What You’re Not Learning With Your Music Degree

What You’re Not Learning With Your Music Degree


Are music colleges preparing you for the real world with a marketable degree? An article by Bill Zuckerman outlines a few characteristics that need to be changed or revitalized in music programs around the country.

  1. “Make Entrepreneur Initiative courses a Core Requirement over Super Advanced Music Theory Classes”
  • While the fundamentals of music theory are necessary for the success for a great musician, I would argue that learning advanced theory is almost useless in today’s world. Almost never will you need the skills to reproduce a 17th century fugue, analyze Schenkerian Analysis, or really any theory of that nature. Zuckerman makes a great point in acknowledging that while these classes are beneficial, there are not enough alternatives, especially in learning the concepts of entrepreneurship. Musicians need to learn the skills of being self-starters and being able to market themselves in to today’s economy. For example, being able to market yourself through a website, designing marketing materials or things as simple as developing public speaking skills are all aspects that are largely overlooked but crucial to success in today’s world.
  1. Make Music Marketing and Business Classes a Requirement
  • I will take this point to the grave. In my experience, having general marketing and/or business experience will get you hired no matter what you do. Not only does having these skills make you a more marketable candidate, but it makes you a more well-rounded individual. There are so many musicians out there that have amazing talents and skills in terms of performing; however, they lack the ability to use technology to communicate those skills effectively. For example, every gigging musician needs to have a website. A website allows you to connect to an audience and showcase your talents. Not only can you connect with people, but you can learn how to market yourself through online advertising and use analytical data to target an audience. This may sound complicated, but believe me it’s not. There are so many apps and companies that can compile data and teach you about you or your business quickly that understanding these concepts and how to utilize them is crucial. Without business classes in basic marketing, online skills or simple communication, your success as a musician can be severely hindered.
  1. “We need to throw out old-world ways of teaching and embrace new ideas to make sure tomorrow’s musicians are well-paid professionals.”
  • “Whether it is in arranging, studio music, playing in sessions, orchestrating, copying, license administration, music journalism, or just simply understanding how to successfully get performance gigs outside of the orchestra hall, it is critical that musicians start being taught the skills of becoming a paid musician.” In my opinion, part of understanding the music business is not just about being able to play. Having other skills in recording, arranging, administrating all go a long way. If your goal is to teach, I would stress this even more. The more real world knowledge you have, the better off you’ll be. Not only are you more marketable to businesses, but you can take these skills and transform them to your teaching. Students today are more and more dependent and knowledgeable about using technology in their study. Adding in practices that incorporate this puts you in a highly marketable bracket that most musicians and teachers today lack.

So, as you are college shopping for where you’ll do your advanced music study, look for places that offer more than just your typical music degree. Look for a place that will not only hone your musical abilities, but find a place that will set you up to be employable in the future music jobs market by teaching you the real-world skills every musician needs to know.

Works Cited
Zuckerman, Bill. “Why Music Schools Will Go Out of Business If Music Education Is Not Improved – Page
2 of 2 – Music School Central.” Music School Central. N.p., 04 Apr. 2015. Web. 25 Nov. 2016.

Catoctin School of Music
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