Berklee College Of Music recently announced that it’s offering two new graduate degree programs – one in Music Production and the other in Music Business. The cost is not insignificant at $33,120 for 36 credits for the online course, which is a 20% discount over physically attending the school. This is in-line with other universities, which can charge as much as $60k a year for a Masters program.
I can understand why a graduate degree might be valuable in other fields, where it can open up doors to a better paying job, but in the music business, I see it as just a waste of money.
First of all, for the creatives (composers, musicians, producers, etc.), we don’t get “jobs.” We live in a business that requires that we make our own work and most of the gigs we take are short-lived. A degree of any kind won’t be a requirement or even get noticed, but some entrepreneurial training could go a long way to helping you make a living in the industry. Too bad that most universities overlook this aspect.
That said, an advanced degree in the music business might be helpful, since there are real jobs there. Record labels, publishing, distribution, promotion, online services are all real jobs. They might not last as long as work in other “outside” industries, but they are jobs nonetheless.
Second, I’ve never known anyone who’s gotten a gig based on a degree, especially an advanced one. I’ve been around the Los Angeles music scene a good long time and, if anything, a degree can sometimes be a hinderance. Why? Because with it sometimes comes a sense of entitlement. Today, many kids right out of recording school think that they should instantly be named producers or engineers to the stars and aren’t willing to pay their dues. The natural progression in any business is that regardless of your education, you’re starting at the bottom and learning the ropes first, degree or no degree.
Third, the amount of money required to get an advanced degree is enormous and immediately puts you behind the 8 ball. One of the problems is that you have a lot of debt that needs to be paid off, and that means the normal graduate just can’t start at the bottom and starve for bit due to debt service. You’re handicapped right out of the box.
Fourth, your giving your competition a two-year head start. While you’re in school, they’re getting educated in the real world. Who do you think will reach the golden ring faster?
Lastly, there are now some really great teachers in recording, production and music business programs, especially in the major universities. These people have some great experience and are willing to pass it on. I’m constantly impressed with some of the professors and instructors that I meet. That’s all well and good, but it’s just not the same thing as the real world, where mistakes count and the pressure is always on. It makes you learn fast, and remember everything more closely as well.
I can see why Berklee and other schools offer graduate degrees as they’re cash cows in an environment where many schools are struggling, but as far as the value, save your money and spend it hitting the streets of the real world. A degree is almost necessary to getting a start in the real world, more for the education and not the piece of the paper. A graduate degree not so much.