Short answer: If you want to become a better dance music artist, and/or producer, and feel you need to read a book to get a better grasp of everything involved, buy THIS book.
End of story.
Longer answer: I have been an "electronic composer" for the last 15 years, but my tracks always lacked that polish and groove that really drives EDM and DJ sets, or pumps the laid back groves of Hip Hop, so I was shopping around for books that dealt with these subjects as well as the technical side of things such as programming synth patches, engineering, arrangement etc. and this book hits the mark every step of the way, even diving into music theory, mixing, mastering, and promotion - all of it starting with "sound theory".
Now, after having read through a good portion of both books, I am very happy with my purchase and blown away at how much useful information is now in my hands. These books are worth at least double, maybe even triple what they are selling for. Some of the information is invaluable - at least to me.
The two editions are slightly different, as the first goes into a good deal of hardware and software, where the second edition drops this section, but goes into more depth on other topics such as synth programming, so if you want it all, get both editions, however either edition stands solidly on it's own.
Having said that, the second edition is far more relevant to 2013 than the first edition, so if you have to pick one, get this one. (The second edition).
This book is written in a style that any beginner will be able to pick up, but Rick doesn't assume you are an idiot, nor does he water down any subject like a lot of "intro" books do without imparting any practical knowledge. In fact, this book is just the opposite. It's like Rick wrote a small book on each subject and then distilled them down to only the most important and essential concepts and then made each a chapter of this book. Every section is cram packed with useful information, and the knowledge gets both specific and practical. The techniques get a thorough treatment, and everything is explained within the context of the genres of dance music being discussed. This book is obviously written by a man who knows exactly what he is talking about, without ever being condescending or getting too technical to be useful. I have learned a TON in the last two weeks. More than I have learned in the last 2 years. For example, today I learned the structure of a dance music track, section by section, (and how it differs from a typical radio arrangement). Also: You know that effect where an EDM artist changes sounds rapidly during a riff to make a really complex sounding riff (e.g Skrillex or David Guetta...)? It's called "hocketing" and it is accomplished by duplicating a riff to multiple instrument tracks and then subtracting notes from each track. Maybe you knew that, but I didn't. Now I do.
Want to know about sound cards? Covered. How to program a kick drum, bass, or lead? Covered. Cabling? Covered. Music theory? Covered. Hip Hop musical structure? Covered. Trance? Covered. Breakdowns of the TR909 and the TR808 drum machines? Covered. Pick something, and it's probably in here.
It is truly impressive (and a gift) that Rick tried to tackle so many subjects related to Dance Music and cram it all into 1 book, and for the most part he does it with flying colors. He even gave the most clear explanation of music theory I have ever read, cramming it all into 1 chapter. A very detailed chapter!
And, while this book doesn't cover some specifics of live performance or mixing on headphones, it absolutely covers gear setups from cables to mixers to audio units as well as in depth explanations about mixing and mastering which more than cover the needed skills.
However, as valuable as all the information is, this book is still, at it's heart, a starting platform. This book is squarely aimed at the reader who wants to be the next great EDM, Hip Hop artist or producer, but maybe doesn't have the knowledge nor the skills to get there. This book provides a STRONG, holistic foundation of knowledge to build upon, is a reference book that will get used and worn out and is, at times, an inspirational piece. This book won't write music for you, nor replace a lot of hard work, nor make you a star, but if you want to do all those things, this book will give you a GIANT push in the right direction and provide an entire framework to work with in accomplishing those goals.
Yes, there are other books out there that go into each subject Rick covers in "The Dance Music Manual", but really, if you had to buy one and only one book on this subject, this is the book you need.
One final note: If you already produce and/or gig for a living, perhaps you won't get much out of this book as a beginner, but even experienced professionals MAY be able to glean some knowledge from this book that they didn't have before. For example, if you are a great producer, but don't know much about promotion, this book is worth checking out.
So, is Rick Snowman an expert on dance music production?
Yeah! In fact, he wrote the book on it.