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A one-volume insider history of the whole damn music business by Simon Napier-Bell

This book is published, but you can still pledge for rewards!

Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay cover

The Synopsis

What is it?
In 2002 I wrote a history of the post-war British music industry called Black Vinyl White Powder. Although it was amazingly well received I was a bit disappointed – not with the reviews but with myself. I wished I’d had the courage to tackle the whole damned thing, the story of the music industry right from the beginning - from 1713 when the British parliament gave writers the right of ownership in what they wrote, till to today, when a worldwide industry worth 100 billion pounds and originally created by Britain and America has been reduced to just three major companies - Sony, Universal and Warner - under the control of Japanese, French and Russian owners.

Is it for me?
Yes. If you have ears. We are all surrounded by music: it permeates our lives but we don’t often step back and think about how it’s made, how it works, how it functions as a business. Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay will do that for you. Across 28 anecdote-filled chapters, it will answer the questions about music you didn’t even know you wanted to ask.

Like what?
— How a formula for writing hit songs devised in the 1900s created over 50,000 of the best-known songs ever
— Why the 'music industry' became the 'song racket', the 'singles business', and then the 'record industry'. But is now the 'music industry' again.
— How technology shifted the balance of power and created the big money - gramophone, radio, amplification, LPs, electric guitars, CDs, downloads
— Why Jewish immigrants and black jazz musicians danced cheek to cheek to create the template for all popular music that followed
— How Hollywood bought the music industry in the 1930s - then suffocated it
— Why American pre-war industry infighting closed down traditional radio and created an opening for country music, race records, and rock’n’roll
— How industry executives didn't realise till the 1950s that popular music could be sold to young people, and how they then lost their minds to the teenage market
— Why rock music turned the traditional music industry on its head and never put it back upright again

— How rock tours became the biggest, quickest, sleaziest, money-makingest things the music industry had ever seen
— Why disco stole the U.S. market for a year, then got backlashed into obscurity
— How rap, born from a DJs pleasant asides to his audience, became the music of hate and rape - and the biggest selling popular music in the world 

— Why most of the music you hear everyday is still the result of organized pluggery

Read Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay and you'll never listen to music the same way again.

What do I need to do?
That’s simple. If you’ve ever bought or listened to popular music, you should pledge to support this book. To attempt to tell this epic story in one volume sounds like madness, but I know it can be done and be reasonably complete as well. The team at Unbound think so too. But it is a huge amount of work and I need your help to complete. So, pledge now and help us make musical history.

Why Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay?
Good question. You’ll have to read the extract below…

The Excerpt

Would you, if you’d written a novel, sign the rights to a publisher who agreed to neither print your book nor market it yet demanded half of any money you might make from it if someone else did? Well, that’s music publishing.

And would you, if you'd finished making mortgage payments on your house, be happy for it to remain the property of the building society? Because that's what happens when artists finish paying off the cost of making their records.

These things seem so foolish, so outrageous, so utterly without logic that there simply has to be a reason for them to be like that. And there is…



The Reviews

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The Author

I’ve been a film composer, songwriter, record producer, and author, but mostly a rock manager. Among the artists I’ve managed are The Yardbirds, Marc Bolan, T Rex, Japan, Asia, Ultravox, Candi Staton, Boney M, and Wham!

In the 60s I co-wrote the song You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me which went to number one sung by Dusty Springfield, and was also covered by Elvis Presley.

I’ve written three books about the music industry: You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, about the music business in the 60s; Black Vinyl White Powder, a history of the British music industry; and I’m Coming To Take You To Lunch, about taking Wham! to Communist China in the 80s, the first Western pop group ever to play there.

Now I mostly consult, write and broadcast on the music industry and live mainly in South East Asia.

Some of my most flattering reviews:

'Breathtakingly brilliant… the greatest ever book written about English pop.’ JULIE BURCHILL

'Provides a one-stop-shop education in the music business… the cold-print equivalent of a sparkling evening in the company of a world-class raconteur.’ CHARLES SHAAR MURRAY

'I read it so fast I had to read it again.’ NICKY HASLAM

'The most authoritative, diligently researched and unpretentious analysis of the British pop scene yet written. Masterly.’ SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

Questions & Answers

Deborah Frost Deborah Frost asked:

Hello- I supported but haven't received download. How do I get it? Thanks!

Unbound Unbound replied:

Hi Deborah,

Thanks for getting in touch. If you log into your Unbound account you can download the ebook from If you have any problems please let us know via

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Community Coordinator

The Rewards

This book is now published. You can still pledge, but you won't get listed as a supporter in the back.


ebook edition in the three major formats – epub, mobi and PDF


1st edition hardback

Digital edition and access to the Simon's shed

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Signed 1st edition hardback

Digital edition and access to Simon's shed

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All the above plus signed copies of Simon's three backlist titles

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Launch Party

A signed and dedicated hardback, digital edition, access to Simon's shed + 2 tickets to the launch party on 26th June in central London

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A signed hardback, digital edition, access to Simon's shed + a place at a one-day seminar held in London on all aspects of the music business (only 6 tickets per seminar)

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Two tickets to join Simon for a gossipy, story-filled lunch. Only 10 pledges available

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An unrepeatable chance for a one-on-one dinner with Simon, a first edition, cloth bound hardback, digital edition and your name in the back of the book. Only 2 available.

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  • Format: Hard Back
  • ISBN: 978-1-78352-031-2
  • Published: 06/2014
  • Format: Hard Back
  • ISBN: 978-1-78352-032-9
  • Published: 06/2014