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Is A Music Industry Degree Worth It?

Matthew M.Matthew M. Registered User Posts: 163 Junior Member
edited April 2012 in Music Major
On May 6th, 2008, I was offered admission into the University Of Southern California, in particular the Thornton School Of Music, as a transfer student. My major is to be Music Industry (B.S.) with an emphasis on the technology track. My goal is to become someone who can both write, record, and produce my material; something in the mold of Brian Wilson during the Beach Boys. Perhaps that's a nice way of saying "I wanna be a rockstar!," but my goals have always been to do something in that mold.

Now, theoretically, this major is perfect for what I want to do. It has all the classes that I could want, the faculty is incredibly qualified, the school is great, and being in L.A. is perfect.

Yet did I pick the right major? In other words, it's going to be nice to learn all of this stuff, but, once I graduate, will having a Music Industry degree really mean anything? I realize that networking certainly plays a part, but even with that, is it going to take years and years before I am able to make a good living out of what I want to do?

I suppose, as the semester creeps in, so is reality. In all honesty, I can't see myself doing anything but music; it's just part of who I am and there is nothing else I want to do. But, for my own sake, is it worth perhaps changing my major to business or even going for something like an MBA or JD a few years or so after graduation? I suppose I just want to be sure and make sure that these next 2-3 years will be worth it for my future.

Your advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Post edited by Matthew M. on

Replies to: Is A Music Industry Degree Worth It?

  • violadadvioladad Registered User Posts: 6,645 Senior Member
    For starters, read the thread here: http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/music-major/460187-how-many-music-voice-performance-majors-find-jobs.html

    Only you know if music drives you enough to attempt a career path that is often a meager, hand to mouth existence as the norm. If you are more practically minded, "need" a certain comfort or lifestyle, then a more traditional degree path often leads to financial success.

    The tradeoff is personal satisfaction.

    Both my kids chose non traditional paths, one in a performance discipline. We advised them upfront that they have a long hard road. We can't live their lives for them, we did not dictate choices. The decision was their own, and we fully supported it. They also knew that should they wish to switch gears after undergrad, the burden was theirs. Our support would be limited to emotional support, and a place to sleep and eat if needed.

    Having said that, a BM is a four year degree. It's a ticket to a non-music entry career, and would afford the same choices that many a liberal arts degree provides. It's also a way into grad school, should you wish to change direction, or pursue a music discipline at a higher level.

    Think long and hard. Talk things out with your support base: parents, pro musicians, industry professionals, friends. Go in with your eyes wide open.

    It's your choice. The best of luck to you.
  • jazzzmommjazzzmomm Registered User Posts: 545 Member
    In my opinion Music Industry is the kind of major that enables you to find jobs after graduation with more certainty than pure performance majors have. It's a technical kind of degree but, with your interest in composing and playing, you wil also have the creative chops. I think it sounds smart. If you can pay the bills while working in the field of music and being around other musicians, then, why not?

    I am also a parent who believes that students should go with what they love, not what they think is "practical" (unless they love it!)--but, it sounds like you can have both worlds.
  • BassDadBassDad Registered User Posts: 5,381 Senior Member
    You should be aware, however, that entry-level techie jobs in the entertainment industry tend to offer low pay, odd hours and require lots of overtime for the employee to make ends meet. The frequent result is burnout after a few years and not a lot of time to work on your own music. Employers get away with this because there are a lot of people who think they want to go into this field as a way to get a foot in the door and have an income while waiting for their big break. You should definitely talk to some people who have gone this route before deciding.
  • musicamusicamusicamusica Registered User Posts: 6,468 Senior Member
    All bets are off when it comes to secure employment in the music industry at this time.Music sales are abysmal and even seasoned professionals are having a very tough time. The only people who are still thriving in the recording industry seem to be intellectual property lawyers and accountants. You can make it one way or another while the industry is in a state of flux, but it is always wise to go into this kind of thing with your eyes wide open.
  • UBhopefulUBhopeful Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
    man, i wish my parents supported me in music performance. i got told i'm gonna live in a trailerpark and i threw my life away for studying violin performance rather than music education.
  • imagepimagep Registered User Posts: 628 Member
    UB, many people end up with jobs outside the field they studied in college anyway. I got a BS in Economics, ended up getting my first job as a department supervisor in a manufacturing plant, then left that to start a printing company.

    Your chances of ever making a living as a performer are slim, but probably not much slimmer than a lot of fields. If music performance is what makes you happy, then do it, but you may want to consider a backup plan (and yes, I know that I am going to get flaimed for suggesting a backup plan).

    If music ed isn't your thing, then maybe music business is a good idea. Or a business minor, or at my sons college they actually have a "music entrapanureship" minor. They are really pushing the music entrapanureship thing, especially for performance majors, because many performance majors end up having to create their own job.

    One thing about music ed though, you can't teach public school without a teaching certificate, but a teaching certificate will not keep you from performing. If you are a good enough performer, and have the right contacts, you don't even need a college degree to perform.

    Of course you could forget about the backup plan for right now, do the music performance thing, and consider a different field in grad school.
  • honestmomhonestmom Registered User Posts: 428 Member
    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but a good friend of mine has a son who graduated two years ago from Thornton with a music business degree, and he still hasn't been able to find a job in the business in LA. Right now he is working in a wine store.
  • binxbinx Registered User Posts: 4,318 Senior Member
    Honestmom, not discounting your friend's experience at all, but without knowing an individual's drive, gpa, personality, etc, it is hard to determine anyone's success. Two years out of school is not especially late in a musician's (or businessman's) career.

    It is important to understand that any music degree does not come with a guarantee of even eventual success, let alone immediate wealth and fame. I can't, off-hand, think of any major that does.

    My D is graduating on Saturday with no long term goals (we're working on that!) But she did say that she hopes whatever career she eventually lands in, it will be one that she enjoys. Isn't that the most any of us can ask?
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 8,338 Senior Member
    Are you doing Music Industry because you love it, or because you hope it will lead to a job?

    Many music majors do music because they just cannot imagine NOT doing it. Are you like that?

    If so, then go ahead and do the transfer and enjoy the major, and try not to worry too much about the future. Holders of the BM degree can go to law school just like anyone else, and can apply for any job that requires a "college degree."

    If Music Industry is purely a practical choice, a sort of detached gamble for a career possibility, then there are probably better choices, who knows.

    Becoming a rock star is pretty unlikely, and if that is really your goal, then maybe the techie end of Music Industry is not the way to go. Others would know more, but just a thought.

    If you do do Music Industry, try to do some internships in the summer, or during the year, to get a feel for what you want to do and make some connections that way.

    What instrument do you play, and what kind of music do you compose? Any reason why you are not doing a concentration in performance or composition? Just curious.
  • mtpapermtpaper Registered User Posts: 782 Member
    this thread is from 2008....

    there isn't anyone recent in this thread contemplating a degree in music industry
  • Cabbage123Cabbage123 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    this message was originally posted for bassdad by me:

    i want to do something music tech/production/engineering related in college. engineering is probably the last thing i am looking for seeing as i am not great with math. lately i have been going about looking for schools by investigating very populated cities. as far as i know, having a major such as mine, it would be ideal to be in a populated city (like nyc) to be able to get internships/jobs relating to my major while i school myself. however in doing this, i have limited severely the number of schools i can actually apply to. i have schools that are on the way low end of the spectrum academically (such as SUNY purchase) and on the higher side (like nyu and umiami). so can you please tell me if i am doing the right thing by trying to get myself into a job earlier in the game??


    It is a pretty personal decision, but there are other options. Instead of doing the internship while school is in session, you could do it over the summer in a totally different location. That would let you ease the restriction that the school be in a large city. Also, I think that at most schools you are less likely to get an internship until you have studied for a couple of years to pick up skills that the employers need, so you probably have a while to work this out. Many schools have a placement office that helps students find internships and employment (part-time while in school, full-time after graduation.)

    You should contact the placement office at the schools you are considering and ask what experience they have had in placing interns in music tech jobs. If they are happy to take 10-15 minutes to answer the questions of a prospective student and if they can tell you about several placements in the past few years, that is a very good sign. If they blow you off or don't think they have ever gotten anyone into that kind of situation, then not so good. I would wait until after graduation to do this as it is probably their busiest time of year right now working with seniors who still need help finding employment in the next month or so.

    I believe that internships are important in music tech. If you can get an in with an employer while you are still in school, they may make you a job offer when you graduate or at least keep you at the top of the list for when they have an opening. Some real world experience also looks good on your resume.

    If you go to a school that has a lot of music performance majors, you could possibly employ yourself making recordings of student recitals and demo tapes for grad school applications. If you do not have your own equipment, many schools lend digital recorders, microphones and such to their students either free of charge or for a lot less than what you could earn with them.
  • yankeeman92yankeeman92 Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    I'm at a loss, I want to be an artist but struggle with creativity and the fact that everybody else in this city wants to do the same thing. It's hard to make yourself stick out of thousands of people. Anyways as a backup, I'm interested in going to school to be a Sports Reporter, to work for ESPN is the big goal. I just don't know if I can motivate myself through 2 years of Gen-Ed at a Community College. I want to go to school to do what pertains directly to my job. Any advice?
  • SnowflakeVTSnowflakeVT Registered User Posts: 2,478 Senior Member
    Yankee, you are talking two distinct paths ... music and sports. In music, you will be competing with people that live and breath music 24/7. (They may not even know the name of any players on any major sports teams.) These musicians and their reps play music, create music, hang out with others like them in nearly all their waking moments. For any Bachelor's degree you will have to complete some base coursework that does not directly apply to your major, but is part of a degree program. People get through these courses by mixing them in with other courses that are part of their major path. Without knowing your background, I can't give you any specific advice, as it's important to understand the baseline of who you are (background, academic strengths/weaknesses, work ethic, experiences and successes in music, and your actual personality and ability work with people.).
  • MomofbassistMomofbassist Registered User Posts: 698 Member
    Yankeeman, as SnowflakeVT posted, a lot of life is hard work plus being in the right place at the right time. Both of my sons have friends who are artistic as well as sports minded who are working in sports reporting. One went to school for communications and announced games every weekend on campus and went on to be the morning DJ for a local station. He also produces artsy movies, etc on the side. Younger son has a friend who is a hockey player who went to college as history major and plays every weekend with a band. He recently graduated and is employed as as an announcer for a local hockey team. You will need to tough it out through the gen eds at just about any college: writing, reading, math and cultural studies which will only make you a better candidate for a job and a better citizen. Good luck there are so many paths in life and not all of them are straight but they do require hard work.
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