Aspiring artists often wonder whether they have to obtain formal education to turn their passion for music into a career. For some, school might turn out highly beneficial. Others, however, might find it too expensive, time-consuming, and too structured to pursue.
At the same time, they might worry that not getting a degree might limit them in their options and opportunities. In this article, we will discuss whether going to college is necessary to become an established musician and look into alternative paths towards success.
The disadvantages of music schools
In many countries, going to college is expensive. Pursuing a degree in music, which is still considered a non-traditional career, is often tied to even more costs. For aspiring musicians, the high expenses can quickly turn into a burden that can financially limit them for years to come. As a result, some might decide to figure it out on their own and invest their money into better equipment, short courses, or marketing.
Those who are willing to invest in their music education may come across a different obstacle: finding the right course. Many degree programs are organized broadly rather than in a specific way. Some classes might be redundant for people who want to specialize in a particular field. This can easily lead to demotivation, boredom, and wondering if studying was the right choice. On top of that, those who struggle with routines and exams can find school tedious and exhausting.
Additionally, obtaining a degree takes time, with some courses requiring 3-4 years of commitment. This means being unable to change locations, having less time to earn money, and being limited in pursuing other opportunities. For some artists, the combination of limitations and pressure to perform can easily lead to stress and take away from the satisfaction they get from creating.
The benefits of going to college
Regardless of the disadvantages, we cannot deny the many benefits of studying music at a college. Being part of an environment that centers on music is arguably the most beneficial aspect. Music schools facilitate connections with industry professionals, fellow students, and alumni who can help you find jobs, internships, mentors, resources, or gigs. Being an active part of the environment will make it easier to meet like-minded people and build relationships of all kinds.
Another advantage of music schools is having access to constructive feedback from professionals. Getting insight from peers can help you assess whether your music generally sounds enjoyable, but it often won’t address any technical details. Professionals, however, can offer more precise insight into the quality of your track, your strengths, and your weaknesses. This personalized guidance can be a powerful catalyst for growth, enabling aspiring musicians to reach their full potential.
Lastly, for some, the structured and broad approach of music schools can be highly beneficial. Learning alone is challenging as it requires self-discipline and holding yourself accountable. Those who struggle with organizing themselves can benefit a lot from schedules and assignments. Similarly, people who already have basic knowledge but still struggle with grasping the details can profit from the guidance offered at school.
Should you go to college to study music?
Important and life-shaping decisions take time, which is why you should never rush into committing to something you are not 100% sure about. For this reason, you should do your research before deciding. Look into how much time it would take to obtain a degree, what exactly school can and cannot teach you, and how much you would have to pay for your studies, especially if you have to move to a different city or country.
Additionally, whether you need a degree strongly depends on your individual goals. For example, people who want to become beatmakers don’t necessarily need a university degree as they can easily find all important information online. Those who want to produce records and take on creative and technical leadership roles, however, might find school extremely helpful.
Alternative Paths to Success
The music industry is diverse, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of whether music school is necessary for success. Although it is true that school can provide valuable advantages and knowledge, it is certainly not the determining factor for success. If attending music school is not an option, there are many other paths to establishing yourself in the music industry.
The internet is full of free and affordable resources that can help you learn on your own. For example, you can learn a lot about music theory and marketing from e-books, videos, online courses, and blogs like our iMusician Blog. Utilizing these tools effectively can help artists gain recognition, secure gigs and sell tickets, and even attract record labels without a degree supporting their craft.
Additionally, working with other musicians, bands, or producers can help you gain knowledge and build a portfolio that demonstrates your abilities. This practical experience can be just as influential as formal education in launching your music career. Lastly, you can ask for feedback online by joining music communities online.
Some questions you can ask yourself to decide whether you should go to music school
Can you afford college and everything it comes with?
Can you also afford college beyond the tuition fees, knowing you will have to commit for a long time?
Can you see yourself committing to 3+ years at a university?
What exactly is your ultimate goal, and would college foster it?
Are there other ways that you can choose that would be less time- and money-consuming?
Are you good at networking and meeting people, or would it be more helpful for you to be in an environment that naturally fosters it?
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