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One of the things that you can do while you’re waiting is educate yourself.


I know, I know…the reason you became a musician is because you didn’t like school, didn’t do all that well in school, or got kicked out of school.


Or, maybe you’ve got the gift and you just want to rely on that talent.




Still, there are things you need to know about music, gear, health, the music business, money management, and other aspects they may help you further down the road such as minor automotive repairs and or talking your way out of a ticket.


Let’s talk about music first.


Perhaps you play by ear.  You don’t read music; you don’t need to…it is, after all, only rock n’ roll, right?


It is true that the less-educated found success in the past, and could happen again in the future.  But, in this modern real world, as your career advances, you are going to find that you will encounter better and better musicians all the time.  And the language they speak is music.


This language has been developed and has survived for hundreds of years because of its efficiency in conveying musical ideas.


Let’s say you’re in the studio and the drummer suggests the whole rhythm section play a fill going into the last chorus: quarter, dotted eighth, sixteenth, four eighths.


And the band leader then says, great…play the tonic on everything but the last three eighths, where everyone should play the subdominant.  At that point all the musicians scribble notes on their charts.


education 112713


You ask to hear what that sounds like, because you have no idea what they said after “fill before the last chorus.”


The bandleader plays it for you, and it’s not that hard.  In fact, it’s simple.  You write the word “fill” on your chart before the last chorus.


A hush falls over the studio as the engineer in the control room says, “we’re rolling” and the red light above the door comes on.


The track is sounding great, and the song has worked its way through the bridge heading to the last chorus.  You look at your music and see “FILL.” 


What was the fill again?


Wouldn’t be a great time to read music?


It is also good to know about gear, and the more you know the better you are served.  What’s the right gear for what you’re looking to do?  How do you use it?  How do you hook it up?  Can it be used in other creative ways?  How durable is it?  If it breaks can you repair it yourself?  Does anyone make a better version of it?


Health may not seem too much like a musician’s issue, except, generally speaking, we don’t get sick days.  If you’re playing Staple Center or Madison Square garden for 30,000 fans…well, you know, the show must go on.


But you know what?


Bob’s Tavern that took a chance booking you isn’t going to be thrilled if you back out of a gig last minute either.


Staying healthy on the road is even more difficult.  So you want to know how to stay healthy on the road in Montana in January?  Educate yourself.


The music business is…well…Hunter Thompson said it best when he said…


“The music business is a cruel and shallow money
trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and
pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.
There’s also a negative side.”


(Actually Hunter said that about the broadcast news business but the quote has been adapted and applied to the music biz as well because, well, because it fits perfectly.)


There was an artist that was asked by the label to contribute a track to a compilation Christmas album that was to feature most of the label’s roster.  The producer suggested that instead of scouring the various publishers for a new Christmas song, the artist should record a public domain song (one where the copyright had expired), and the artist and producer would split the money that the track generated 50/50 instead of paying a publisher.


The artist agreed: easy money, right?


Actually, the artist was entitled to all the publishing money the song on the album generated.


How do you protect yourself against unethical behavior?


I won’t insult anyone’s intelligence by answering that.