Backbeat Books: Miller Freeman Changes Name and Tempo
Barbara R ther -- 1/1/01

Miller Freeman Books of San Francisco celebrates 10 years of music book publishing this season while announcing a name change to Backbeat Books. The new name coincides with the launch of a music supersite by Backbeat's parent company, Music Player Network.

The Web site,, hopes to be "the premier information resource for musicians and music aficionados." Collaborations with Backbeat, as well as with Guitar Player, Bass Player, Keyboard and other music magazines held by the parent company, are a central part of the site.

Backbeat publisher Matt Kelsey envisions a growing interaction between his newly expanded list, which is upping its annual output from 15 to 20 books, and the Web site. For Reel World by Jeff Rona, an upcoming book on scoring music for film and television, readers are directed online to see film clips and hear the music. In return, other online articles refer browsers to Backbeat Books for extended information on musicians or bands featured in the news.

The house's major holiday 2000 gift book, The Phish Companion, is a 900-page guide to one of America's largest cult bands and comes to stores just five weeks after the band announced a sabbatical of undetermined length. With an initial print run of 24,000 and a high number of preorders, Phish seems poised as a seasonal bestseller.

A new series this year from Backbeat is the Third Ear listening guides, with volumes on Swing, Be-bop and Alternative Rock, and four more to come. The Essential Listening Companion series will also be reprinted. "With a new name and these new resources, we can do more and different kinds of books turning listeners on to music they might have missed, and helping musicians make great music of their own," said Kelsey.

The Guitar Player Repair Guide by Dan Erlewine, which was the press's first title in 1990, has now sold nearly 100,000 copies, and how-to books for musicians will remain a house staple. Erlewine's How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great was released in December. Backbeat is distributed by PGW.

The Music Player Network is a division of United Entertainment Media. With the reorganization of the company, the computer and technical books formerly published under the Miller Freeman name will now publish under the CMP Books imprint.