Music industry related degrees are on the rise at colleges and universities, but finding a good one remains challenging. Many music degrees are little more than glorified business school degrees with the word "music" in the title. Like all creative industries, the music world doesn't function in exactly the same way as a Fortune 500 company, so these kinds of degrees do little to prepare you for what it will actually be like to work in music. Before you apply to a music school, ask yourself these questions, so you can be sure to find a music degree that will serve you well in the future.
What Do You Want to Do?
Just like you wouldn't go to medical school to become a lawyer, you shouldn't go to a music school that doesn't offer some kind of course work that relates to the part of the music industry in which you hope to work. Keep your career goals in mind when checking out music degree programs to make sure the school is going to give you the tools you need. Not sure what you want to do? These articles can help:
- Q&A with Sound Engineer Simon Kasprowicz
- Q&A with Ed Pybus of SL Records
- Q&A with Francis Macdonald of Shoeshine Records
What are the Core Courses in the Degree Program?
The answer to this question will help you determine whether or not the school is offering a music industry degree in name only, or if you will be learning things that are music business specific. Look for a degree in which the bulk of the courses are music related - in other words, look for courses on legal issues in the music industry rather than a general course about business legal issues. While picking up some basic business fundamentals may be useful, you want to get into the nitty gritty of what makes the music world tick.
Who is Teaching the Course?
The best people to teach you about the music industry are the people who have been a part of it. Check out the profiles of the faculty members and find out their involvement in the music industry. If most of your potential professors seem to have business experience but no actual MUSIC business experience, you're not going to get the knowledge you need.
Besides having the "been there, done that" experience to teach you about the music industry, professors who have been in the business will be in a position to help you locate a job after graduation.
Are There Internship Opportunities?
Even with a music related degree, when you start hunting for a job, almost every music business is going to want to see that you have some experience under your belt before hiring you. Getting good internships is maybe the best selling point for getting a music related degree, so a school that can't deliver some work experience is not worth your time. Pay especially close attention to this if the school you are considering is not located in a city with a music industry presence. Find out what they do to make sure their students get hands-on work.
Do They Offer Job Placement Assistance?
A music industry related degree is no guarantee that you'll be a shoe-in for a job in music when you graduate. Many jobs in the music industry still get filled by word of mouth, and the best way to get a job in music is to know someone who knows someone. In that case, you want to make sure the school you are choosing knows a lot of someones who will be interested in employing graduates of the program. Check and see if the school has a good record of placing students in music related employment after graduation.
What are the Alumni Doing Now?
A good way to judge a music industry degree program is to find out how things turned out for previous graduates. Are they working in music? Are there are any big name success stories? Are the alumni active in helping graduating students find their first job? If there are no tales of glory to tell, the schools may play their cards a little close to their chest on this one, so do your homework. If the school has an alumni association, go through them to track down some past grads and get the dirt on how their education has helped them in their careers.
Which School is Right for You?
Do you need some help coming up with a short list of schools to consider for your music industry degree? Check out these music school profile and see if any might be the right fit for you:
- Berklee College of Music
- Columbia College Chicago
- NYU Steinhardt Department of Music
- Ferris State University Music Management Degree
- University of Hertforshire Music Management Degree