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Expert Music Career Advice For DIY Musicians
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5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to Music School

Image via esm.rochester.edu

Though a college degree doesn't necessarily make somebody a great musician, there's a lot you can gain from music school. I know that I wouldn't be nearly the musician I am today had I not attended music school, and the experience was certainly worth the cost. There are, however, a few things that I learned along the way that I would have loved to know before stepping into my first day of class. For anybody who's considering music school or is about to start, here's some advice coming from my personal experience.

What I Wish I Knew Before Joining a Band

Los Manglers of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo by Payola Isabel.

Joining a band can be a life-changing experience, yet it's also an endeavor in which reason and planning are all but eclipsed by excitement. It's not like you can predict your precise path anyway, of course. Still, the hindsight of other musicians can serve as a helpful tool in making the best possible decisions.

3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Playing My First Festival

Phil Sgrosso, rhythm guitarist for Wovenwar (far left), emphasizes the importance of preparation when playing festivals. (Photo by Scott Nathanson)

Scoring a slot at a music festival is a big deal. You'll likely be seen by a mass of folks who've never heard your band before, and if it's a recurring event, you're already in the running for next year's lineup. What can you do to ensure a successful set?

While we've already provided tips for playing a mindblowing show, performing during a fest is a bit of a different beast. That's why we've enlisted a seasoned pro for tips: Phil Sgrosso, former rhythm guitarist of As I Lay Dying and founding member of its scion, Wovenwar. We've added a few notes of our own in the mix for a succinct but surefire guide to a smooth set – well, almost. There's no guarantee your experience will be free from chaos. Not everyone will abide by these rules, the weather might defy organizers, and the sound guy might be in long line for a hot dog when showtime comes – you never know. Still, these three points will better position you for festival perfection.

Lesson Learned: 4 Things I Wish I Knew Before My First DIY Tour

J. Thomas Hall has plenty of DIY touring tips to offer after years of touring with Atlanta band Ponderosa. Photo courtesy of the artist.

People might tell you there's no way to prepare for what you'll encounter on your first tour. In an abstract sense, that's true. Predicting what your experience will be like is impossible. There's no telling who you'll meet, the shenanigans you'll be part of, or the mishaps you might endure. But there are several tips and tricks to making things a little less susceptible to unwanted surprises. 

Atlanta musician J. Thomas Hall's latest efforts are in his own solo work, but he's also a founding member of Ponderosa, a Southern rock band who's performed on the same stages as Washed Out, the Flaming Lips, and Band of Skulls, among other notable acts. When they made their first big jaunt out of Georgia in 2008 with likeminded locals Death on Two Wheels, they learned a thing or two about how they could have made it all a smoother ride – starting with their transportation.

Lesson Learned: I Got Ripped Off by a Venue

Zafakon, a thrash metal band from Puerto Rico, experienced a bit of a debacle on their recent US tour. (Photo by Daniel Martinez)

You get lost between cities, your van breaks down, your merch didn't ship in time for the first show – these are a few of the unfortunate but common mishaps bands experience on tour. There's a less likely but arguably worse potential pitfall, though. What do you do if a deal with a promoter or venue is broken?