In April 2012, Plume/Penguin published the revised, expanded edition of Budnick's latest book, Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped, in North America and the U.K. ECW Press issued the original hardcover edition of the book, co-authored with Josh Baron, in 2011. Ticket Masters explores the emergence of computerized ticketing and the rise of the modern concert industry. It is the first book to chronicle the origins, development and ongoing strategies of companies such as Ticketron, Ticketmaster, Live Nation and StubHub, the efforts of numerous independent competitors and bands such as the Grateful Dead, The String Cheese Incident and Phish. Wall Street Journal reviewer Ken Kurson wrote, "A clear, comprehensive look at a murky business, the book is also an encyclopedia of information about the rise, decline and rebirth of the live music industry." Similar assessments appeared in Rolling Stone, Maclean's, Pollstar and other outlets. A revised expanded paperback edition was published by Plume in 2012. Budnick has gone on to appear as a panelist and deliver keynotes about the subject at numerous industry events, including: CMJ, the Ticket Summit, the International Ticketing Association Conference (INTIX), the IAVM Arena Management Conference, by:Larm and the International Music Festival Conference. He has commented about ticketing issues for a variety of media outlets. Budnick continues to write about ticketing and the concert industry for publications such as Relix, The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and Bloomberg View.
Budnick has explained that the idea for Ticket Masters first came to him in the mid-1990s, while a graduate student at Harvard University's History of American Civilization program, when he explored reports of ticket scalping on Charles Dickens' final American speaking tour. Budnick happened upon such accounts (as well as those related to the "Swedish Nightingale" Jenny Lind) while writing his doctoral dissertation on Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. In Direct Verdict: The Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle Trial Discourse, Budnick, who also earned a J.D. at Columbia Law School, worked from the original trial transcripts, dozens of newspaper reports and other primary sources to explore the silent film comic's life before and after his manslaughter trials that followed the death of actress Virginia Rappe on September 9, 1921. Directed Verdict examines not only on prevailing attitudes towards Hollywood and a new culture of celebrity but also tabloid journalism, the onset of Prohibition and the emerging, oft-contradictory roles of women in the 1920s. Budnick received his PhD in 2000 and his dissertation committee consisted of Henry Louis Gates, Werner Sollors and Ellen Fitzpatrick.
After serving as a teaching fellow and tutor at Harvard, Budnick has gone on to teach at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Roger Williams University and the University of Rhode Island.
In December 2015, Billboard published an exclusive cover reveal for Suck and Blow: And Other Stories I’m Not Supposed To Tell, the autobiography of longtime Blues Traveler frontman John Popper. This piece reported that Budnick had written the memoir with Popper and also revealed that Budnick’s next project was a “Grateful-Dead themed novel called Might As Well.” Both books came out in spring 2016. The New York Post hailed Popper’s “off-beat, hilarious new memoir” in a two-page review. Budnick and Popper later discussed the book during an event at New York City’s Strand Book Store.
Rare Bird Books published Might As Well, which a reviewer described as “a highly entertaining (and wildly funny) fictionalized multi-character account of a Grateful Dead show, which details the experience of both the lot scene and an actual show (for those who could get tickets) at Brendan Byrne Arena in the fall of 1989.” Budnick later revealed excitement from the Fare Thee Well shows had inspired him to revisit that era, and that the novel also drew on his work over the intervening years, exploring the Grateful Dead through Relix cover stories and other articles on the band, along with his efforts as editor of the official Fare Thee Well daily programs in 2015 and the Dead reunion show newspapers at Alpine Valley in 2002, recent pieces on Brent Mydland and the missing soundboard tapes recorded by Betty-Cantor Jackson, as well as the chapter on the Grateful Dead's own mail-order ticketing service in Ticket Masters.
In 2004 his interest in film as well as an ongoing focus on live music led Budnick to begin work on the feature-length documentary Wetlands Preserved: The Story of An Activist Rock Club. Budnick directed the film, which utilized archival footage, soundboard recordings and the efforts of a dozen digital animators to relate the story of Tribeca nightclub Wetlands Preserve. The documentary also includes music and interviews with Dave Matthews, Bob Weir, Questlove and Warren Haynes as well as members of Phish, moe., Agnostic Front, 311, the Disco Biscuits and many others. Wetlands Preserved, shown at such festivals as SXSW, Woodstock and Asheville (where it won top documentary honors), was released to theatres by First Run Features on March 14, 2008. The New York Times wrote, "Wetlands Preserved is a fond account of the rising, thriving and eventual closing of the TriBeCa club known as the Wetlands Preserve." Other positive reviews appeared in the New York Daily News, Newsday and other outlets. Wetlands Preserved was later acquired for television by the Sundance Channel
While still a graduate student, Budnick wrote two books, The Phishing Manual (Hyperion, 1996) and Jam Bands (ECW Press, 1998). In the summer of 1998, shortly before the publication of the second book, Budnick created Jambands.com along with webmaster Andy Gadiel (who would go on to create the JamBase website). Budnick is often said to have coined the term jam band. However, in 2003, with the publication of an expanded edition of Jambands (Backbeat Books, 2003) and later in Peter Conners book, JAMerica (Da Capo, 2013) Budnick indicated it that he only popularized it, although he is responsible for recasting it as a single word.
During the summer of 1999 Budnick produced the Jambands.com tour, which traveled from Maine to Maryland over two weeks and featured performances by such groups as: The Disco Biscuits, The Slip, STS9, Deep Banana Blackout and Percy Hill with special appearances by Allman Brothers Band members Butch Trucks and Oteil Burbridge (Budnick later served as board member for Trucks' Flying Frog Records). In 2000 Budnick created the Jammy Awards along with Wetlands owner Peter Shapiro. The inaugural edition of this awards show took place on June 22, 2000, at Irving Plaza, where Budnick co-hosted with the musician Peter Prince while wearing a tuxedo, a tradition Budnick would repeat at every Jammys. Over successive years the Jammys would move to the Roseland Ballroom and then to the Theater at Madison Square Garden, where, in its final installment in 2008, Phish received the Lifetime Achievement Award on the eve of the band's announcement that it would return to the stage after a four-year hiatus.
In 2001 Budnick also began his ongoing association with Relix Magazine, which acquired Jambands.com. His Relix cover stories have included profiles of Phish, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood Ray LaMontagne and My Morning Jacket, Carlos Santana, The Allman Brothers Band, Bonnie Raitt and Grace Potter, Ryan Adams, Zac Brown Band, Tenacious D, Warren Haynes, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gary Clark Jr., moe., Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, a H.O.R.D.E. Retrospective The String Cheese Incident and Dave Matthews Band. In his role at Relix he created the official Bonnaroo Music Festival daily newspaper, the Bonnaroo Beacon and event newspapers for Phish's festivals, the Grateful Dead's 2002 Terrapin Station reunion shows and Dave Matthews Band. Budnick edited the three daily programs for Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of the Grateful Dead in Chicago on July 3–5, 2015, in which the surviving members of the Grateful Dead—Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart—joined by Trey Anastasio, Bruce Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti. Budnick secured a special message by President Barack Obama which appeared in the program (He later explained, “The whole thing was a surprise. I wanted to keep it from the band members until they saw it in the program....It all happened rather quickly. It made perfect sense to me since Chicago is the President’s town and the ‘Core Four’ had been supportive of his initial campaign. Back in October 2008 Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart reunited to perform at the Change Rocks event for then-candidate Barack Obama. They later took the stage at the Mid-Atlantic Inaugural ball in January 2009. So I contacted the White House, described the event, although they seemed quite aware of it, and received the message a day later. They even sent along the official image to run with the President’s words.”) He also programmed the Live Soundtrack Cinema at the inaugural Lockn' Festival, a film tent that designed to "unite the musical side with the visual side by having the audio feed from the stage playing as specifically-selected features, shorts and animated films that complement the music are screened." At the second Lockn' Festival, he edited the official four-day festival newspaper, The Lockn' Times, which debuted that year. In September 2013, he was named editor-in-chief at Relix, sharing the role with Mike Greenhaus.
In the fall of 2000 Budnick and Jefferson Waful began co-hosting the Jam Nation radio show. Jam Nation originated from WMRQ in Hartford, Connecticut, where it aired Sunday nights from 8 to 10 PM. Twice a month the show hosted a one-hour electric performance from musical acts, with appearances by such groups as Derek Trucks Band, STS9, Galactic, Keller Williams and Umphrey's McGee (for whom Waful would eventually become lighting director). Jam Nation was soon syndicated on the fledging XM Satellite network where it aired until 2009, ending its run following XM's merger with SIRIUS. He continues to make guest DJ appearances on SiriusXM.