5 Intense AF Music Exposés That Reveal The Harsh Reality Of Life In The Industry

The musician's life contains some of the greatest stories you never get to hear. Those backstage shenanigans, band bust-ups, and dubious hookups can only be imagined by most of us, but some writers have cleverly capitalised on the fantasy of the rock star. If you've somehow run out of CDs to listen to (not possible), but your bookshelf is looking a little empty, then this list of five novels about musicians should keep the audiophile in your life satisfied.

As you'll probably know from plenty of real life examples, musicians life a different kind of life to the average citizen. They're seriously committed to their art, and they live a lifestyle for it that's an entirely different world from the 9-5 many others are used to. If you weren't gifted with an angelic voice, or your fingers aren't nimble enough for the saxophone, then these novels will let you live out your rock star fantasy. Each of them is penned by an author who has an obvious love for music, as well as a slight cynicism towards the industry that produces it. You won't just get glamour, these novels give you the real, ruddy insight into the life of a musician. Buckle up, because it's a wild ride.


'The Song Is You' by Arthur Phillips

The Song Is You turns the concept of the woman as the artistic muse on its head. It follows the relationship between a young singer-songwriter, and the much older man who inspires her. The passion between artist and muse is played out over several months, as they watch one another perform, yet never meet. It's fresh, dizzying, and unlike any romance you've read before.

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'A Visit From The Good Squad' by Jennifer Egan

If my own personal recommendation isn't enough to sway you, then maybe the fact that A Visit from the Goon Squad won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011 might. The thirteen interconnected stories in this novel give an ugly and unflinching insight into the seedy parts of the music industry, as fiction and reality blur. For Bennie Salaza, the aging punk rock star, the fantasy he once had steadily disintegrates over a long and trying career in the industry.

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'The Commitments' by Roddy Doyle

This one's a classic. Roddy Doyle's The Commitments follows the fictional soul group of the same name whose aim it is is to try and spread the gospel with their music across Dublin. They quickly end up in over their heads, their records becoming wildly successful. The novel has since been turned into a long-running West End show, as well as a film starring Outlander's Maria Doyle Kennedy.

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'Nocturnes' by Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro, the man who won the Nobel Prize For Literature back in 2017, penned another masterpiece in Nocturnes. The book is made up of five stories, including one which follows the life of a has-been musician who's desperate to make a comeback, and another which sees an underappreciated jazz musician wrestling with the delusion that plastic surgery could improve his career. Each is written with Ishiguro's trademark wit and precision, and all of them are underlined by the idea that music can give all the best answers.

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'Espedair Street' by Iain Banks

One of the late Scottish writer's more obscure works (among a pretty trippy catalogue), Espedair Street tells the story of Dan Weir, a bass player in a rock band called Frozen Gold. Weir guides the reader through the band's boozy rollickings during Frozen Gold's heyday, along with some tragedies along the way, right up to the present. According to an interview he gave to The Independent, the novel's loosely based on the experiences of '70s rock bands like Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd. It's just another example of Banks' bizarrely appealing sense of humour and pathos.

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