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6 Things Musicians Should Know That They Don’t Teach You in Music School


“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.” - Tom Bodett

Music schools might be great for really helping you fine-tune your musicianship skills, but there are some lessons that they don’t cover which you’ll need to know for your career. Here are six things that you should know that aren’t covered in curriculum:

  1. How to Pitch Your Music: Pitching your band is one of the most important lessons to not only get your career started, but to sustain it. It’s the foundation for networking, booking shows, getting press, working with sponsors, and creating new fans.

  2. How to Treat Other Bands: The music industry is a business that is all about relationships. Bottom line: don’t be a diva and don’t treat other bands like crap. They are your allies, not your competition. Learn the unspoken rules of how to treat a touring band. The better you treat your peers, the better off you’ll be.

  3. Don’t Play too Often: I understand that when you first launch a band, you want to play out as often as possible. However, there are dangers to overplaying. Learn to walk that fine line so you don’t end up annoying promoters or getting burnt out.

  4. How to Handle Your Gear: More specifically, you should learn how to lift heavy objects properly. Between hauling amps, merchandise, and other gear, there’s a lot of potential for injury. While you are at, get yourself some good ear plugs and protect your hearing too.

  5. Go With the Flow: When you are touring often, it’s inevitable that something will go wrong. Learn how to deal with the situations and make the best of things when they do. Prepare for emergencies, such as the vehicle breaking down (you might even consider taking some basic auto repair lessons).

  6. Learn the Right Things: We all want an easy solution: a nice record label deal, a headlining music festival slot, a viral video, etc. but these things are overrated. Don’t expect someone else to make your music career for you. Focus on the right things and build your career the right way.

What are some tips that you’d give to aspiring musicians that they don’t teach you in school? What are some areas you wished someone would teach you about?

If you have some tips to share, post them on Twitter with #TipsForBands


Simon Tam is the President and Founder of Last Stop Booking, author of How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements, and performs in dance rock band The Slants. Simon’s writing on music and marketing can be found at He is on Twitter @SimonTheTam 

Reader Comments (3)

Excellent post. Sharing.

June 26 | Unregistered CommenterDave Isaacs

Great idea - Here are OUR four things every musician's gotta know;
Mostly, they expand on #2 & #3.

1. Understand the difference between a hobby and a service

2. It's OK -- great, actually -- to turn down lousy gigs

3. No band is an Island. As Aron from The Slants told me once, "We're all in the same bathtub!"

4. Exposure kills.

Full explanation here:

Bread & Roses,
Fair Trade Music PDX

July 1 | Unregistered CommenterJake

Hi Jake,

Good to see a fellow PDX'er - even better that you quote one of my bandmates! The quote is even better considering our first band's photoshoot for our debut album: we photographed Aron in an old, dirty bathtub that we fond in an abandoned house


July 11 | Registered CommenterSimon Tam

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