Is a degree in music worth it?

I saw this question posed on a forum, but I’d prefer my answer to live in my blog as it’s an important question that gets asked a lot - and rarely answered with wisdom.

I would wager that the kinds of people who say “no” to this question are people who have either been through a Degree programme and not gotten anywhere, or they’re older musicians who’ve grafted to make a living through a time when the music industry wasn’t as accessible as it is today.

Music and instrument specific courses were quite rare and specialist back in the 80’s and 90’s. And the industry had fewer people working officially as musicians.

Fast forward to 2019 - music courses are everywhere, available in all shapes and sizes and are a honeypot for those with a passion for it and little else. And University is big business these days.

Combine that with the affordability of high quality equipment and the result is a packed industry with way more workers than work.

So should one still go through a degree?

Absolutely! If for no other reason than if you’re going to work professionally in an industry - and therefore take people’s money in return for a service - you should be trained for that industry.

Taking a music degree isn’t just about playing the instrument. It’s about business, theory, technology, events, composition, networking, research and so much more besides.

Fact - I won’t hire anyone who doesn’t have a degree (or some kind of higher qualification) in music. I have in the past, but they’ve always come up short in some way, and it’s been a disaster with real world consequences.

I’ve always concluded that they “don’t get it”.

But, when it comes down to it - just having a degree in music isn’t enough to guarantee yourself work with anyone. You, of course, need to have the skills to do what you say you can do.

But the biggest asset a pro musician can have is “
the right attitude”.

Put two highly trained individuals next to teach other in a room and give them the same brief, the chances are that both will give you vastly differing results.

People with the right attitude and a desire to work will always be busy. People with a “that’ll do” or a “wing it” attitude will likely fall back on a regular job because they can’t make music pay. And it’ll be because people don’t want to hire them regularly enough.

So yes - a Degree is definitely a requirement in today’s world. And not just for me - I see many agencies check qualifications too.

In a world dominated by a “review” and “feedback” culture - we all want to hire the “right” people to put in from of our clients.

The “
right” people demonstrate their status in their qualifications, their history, their communication style and their understanding of the business. You can tell the 'right' people from the 'wrong' people very quickly.

These are all skills that are taught in degree programmes (for those that pay attention) and should be put across in such a way that shows me (as an employer) that they have the right attitude towards my product and my clients.

So for people who want to make a long and lucrative career in an industry built on reputation and attitude - yes, a Degree is essential.

Dave Phillips - BA(Hons) !!!


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