A lot of musicians find their way into a 4-year college program for music business or music performance. 

The reality is, however, a small percentage of these musicians find success in music.

They learn a lot, build up a ton of debt, then decide that pursuing music is too hard and do something else.

So Is a music degree worth it? 

This depends greatly on what areas of focus you are interested in. It is important to know there are many other (and often more effective) ways of pursuing a career in the music industry.

Commercial Music

In this blog, we are referring to those who plan to have a career as a commercial songwriter or musician. 

If you want to be an employed musician in the world of classical music, your music degree is incredibly important. Of those employed by professional orchestras, universities, operas, and Broadway, nearly all of them have music degrees. 

However, in the commercial music industry, a lot less people are concerned with someone’s diploma, and a lot MORE interested in someone’s work ethic and experience. 

Going to college can seem like the safest route for career security, and obviously, for some careers, schooling is really important! You want your doctor to have a medical degree! However, a degree in music business isn’t always necessary for pursuing a career in commercial music. In fact, sometimes, it can actually hinder you from taking other opportunities that could help you pursue your music career!

We are certainly strong advocates of education– lifelong self-education.

For me, the most important things when hiring someone are: who you are and the work you create. 

Can college help you develop in both of these things? Yes.

BUT sometimes traditional institutional education can take away time and money that could be better used developing yourself through other avenues. 

That being said, here are four reasons that you don’t need to go to college to pursue your music career!

Soft Skills

Soft skills are one of the most important things that employers look for!

Soft skills can’t quite be taught from a whiteboard, but they are some of the most important skills for a person to develop if they desire a career in the music industry! Again, one of the first things employers look at is who you are. 

Employers care a lot about your work ethic, integrity, and how well you work with other people. Although these attributes can be developed through your work in a traditional classroom, when pursuing a music career, they are often better developed through opportunities outside of the classroom such as through internships, work experience, and building your portfolio. 

Your Portfolio is More Important than Your Diploma.

Remember that the other most important element to pursuing a career in the music industry is the work you create, or your portfolio. Some music and music business programs can help you to add to your portfolio. 

However, oftentimes, musicians spend so much time and money on their degree itself that it limits the time and money they can allocate to actually creating.

For example, although you may learn a lot about how to write better songs in the classroom, you may actually find yourself with less time to write songs themselves AND find yourself limited on funds that could be used to create high-quality demos. Furthermore, if your goal is to play gigs with various bands and musicians, they aren’t going to ask to see your diploma. They are going to care about who you are and how well you can play.

Connections are Incredibly Important!

Another important element of the music business is creating relationships. 

Collegiate music business programs can be great for helping to foster relationships with professors and other students. However, depending on your program, you may find yourself learning from people who may know a lot about the industry, but aren’t active players in it. A lot of times, really only the best programs are worth the investment. 

It’s always more helpful to learn from professionals actively doing what you desire to do! Learning from others who have achieved success is really what it’s all about. 

Furthermore, similarly to point number two, time may be better spent connecting with other musicians and professionals in your area rather than in the classroom and spending hours on homework and reading. 

Social media such as LinkedIn and Facebook groups can be a great way of connecting to people!

There are Other Ways to Grow your Experience and Knowledge of the Music Industry!

Put simply, a lot of the information you would learn in pursuit of a music business degree, you can find through experience and other resources that are more time and money efficient. 

Thatʼs why we started the Full Circle Music Academy, to give people an opportunity to have a much lower barrier to entry for their education – weʼve had people take our Songwriting Mastery Course and tell me that theyʼve learned more in that course than theyʼve learned about commercial songwriting in their whole lifetime.

We listed a few further resources for growing your experience and knowledge of the music industry below!

Here Are 5 Other Ways To Grow Your Experience and Knowledge of The Music Industry:

 

Internships

Internships are one of the best ways that you can learn more about the music industry! Internships are helpful as they allow you to observe people actively working in the industry, helping you to grow in your craft and better understand the industry at large!

Furthermore, internships are not only a great way of helping you to know other people, but also for them to get to know you! Again, connections within the industry are super important!

You can find more information about different types of music internships as well as tips for applying to them here!

 

Podcasts

Over the last several years, many industry professionals have been featured on podcasts about the music business! You can find out all sorts of valuable information from professionals in nearly every area of the business by listening to podcasts both featuring professionals and hosted by professionals themselves! They are a great way to hear from publishers, producers, artists, and songwriters actively in the industry!

Here at Full Circle Music, myself and X O’Connor host the Made It In Music Podcast where we hear from artists, publishers, producers, and songwriters all the time! You can check it out here!

We also reviewed a variety of other podcasts to help you find ones right for you here!

Courses

Instead of taking traditional college courses, some industry professionals such as ourselves have created courses designed to teach you more about the areas of the music industry that you are most passionate about!

For example, one of our main courses, Songwriting Mastery shares insightful information from lyric and melody writing to publishing and production. Not only do these courses offer insightful information, but the information is taught by professionals actively working in the industry! 

Memberships/Coaching

Over the last several years, some industry professionals have begun to offer coaching sessions to help artists take the next step in their career. 

Some coaches have created YouTube Channels where they teach segments about their areas of expertise in the music industry!

Others allow you to connect live on virtual platforms!

Books

There are a LOT of books written about the music industry! We’ve listed a few below!

    • All You Need To Know About The Music Business by Donald S. Passman 
    • How To Make It In The New Music Business Ari Hernstand 
    • Music Marketing for the DIY Musician Bobby Borg 
    • The 4-Hour Work Week Timothy Ferriss
    • The $150,000 Music Degree Rick Barker 
    • The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory John Seabrook 
  • Networking Kills: Success Through Serving Mark Maxwell 

 

Go to music events!

This may seem obvious, but it’s so important! Go to music events!

Going to events can have a lot of benefits! You can connect with other musicians in your area and learn more about the overall music scene in your community!

A lot of concerts and music festivals also often need volunteers to help with ushering and merchandise! This can also be a great way to connect with others who are like-minded and to connect with artists and the teams behind them!

As previously stated, college can be an important part of some people’s music career. 

Our biggest point is simply this: it may not be necessary. 

Whatever you choose, our goal is to help you be as successful of a musician as you possibly can! So, before you decide whether or not you think studying in a classroom is right for you, do some studying of your own! Check out the resources we’ve provided. Go to music events in your area. Connect with musicians in your area. Find some mentors or coaches and ask for their advice! 

And remember– we believe in you!

Access the Free Training

The #1 tool used by pro songwriters everyday to take thier songwriting to the next level!

You have Successfully Subscribed!