Is Getting a Music Business Degree a Good Idea?

Student running a Sound Board as a technician intern
••• Michael Blann/Photodisc/Getty Images

Many young artists hoping to break into the music industry wonder if having a degree is necessary to work in the music business. They may also wonder if the degree will give them an edge in landing that dream job. Many colleges and universities offer programs that award degrees in music and the value of advanced education is always a good idea.

However, along with the education comes the price tag and the time commitment. There are many factors to consider before you jump into the college classroom. Some factors include getting a competitive edge, gaining experience through internship opportunities, and attending a school that offers a prestigious degree. Don't feel like the lone ranger, as you weigh the expenses because this is a situation many people face.

Getting a Competitive Edge

A primary consideration is whether the degree will give you a competitive edge when you're looking for a job specifically in the music industry. You have to weigh up music business degree programs carefully to make sure they are offering you the right kinds of classes and experiences to give you a great education. Start by evaluating the course offerings.

Compare the course offerings listed at your chosen colleges and universities. Think about the direction you want to take your career. Most schools will have a combination of music and business classes. You may also have the option to combine music and education courses. Look for plans that have classes in marketing, production, and other industry needs.

The courses should give you firm information to develop your knowledge of the music industry, Finally, consider the reputation of the instructors and their real-world experience.

Opening the Door With Internships

Another concern is access to internship programs. Do not attend a school offering a music business degree program that doesn't emphasize the importance of internships. Your music business internship can be one of the most important parts of your college career.

In general, good internships offered through a reputable school are helpful. Some "internships" offered casually, or online are little more than invitations to fetch coffee. Even supposedly reputable major music corporations have been sued for offering what the interns' attorneys claim areĀ useless internships.

The cold, hard reality is that, while education is important, experience counts just a little bit more in the music business. Your music business degree will not give you a competitive edge over another job applicant if you do not have any experience.

Many music companies would hire an applicant with experience who doesn't have a degree over an applicant with a degree and no experience. It is absolutely essential that internships - and any other experience you can get - are part of your college life.

Help With Job Placement

Many schools will list the type of employment their graduates went on to receive. Programs will often work with corporations in the industry. Often internships will be with these large companies. See if the graduates from the program regularly help students with job postings. If your school has an industry-specific student organization join and be active in the group. Many companies look for this type of experience when hiring. Also, large companies will sponsor club events like meet and greets giving you an opportunity to meet the people who can open doors for you.

Assessing the Program's Value

A music business degree program that has great classes, good professors, and sets its students up with good internship opportunities can be a wonderful investment in your future working in the music business. If the program doesn't have those features, then the name of the degree becomes somewhat irrelevant. You may be better served by choosing another major and crafting your music-related opportunities.

The bottom line about music and college is to evaluate the degree program closely and work as hard as you can to tap into the music opportunities on campus. In the end, you need the combination of education and experience - not one or the other - to do well in the music biz.