Can You Make Money With a Music Degree in 2021?

can you make money with a music degree in 2021 - decibel pea
can you make money with a music degree in 2021 - decibel pea
can you make money with a music degree in 2021 - decibel pea

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OR rather… Can you get a return on your investment (ROI) from your music degree?

That’ll depend on YOU, but the truth is that your music degree won’t pay your bills.

Did you know that getting a university degree in music (B.Mus) in Canada would cost an average of $15,000? That’s what it would cost in my hometown of Montreal (one of the most affordable places to study in the world).

Also, keep in mind that most students fall deeply into debt after going to college/university in other countries (like the US).

So, the first question… Can you pay that debt off with a music degree?

That’s what we’ll be answering in this article along with the initial question (can you make money with a music degree) but first, we need to understand HOW to achieve that.

If it’s possible to make money with a music degree though, it’s the job market that’ll tell us…

What jobs can you get with a music performance degree?

While studying jazz/pop performance in college, I was told by one of my mentors that one of the best “jobs” to apply for would be CRUISE SHIP MUSICIAN.

If you’re majoring in music performance, it’s one of the highest-paying jobs for performers.

The best part is that you’d have little to no expenses.

That’s because you’d be living on the cruise ships as part of the crew and would have room/board covered by your employer.

Depending on your level of experience, cruise ship musicians make an average of $2,000 – $3,000 per month NET (since you’d have no other expenses).

So, how do you apply for a position as a cruise ship musician?

It depends where you live, but there are companies like Proship Entertainment that will allow you to audition for any openings.

Here are the skills you’ll need…

  • The ability to sight-read music
  • The ability to play a variety of different genres
  • The ability to improvise over chord changes
  • The ability to maintain and upkeep your instruments

Do you actually need the degree in musical performance though?

It doesn’t hurt and to be completely honest, the skills I just mentioned need to be picked up somewhere. I didn’t say that school was the only place to do that though…

As much as I’d like to say the music degree is required, it really isn’t.

To be honest, every “job” you’ll get as a music performer will depend on your skill/experience and potential employers will usually overlook the degree.

If you CAN’T play and have a music degree… YOU’RE OUT.

If you can play and DON’T have a music degree… YOU’RE IN.

Similarly, another interesting job opportunity for musical performers would be to join the military band (of your country). The requirements and process are almost identical to the cruise ship/hospitality industry.

The Canadian Military was actually recruiting musicians on LinkedIn not too long ago.

What jobs can you get with a music composition degree?

If you use LinkedIn, then you might’ve noticed an increase in the demand for music composers in the video game industry.

I keep seeing job opportunities from companies like Gameloft, Ubisoft, etc…

One of the things that surprised me the most though is the fact that these companies are actually listing a music degree in composition in the job requirements.

Is it ABSOLUTELY essential though? That remains to be seen.

However, getting a full-time job as a music composer for one of these companies does require you to have 3-5 years of experience in the field.

Sadly, that’s not something you’ll get from going to school.

That being said, you’ll certainly get a much bigger return on your investment (ROI) if you decided to study musical composition instead of musical performance.

The average music composer makes about $50,000 per year.

What jobs can you get with a music business degree?

If you’re going to get a major in something music-related, I can only recommend music business.

That’s the one thing they don’t teach you in music school… HOW TO SELL YOURSELF!

It’s also debatable whether you’ll learn to be an entrepreneur while studying music business, but it certainly can’t hurt! Here are some jobs you can get with a music business degree…

  • Artist Manager
  • Tour Manager
  • Booking Agent
  • Music Publicist

However, the truth is you could get (or create) ANY JOB with a music business degree. To be more specific though, it’s the actual experience that’ll benefit you the most.

That’s why school (which is mostly theoretical) can hold you back.

The sooner you get out there, the quicker you can start introducing your expertise to artists/musicians (which you may meet in school).

In the backend of the music industry, you only make as much money as your clients make.

For example, artist managers can make up to 50% of their client’s earnings.

In general though, it’s the amount of work (and responsibility) you’ll be undertaking that’ll determine how much money you make.

Keep this in mind though… You definitely DON’T need a music business degree to make it in the music industry. Remember, it’s the experience that gets you the skills you need.

That being said, you still need to develop your talent BUT…

Selling yourself is 90% of the battle. In other words, it’s WHO you know, not WHAT you know.

Do you need a music degree to make money in the music industry?

As I just finished saying, nobody will deny you access to the music industry if you’re good…

Even employers that list it in the job requirements would most likely overlook it if you had the PORTFOLIO to make up for it.

Of course, it always depends on WHERE you decide to apply.

Each employer is different, but the general requirement for any job in the music industry is 3-5 years of experience. So, how do you get the experience if you don’t have the experience?

Start some projects of your own! Collaborate with your peers!

Instead of going to school for 3-5 years (or more), you can spend that time actually acquiring the experience you need to make it in the music business.

That being said, maybe there are schools out there that can help you with that.

If that’s the case, then “non-conventional” forms of education such as online courses, workshops, masterclasses, etc… are more than suitable.

Oftentimes, these alternatives are WAY more affordable than a degree.

The experiences are also usually much more practical. In other words, do you need to go to music school to learn to play guitar or simply study with a great teacher?

Self-education is much more rewarding and focused.

So… The truth is that you DON’T need a music degree to work in the music industry. You just need to start working for the music industry to learn about YOU.

Summary: Can you make money with a music degree?

I hope it’s now clear to you that a music degree ISN’T what makes you money.

If we acknowledge that, then the fact that most employers are willing to overlook an absence of any degree whatsoever in the place of skill/experience answers the initial question…

Can you make money with a music degree?

NO. If you can justify the cost of majoring in musical performance, composition and/or business, then maybe it’s alright.

I never said that studying music in school couldn’t have its benefits (I did it, after all).

For example, it could be the best place to start your network. However, don’t restrict your network to your school peers. You never know who can open doors down the line.

So, maybe you can let us know in the comments if you can attribute a sum of money to your music degree. If not, well at least you know that music professionals can still make LOTs of money.

Remember, music composers/producers can make from $0 – $2,000,000+ per year.

Now, imagine if you managed a few top-earning artists… You could most likely make even more than that, so the music industry most certainly isn’t “dead”.

Is it worth getting the degree though? I say NO.

Here are some other articles I wrote that might be of better interest to you…

What do you think? Let us know in the comments and feel free to share your own personal experiences. Remember to support us on Patreon and to join us on Discord to keep in touch.

Thanks for reading, now go make some noise!


Stefan Chamberland

Stefan Chamberland

Stefan is a highly proficient sound professional who specializes in sound for picture. His journey into sound production began at the young age of 16, where he initially produced music that went on to feature on local television. Today, Stefan utilizes his extensive expertise to record production sound and lead the audio post-production process for a variety of projects in the TV, Film, and New Media industry. Driven by his passion for sound for picture, Stefan founded Decibel Peak, a platform designed to empower and support emerging sound professionals while contributing to the growth of the industry.

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