Don't tour west of the Mississippi River until you're a big deal. The fuel costs alone will eat up your profit.
Don't overbook your local market. Instead, cautiously expand one 50-mile radius at a time.
Don't give away the rights to your songs.
And you don't need a record label.
So says someone who owns a record label.
When I pointed out the irony, Atkins said that in order to make big things happen, at some point a band will need the alliances and leverage that a record label can bring.
"In general things are moving toward the place where they always were; core content, a message, an idea, a spark, a vision, the stuff that differentiates you from others is what matters," he said. "The medium changes. The essentials haven't."
He credited teaching and having children of his own with putting him on a more, oracle-esque path. Atkins said he has learned that you should be "the nicest to the person you think you have the least reason to be nice to."
He shared this nugget of wisdom after telling a story about getting into a fight backstage with Kevin Lyman, founder of the Warped Tour, over the rights to a six-pack of beer in the early '80s.
"It was a full-blown scrabble, rolling-around-on-the-floor fight," he said.
Atkins said that four years ago, in front of 600 people at a music seminar in New York, he apologized to Lyman for the fight.
"One of my former students was out on the road with U2 last year," Atkins said. "And he sent me an email saying, 'Thanks for teaching me how to not look like a complete a-- hole.'"
Melissa Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-222-4582. Twitter @chiconfidential