Do You Need a Degree to Work in the Music Industry?
While it's true that there are some jobs in the music industry for which you won't need a degree (unless you're an exceptional performer), your ability to climb the ranks may be limited. It really comes down to what music industry job you want to get and what your goals are.
If you plan to start your own record label, promotions company, management firm or some other music-related business, it's going to be tough to get banks and other companies to do business with you if you don't have some business training.
Whether that means a degree in business or a wealth of experience will vary. But in business school, you'll learn things like how to write a business plan, budgeting, and some basic accounting. Think of it this way: Without some kind of background or training in this area, why would a bank lend you money or take a chance on you?
That said. many a thriving music business has been started by someone who struggles to calculate a tip after a meal but has an ear for good music.
For Some Jobs, You Have to Have a Degree
So there are still those in positions of authority at music businesses who don't require degrees from the people they hire. What really wows them is experience. But it's certainly not going to hurt you to take some kind of basic business training program. And, such training may help you discover that the business end of things isn't for you.
There are some instances in which you will definitely need a degree to get a job in the music industry. Of course, you will need to go to law school and pass the bar if you want to work as a lawyer in the industry. Beyond that, some major labels require their top executives and their management-track employees to have degrees. If that is the world you are trying to get to, then yes, a degree is going to be necessary.
What Kind of Degree Should You Consider?
If you do go to school, and specifically if you decide to go to school for a music business degree, then make sure the program is up to par. To be worthwhile, a music business degree program has to offer you a lot of experience outside of the classroom. If the school doesn't have a good history of placing their students in internships during school and jobs after graduation, stay away.
Try to find a program that incorporates student-run labels and businesses into the learning process. The best way to learn the industry is through experience, so any degree program worth its salt will provide you with plenty to put on your resume.
If you can't major in a music business related field, consider a business degree. There are other ways to get music industry experience while getting business training at the same time. Get involved with campus radio. Book shows at local venues. Promote releases by musicians who are also enrolled in your school. Do whatever you can to get hands-on industry experience, however trivial it may seem, while you're earning your degree.
Given the global nature of the music industry and the intense competition, anything that gives you an advantage will be a good thing. Consider learning the business side of things so that you're well-equipped for any position in the music industry, even one you may not have thought of yet.