades.

Of Primary intrest is how artists and producers has adapted to the rise of streaming (mostly by touring a lot), the winner take all nature of the music industry (which parallels the trend in our society for the widening of the wealth/Income inequality), the importance
Alok Kejriwal
Jul 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fabulous, must-read book that teaches you tons about business, economics & music!

What’s compelling:

- The nitty-gritty details of how the business of music really works. What makes money, the scams, scoundrels, scalawags & success levers involved.

- Stunning revelations about consumption & payouts in the music industry ("even the fees of 'unused health club memberships exceed the revenue of recorded music in the USA).

- How innovative business models are emerging in music (when you corner someone
Jul 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, nonfiction
This is an information-packed book that provides a fascinating look into the music industry which the author refers to as a "winner takes all" marketplace. By the end of the book, one can not help but agree with him. The facts are continuous. There is not one copyright on music -- there are two. An artist is paid differently for music on Youtube, Spotify, vinyl, in a commercial, on Spotify and on Satellite radio. These and other facts are laid out in a clear and compelling way.

The book has to be
Matthew Oxman
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Excellent book by Krueger. Really puts the music industry into perspective as a financial entity, and it’s astounding how relatively small the industry is in $ terms. (Only $17b a year spent on all music in a year the US, which is abt the same as just one month of revenue from a large US company). Music is one of the best bargains out there, due largely to the love of performing by artists who are willing to perform for very little, if any compensation.

Krueger uses data convincingly throughout.
Michael Ritchie
Jul 22, 2019 rated it liked it
(3-1/2 stars) This is a book about economics disguised as a book about the pop music industry. That's not meant to be a slam, because it says so right in the subtitle. But to fully enjoy this book, I think you need more grounding in economic theory than I have. The first half of the book is interesting and I could follow it pretty well, but once he moves into more recent issues like ticketing and streaming music, I got lost, both in terms of music and economics. He used a small number of direct ...more
Would make an entertaining TED speech. As a book, thin and unsatisfying.

Firstly, the author admits he is "only an average music fan". (This may apply to the level of enthusiasm, or to the quality of music he likes.) He's writing as an economist, about a commodity market (US mainstream pop) and the superstar tail of this. (His definition of "quality" in music is very revealing!) So, not really the perspective I'm interested in. But it's good to see things from different perspectives.
Secondly, the
Jul 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
The main reason to read Rockonomics is for the interesting data, which provides insight into music industries around the world—how they have developed as well as the current trends that are being observed. However, this book is repetitive and in my opinion, could be condensed greatly. Furthermore, I did not particularly enjoy Krueger's writing style and some of the artist interviews seemed to undermine the messages of the book. ...more
Jul 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rockonomics was an interesting read and I would recommend it to anyone interested in popular music revenue models. As a musicologist and an economic nerd this piece delivered new information and it also challenged and added to the old thinking models that I have.

Analysis on musicians earnings and the industry's turbulences were the major narratives of this book. It was easy to read and statistics were digestible, on top of that Krueger compares how common economic troubles are present in music.
Dec 10, 2019 rated it liked it
some interesting interviews (e.g., with Mighty Max Weinberg of the E Street Band) about the business end of music to lighten up all the economic theory and data charts about macro view of the industry.

As you may have heard, times have changed from the heyday of record store sales of either 45s or LPs, and it seems that quite a few people are consuming downloaded or "streaming" music. It seems that commercially successful musicians now make more of their money from touring than from royalties on
Chun Chee
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Alan Krueger has masterfully drawn on economic theory to explain the often overlooked and understudied music industry. We spend way too much time on music, yet our spending on music is arguably less than our spending on potato chips, and that makes music industry an important subject to study.

I am particularly intrigued by one of the chapters on the superstar effects in the industry. Alan argues that music industry fulfills the very two ingredients that help create a superstar market, scale and
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very entertaining for a book written by an economist. A very detailed look at the music business and ways it mirrors the American economy on the whole - especially in being a "superstar economy", with the top 1% getting the biggest piece of the pie. Of particular interest to me were the chapters detailing how streaming and all things "digital" have completely transformed the music economy. Where once acts toured to promote their latest recording (which was their primary income) now artists relea ...more
Oct 31, 2019 rated it liked it
In choosing the music industry to discuss economics more broadly, Krueger has both found a frame that will be relatable to a lot of people and chosen an industry that has come through (or is perhaps still going through) a dramatic shift in the way that people obtain and engage with its primary product. Krueger admits that he isn't a particular avid fan of music, but he is passionate about economics. I come from the exact opposite perspective. Still, his approach is generally readable, and there ...more
Karthik Subbiah
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Rockonomics is an incredibly interesting book. For someone unfamiliar with economics, this book is a great place to start if you want to get interesting in the subject. That said, it holds plenty of learning for people who are familiar with the subject because of its unique, lucid insights into the music industry and thoughtful comparisons with the world economy. It's a relatively light read, although I found some of the sections on copyright law quite dense. I'd definitely recommend it to anyon ...more
Chung Shun Man
As an economics student, I don't find the ideas interesting. Contrary to my expectation, the book is quite limited in providing new insights. In general, the book applies old economics models to analyse the music industry. It argued that music streaming is taking over and the main source of income of artists now comes from concerts or other forms of live entertainment rather than their music. If you are a musician and don't have economics background, however, you can learn from the findings in t ...more
Adi Chan
Jul 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
The book is a treat for someone who is interested in the music industry. Alan's anecdotes from interactions with stars from the music business makes it an immersive experience. I think the view of the music industry as a superstar economy as portrayed by Alan can be used to study other industries with a similar model as well.

However, the book doesn't have too many insights on the economy in general as the cover suggests. But the in depth analysis of the music business from an economist's point
Sudipt Roy
Aug 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful mix of economics and music - the two fields that fascinate me!

The three big strengths of this book are - (1) it reveals about a sector that is always in front of us but the business side is rarely known, (2) author's original estimates of how different parts of the business stack up - breakup of revenue, early of stars vs others, and many more, and (3) it is about people who we know so well and wish to know more.

It is a delightful read - educative yet not taxing at all. There a
Oct 04, 2020 rated it liked it
The economics of music. Some chapters are really good (on scalprng and copyright), economic theory gives a very good insight there. Other chapters less so, for example because they contain descriptives on how much money is made with streaming (2017 figures don't age well). Chapter 10 on the global market is basically only about China. The boxes with interviews did not fit very well in the narrative of the book. Still, the book had some good bits and was an easy read.

Summary in Twitter thread: h
Dec 30, 2020 rated it liked it
A 3.5 star one I'm rounding down. Krueger has a lot of interesting insights and data about the music industry and how it informs economics generally. He enjoys the topics and it reflects well on his book. The issue is the book needed further editing. Points repeat when they didn't need to. Some great points get tired on their third mention. Krueger killed himself after writing this and I think it tinges how one views the sections on mental health. Was this his final contribution or a call for hi ...more
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a musician and economist, I just loved this wide-ranging, thoughtful book on the economics of the music industry. I learned so much about artists and aspects of the industry that I had underappreciated. Boy did Alan really know his stuff (obviously economics but also music!!). And he was such a talented qualitative interviewer and overall storyteller. I'm so sad I'll never have the chance to talk to him about this amazing work. ...more
Charlie Gessner
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Without a doubt, one of the most enjoyable books I’ve ever read. If you enjoy the music industry (listening to music, streaming, live concerts, merchandise, etc) and economics, then you’re in for a treat. Krueger explains it all in detail, in a very easy-to-read format, backed up by facts from industry insiders. Loved every page!
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book. It is written very simply for a general audience so if you're a veteran in the economics field and/or the music industry it can seem like basic knowledge but there is still plenty of great current day examples and interviews. I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone that is interested in the behind the scene look of music contracts. ...more
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a well written clever book that illustrated how many economic principles play out in the music industry. Streaming has effectively made recorded music a free public utility for most consumers (Americans spend 10 cents a day here) as many can opt for services with commercials. A quick entertaining read. Recommend
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Alan Bennett Krueger was an American economist.

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“Music, more than money, is the tonic of happiness. Music helps to create moments and social occasions, memories and emotions. This is the secret of music, and it is the reason that, as Neil Young famously sang, “rock and roll will never die.” 1 likes
“Americans spend more on potato chips than on recorded music.” 0 likes
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