Don Heckman

Los Angeles Times
March 27, 2005


By Don Heckman, Special to The Times

The subtitle to Khan’s primer on the too-often-overlooked problem of how to make a living in jazz is “Without Sacrificing Dignity or Artistic Integrity.” And that, of course, is the rub. But if anyone can offer useful, competent advice, it’s Khan, who has been producing concerts since the late ’60s and managing and producing some of the jazz world’s thorniest artists.

“Straight Ahead” is a musician’s lifesaver, a vehicle to aid safe passage through the shark-infested waters of the music business. Khan covers everything in detail, carefully illuminating each aspect of the process: the artist’s team (manager, agent, attorney, publicist, etc.); the business (the labels, the executives, the staff); performance (clubs, concerts, bookers, etc.); contracts; publishing; funding; strategies.

The list goes on. This compendium should be on the bookshelf of every musician (and not just jazz musicians), a guide that will fascinate anyone who retains the belief that all it takes to get to Carnegie Hall is practice, practice, practice.

Reprinted with permission of Don Heckman

MEIEA Journal

The title of Marty Khan’s book says it all. This is a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-really-is, book that takes you into every aspect of the music business. With over thirty-five years of experience as a manager, agent, concert and record producer, consultant, advisor, and strategic planner, Khan has worked with emerging talents as well as many of the legendary masters of jazz. This book is the culmination of his experience and business relationships. Straight Ahead is intended to be used as a business manual for those who are pursuing a career in the industry, and as a text for classroom use when complemented with the teacher’s guide (which can be purchased separately).

There are many music business texts out there that are very useful—and some that come across as stale and boring. If there is one word I would use to describe this book it is: pragmatic. Khan presents his thirty-five plus years of experience to the reader in a practical manner which, if read front to back (as he suggests), builds a framework for the business from the bottom up. Khan’s personality is hard to miss throughout the book. Many times his approach seems cynical, and it is, but never negative or without reason. When dealing with others in the business it is important to understand where industry people are coming from and why they may respond or act in particular ways. These traits are accounted for in such a way that you will be able to anticipate this behavior and create an outcome that will be beneficial to all involved. Frustration is an inevitable part of the business, particularly when greed and arrogance are factored in, and the musician can be taken advantage of quickly and easily if not careful. Khan does an excellent job of preparing the aspiring musician/entrepreneur for these issues. The advice he provides is timeless; unlike many texts it will not become outdated with the changing marketplace.

The book begins with “Ten Disturbing Facts that Must be Understood.” This sets the tone and mood of the book as a whole by preparing you for the “shady” side of the business. Khan covers a number of eco¬nomic misunderstandings such as how labels make their money and how that affects the artist, common misconceptions of various goals an artist might have, and the true intentions of arts advocates. This is followed by a glossary of business terms and slang that the author uses throughout the book, and which the reader should also understand when speaking with others in the business. Part II, “The Artist’s Team,” follows. Here the role of each member of the team from the artist to the publicist is laid out so that we get a clear picture of how each team member works with the other and what is expected from each. Part III, “The Business,” describes many topics including: how record labels really work, how to get bookings in various venues, how to effectively deal with promoters, stage crews, and even how to treat your audience. In this section Khan also deals with con¬tracts, publishing, funding, and investment. Part IV is entitled “Strategies, Recommendations, Solution” where the keys to success are laid out in an objective and practical manner. He begins with the concept of self-empowerment, how to create a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, and how musicians can work together in bartering services, sharing management, and more. Khan goes into marketing techniques and how to deal with eco¬nomic issues. In the final two chapters he offers general advice and as mentioned before, there are loads of sample contracts and release forms.

It should be noted there is no index in this book. The author felt it would be impractical and instead offers questions that are answered in each section. As mentioned earlier, one may purchase a teacher’s guide to accompany the book for use in the classroom. This provides a strategic two-semester course plan for using the book as a text.

What makes this book unique is that Khan speaks to the reader from within the business. He pulls you in and helps you understand the business from the inside out in a way that demystifies how things really work. Many music business texts seem to take a bird’s-eye view of the industry mainly due to the overwhelming complexities that are too difficult to get into in a text format. While reading this book you feel that you are gaining the experience you need to effectively and honestly achieve your goals. Most importantly, Khan addresses what is most essential. As the subtitle of the book states, he helps you to make your way in the business, “without sacrificing dignity or artistic integrity.” I know personally that Khan’s greatest influence is the life and character of the immortal John Coltrane. The purity of Trane’s spirit and his expression of life through his music is a defining factor in Marty Khan’s life. We all seek to find that which helps to define our own spirit. A self-professed “failed musician” Khan gave up the saxophone to immerse himself in the business side of the profession. He has genuinely strived to help and empower those who have found jazz to be a vehicle of expression for their own spirit. And he has done this without sacrificing his—or the artist’s—dignity or artistic integrity. Buy this book. You will thank him for it.

Michael L. Keepe

Michael L. Keepe is Instructor of Saxophone and Music Industry at Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona. He is the owner of ML KEEPE and Castle Keepe Publications, is the soprano chair and manager of the Presidio Saxophone Quartet, and for four years worked as an A&R Representative and Producer in the recording industry. He is currently pursuing the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Saxophone Performance with a minor in Music Business at the University of Arizona where he is the Graduate Teaching Assistant for the saxophone studio and the Camerata Career Development program. For more information please visit

The MEIEA Journal is a refereed scholarly work published annually by the Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Association and is as a resource for anyone interested in scholarly research and writing about the music and entertainment industries. The MEIEA Journal is distributed to members of MEIEA, universities, libraries, and individuals concerned with music and entertainment industry education.