Over the course of my career I’ve been asked a million times, “What is the best way to learn the music business?” Answering that question has really become something of a mission for me over the last two and a half years.
It inspired me to start a website Renman Music & Business where aspiring artists and professionals could go to learn more about this business. If you haven’t heard about the site yet, check it out and I promise that it’s the best free resource there is to go out and get started. In this post today, I want to discuss the options you have to study and learn the music biz and give you some important points to consider if you’re seriously thinking about studying or getting a degree in the music business. Let’s get started.
So how do you learn the music biz?
When I started 37 years ago there were no music industry programs to take. There was no internet. There was no Youtube. There was a book called “This Business of Music” and that was it. The rest you had to learn on your own. So the first thing I learned about trying to succeed in the music business is that you need to commit to learning. I realized you have to learn as much as you can, as fast as you can, and by whatever means you can.
I also learned that you need to ask questions. There’s so much to learn about the music biz and as I like put it, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get, and you won’t learn.” The best place to get those answers is from folks who’ve already experienced what you are going through. That brings me to the third key to learning the music business: networking. To get advice from those smarter, more experienced people I learned I had to surround myself with them. Once you start meeting those folks, I found you could find a mentor who took an interest in you and helped fastback your process. You want to fast track your learning in the music business and finding a great, experienced mentor is the best way to do so.
Having great mentors in my career made a huge difference because these were people who were much smarter, more experienced, and more successful than me. Almost all the successful folks in this music business were lucky enough to find some mentors along the way who helped fast track their learning. All of those mentors were serial ‘doers’ and that, by far, was the most important lesson I learned.
You learn by doing in the music biz.
Now that you know a bit of how you learn the music business, let’s talk about the options out there for you. A lot has changed since I grew up in the business and today you have four options to study it:
• Study at college
• Online “music biz experts”
• Free online services and blogs
• Go out and do it on your own
For this post, I’m going to focus on studying the music business at college. It’s a question that I’m most frequently asked by people who aspire to be in the music business and it’s a decision that comes with a lot of money attached to it.
Unlike when I started in the business, today there are 1,000’s of universities across the world who offer degrees in some form of music industry curriculum. As you might expect, some of the top schools are located in music hubs like NY, LA, and Nashville. Some examples of schools are the USC Thornton School of Music, Clive Davis Institute at NYU, the Bandier Program at Syracuse, and Belmont University. In addition to those traditional 4 year colleges, there are also a number of colleges who specialize in the creative arts that offer degrees as well. These are schools like Musicians Institute, SAE Institute, Full Sail University, and Berklee College of Music. While we are on the subject of college let me address a question I’m asked all the time.
Should I get a college degree if I want to work in the music business?
We’ve been taught since we were young that you need to go to college and get a degree if you want to get a great job add build a career. I want to be clear on this. I think college is a good thing. I went to college, my wife went to college and my son goes to college. Lots of successful people in the music biz went to college as well but most of them did not ‘study’ the music business specifically. They learned other things that they applied in their music careers. When I was in college I studied business and that helped me tremendously when it came to accounting, budgeting, and marketing. I was on the debate team which taught me how to be an advocate for ideas. Those skills came in very handy in my career as a manager advocating for my clients.
I think most importantly, one of the best reasons to go to college is that it can offer you experiences beyond the classroom that help you in your business career. No matter what you are studying, find ways to get involved while you are there. On the concert committee, at the radio station, or the college newspaper. At the end of the day, a college degree in the music business isn’t what’s important. What’s important is that getting a degree demonstrates your ability to commit and finish tasks. That brings up another point I’m often asked when it comes to college and the music business.
What is the value of a music business degree and is a degree worth anything in the real music business?
Now I understand that a lot of big music companies will tell you that they require a degree before you will be considered for a job and, in most cases, it’s true at the entry level. For the most part it won’t matter what that degree is in. But the music biz is much more art than science and does not lend itself to easy measurement of your skills. Degrees are much more valuable in other areas like law, medicine, and accounting where there is a defined skill set and a way to measure it. That being said in the music biz, it certainly won’t hurt you to have a degree.
The bottom line is if you are thinking about going to college and can make it happen by all means DO IT. But if you can’t make college happen it DOES NOT mean you won’t be successful in the music biz. There are plenty of successful people in the music biz who do not have degrees. And I’m one of them. Your attitude, ambition, and dedication are much more valuable assets when it comes to succeeding in the music biz. In the music biz it’s all about doing. It’s about relationships and networking. Having a great attitude is 10X more important than waving a music biz degree. And if you can demonstrate those skills there is not one company in the business that won’t hire you .
Are you thinking about going to college or are interested in learning more about the music business? You should take a look at my online course, “Insider’s Guide to Today’s Music Business.” It’s a series of over 150, three-to-five minute video lessons that teach you everything you need to know about today’s music biz. I put the lessons together based on my 37+ years’ experience in the business and the lessons are based on how things actually work in the real music business. You’ll come away with an understanding of how the business works, who the players are in the biz, and how the lessons apply to your personal situation.
Course Demo & Discount
For Hypebot readers only use this promo code to get a 10% discount on the course: hypbebotrenmanu2015