Do You Need A Music Degree To Make It In The Music Business?
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Do you need a music degree to make it in the music business?
Is a music degree a good investment?
Most musicians assume a music degree (or, at least, a music business degree) will help them increase their odds of ‘making it’. And when deciding to get a music degree or not, many site a handful of names as examples of famous musicians who:
1. Were going to college for music
2. Were able to make it in the music business.
Here is the truth:
Just because some famous musician has a music degree (or even a music business degree) and was able to make it in the music business does NOT mean that their success was ‘caused’ by their music degree.
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And it certainly does NOT mean that you need to base your music career decisions (such as whether or not you should be going to college for music) based on other musicians’ decision to get a music degree.
In fact, if you decide to get a music degree (or a music business degree), there are quite a few cons of this decision that can ‘negatively’ impact your chances to make it in the music business.
Understanding the pros and the cons should help you answer the question: “is a music degree a good investment?”
Let’s first talk about the ‘pros’ of obtaining a music degree. They are – for the most part – pretty obvious.
Benefit #1 Of Going To College For Music: You’ll Become A Better Musician.
Yep. As you’d expect when going to college for music – you will definitely get better as a musician in the process of getting a music degree.
This happens most of all with your knowledge of music theory, ear training and songwriting.
So, keep that in mind if want to make it in the music business and the question: “is a music degree a good investment?” is on you mind.
Benefit #2 Of Going To College For Music: You’ll Develop A Strong(er) Work Ethic
As someone who has not 1, but 2 music degrees, I can tell you:
Going to college for music will likely make you work harder than you’ve worked in your life. Which ‘is’ an important skill for anyone who wants to make it in the music business.
Benefit #3 Of Going To College For Music: You’ll Meet Others Pursuing Similar Goals
Frankly, this part of getting a music degree is quite overrated (see the “cons” list below to understand why).
That said, I did get insanely lucky in that department. When I was going to college for music, I met another guitar player who has since become one of my most cherished musical partners (and a trainer at my live guitar training events).
So, it’s certainly possible for you to meet such musicians when you are working on a music degree... it’s just not likely.
And with that, let’s turn our analysis of the question “is a music degree a good investment?” to the cons of going to college for music.
Problem #1 With Going To College For Music: A Music Degree Doesn't Prepare You To Make It In The Music Business
I once mentored a 17-year-old kid (Daniel from Denmark) in my Music Careers Mentoring Program.
Daniel wanted to make it in the music business and asked for advice about becoming a studio engineer and a record producer.
To start his career, he wanted to travel to the USA and get a music degree from Berklee in music production.
And when I asked why he thought that should be his first step, he told me:
“Other producers in Denmark don’t have music degrees. So, when I have one, it will be an advantage, because I will be the one who invested the time and money to get the piece of paper when others didn’t.”
“Maybe…” I said. “Except, you just told me engineers in Denmark DON’T have music degrees… and yet – they hold the jobs.
If having a music degree is such an advantage, why aren’t recording studios ONLY hiring Berklee graduates?
And if they aren’t actively doing that, then is a music degree a good investment or not?
This story is a great example of a problem with going to college for music:
... you only focus on ‘one’ part of the skillset that allows you to make it in music.
But there are MANY skills that go into being a professional musician that a music degree doesn't give you.
For example: here are some of the things record companies look for in you that you’ll never develop even if you get a music degree:
And this leads to the 2nd BIG problem with going to college for music, which is:
Problem #2 With Going To College For Music: A Music Degree Is Incredibly Expensive.
Back to the story about Daniel...
We then did the math how much it would cost him to get the degree from Berklee…
…and my low-ball projection was right around $100k.
And you’d better also be prepared to put your entire life on hold for 4 years and not work on ANY other music career projects that could’ve helped you make it in the music business.
And it’s all because you’ve spent this time focusing on just one aspect of your music career vs. ALL the things that enable you to make it in the music business.
Thus, even after graduating with a music business degree, you still have A LOT to learn and do to have a fighting chance to make it in the music industry.
Plus: you now have a new problem:
You have to now get a day job to pay off your loan and have even LESS time and energy to do anything that would increase your chances to make it in the music business.
But we’re not done yet...
Problem #4 With Going To College For Music: You Lose Touch With The People You Meet While Getting A Music Degree.
Let’s imagine you were able to meet many musicians while going to college for music who have goals similar to yours.
What often happens after everyone graduates (with a music degree in hand) is – you and those musicians go their separate ways.
Many of those musicians realize for the first time that all they got from going to college for music was a mountain of debt they now have to get a day job to pay off. So, they are out of the race to make it in the music business.
Others move back to their hometown and any relationships you’ve built with them while going to college for music dwindles over time.
Problem #5 With Going To College For Music: There Are Faster, Easier And (FAR) Cheaper Ways To Get All The Benefits Of Going To College For Music... Without Going To College For Music.
This includes your musical skills, connections and your knowledge of the music business (that neither a general music degree, nor a specific music business degree will give you).
Here is how:
1. Take music lessons with a good local (or online) music teacher. There is virtually nothing you learn going to college for music you couldn’t learn for a tiny fraction of the price from a good music teacher. Heck, you can even hire several music teachers and still not even scrape the surface of what you’d pay to get a music degree.
2. Get music career mentoring. Aka, the training designed to actually help you get the results you want in your career, even if you are just getting started.
THIS is where you’ll meet like-minded musicians who are ‘actually’ serious about their intent to make it in the music business. And unlike musicians in a music school (who are only working on their musical skills)...
... the relationships you build with musicians who are getting music career mentoring are far more likely to be long-lasting.
3. Find musicians in your area who are doing the things you want to be doing and offer to intern for them. That means – work for free (or even PAY ‘them’ the privilege of being their intern).
As you can see, taking the traditional path of going to college for music isn’t necessarily going to help you make it in the music business. And if you want to ‘actually’ level-up your chances for a music career, let me show you who to get the attention from record companies, so you can get the opportunities you need to get ahead in your music career. This is something a music degree will never teach you... but I will in my free eGuide How To Get Attention From Record Companies In Th Music Industry. Download it today and discover the music business secrets most musicians will never know.
Learn how to build a thriving music career with music career training.