Is Music Production school really worth it?
One of the many questions we get asked from amateur producers and friends, today with Top Music Arts, we´re going to help you in the first steps of your careers by helping you choose if a music production school is the best for you or not!
The main goal here is to discuss the pro and cons of each matter or reason, so you can apply them to your own situation. We make tutorials, and help with tips, guides and any learning tool we can give to you here on the blog, but also, attending music production school can be a great learning way. If it really fits your expectations.
Myself I went to music school and production school and did full courses. That led me to learn to play different instruments, which can be helpful in many aspects of music making.
But in the way, for me and my group, we all had many bad experiences, such as spending too much money, learning a bunch of stuff that may not be useful, losing time when we shouldn´t have, any negative experience like those, we are trying to help you avoid them before it can happen.
Believe me, the experience of others is cheaper! Lol
So, let´s start!
1. Is it worth what it costs?
One big reason to think before you start attending any music production school or even any type of school. Most music production schools cost around $20k+ for a one-year program.
Your goals are the determining factor when it comes to whether or not you can justify the cost of school. Many of us were looking to make a career for ourselves in the music industry. And knew that this is what we wanted for the rest of our lives.
I also knew that even if it took a while, one of my goals was to be making money producing music for myself and for others.
The school you choose and the friendships you create can really make or break your experience. A couple of my peers attended other schools that strictly taught audio engineering subjects, like the exact microphone position for each part of the drums. And now, we rarely record a full drum set, and most of the time use sample drums.
That might´ve been helpful, but they avoided things like music theory, synthesis, sound design, composition, etc. Things, that at the beginning of our learning experience, can be really important. And that sure had an impact!
The biggest complaint we hear from our friends that have been through those situations is that what they had learned wasn't practical in today's music production climate.
If you're making EDM, you aren't recording bands, so why would you pay to go to school to learn how to record bands, if for example, your goal is to make beats on your own and maybe collaborate with one musician at the time?
It doesn't make any sense.
Finding a school that's going to meet your needs and then talking to graduates of that school about their time there is your best way to go. If they're excited about it and tell you they made a good decision by going, you should take the leap yourself!
Always have in mind what your goals are, they may change over the years, but the first steps of every career are the most important, so stay true to what you want out of this journey!
Remember it, and that will help you through any obstacle you may face.
2. You end up having to learn a lot of filler content
We´re just going to come out and say it: Big colleges / universities love filler content. They take a subject that could be covered in a few short months, or sometimes even weeks, and drag it out over several years by adding unnecessary filler content that has little to do with the main subject you want to study. Or the practice you need to do to learn some subjects.
So in my particular experience, much of what I had to learn was a total waste of time. I’m talking about things like memorizing different types of clock sync methods and compression algorithms, specific frequencies to eq in each instrument, things that are not that important when it comes to the real world, because not everything in the books apply to real life situations.
In the modern world where a Google search is just seconds away, memorizing facts (especially facts that you’re not using right now) is a complete waste of time. It’s also been proven that we forget information that we aren’t currently using.
Assuming you have understood all you´ve been taught, because if you didn´t understand something and you have passed that class by the grace of god, later you´ll be doing a lot of google searches anyway!
Many colleges started having this one year courses, and now they have the same content diluted into 2 years or even more.
If your main passion is making music, realize that most of what you’re going to be studying has very little to do with music. It’s a lot of technical jargon, general audio knowledge, and different forms of media production which you may not have any interest in at all.
We´re not saying you can´t benefit from that data, knowledge is always power in some way or another. But we all have seen a lot of guys who drop out very quickly, when they find out they have to learn circuit diagrams instead of programming beats.
3. The time invested
Another reason comes from the 2nd one, the result of adding a lot of filler content is that these courses tend to be so drawn out. We’re talking multiple years. Again, in a way they have to be, that’s how they make their money.
If your college of choice is far from your home, and you spend all this time going to lessons, for months to only have counted practice experiences.
It makes sense, they can’t let new students get into the studios until they know you’re not going to blow something up. But we wanted to mention this to give you a better idea of what to expect. Make sure to specifically ask how long it takes to get into the big studios and do some practice, because mostly that´s where the good learning begins!
Also, the question you need to ask yourself is whether you want to spend all those years in music production school, or if that time could be better spent just getting into the industry and learning as you go. Making music with different artists, and learning from those experiences.
The only way you´re going to grow as an artist, as a producer, or anything music wise, is by hands on real life experience, and the only way that you´re going to meet the people that you need and make the networks that you need, is by being out there in the field not by being inside of a room with someone trying to teach you this stuff.
You can get an internship at an actual studio as an assistant, and work your way up. You can meet real artists in your area and learn a lot from them. Or maybe work for a producer more experienced that you.
That time you invest will give you the real life experiences you need!
4. Job opportunities and promises
This one isn’t exclusive to the music industry, there’s plenty of Harvard graduates finding themselves serving burgers through the McDonalds drive-through window, because they can’t land the job they thought would be a guarantee.
It’s no secret the big studio days are long since over. The technology needed to produce music is so affordable these days that you can just about buy an entire studio for less than the cost of renting out a major studio for the day. Because of this trend, there simply aren’t as many jobs as there used to be and there´s a lot of competition.
A lot of the big studio sound engineers who lost their jobs, have since opened their own home studios to make a living that way, but every year there’s more and more people willing to do the job for less and maybe they don´t have the experience they need. Maybe those who didn’t drop $100K on sound school and don’t have a family to support yet.
We like it or not… that’s the true.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, there’ll always be new jobs opportunities for music producers and sound engineers, there just aren’t nearly as many in the music industry as there used to be.
The reality is, in many ways the role of the audio engineer is becoming more technical and less artistic. And the value of the work of a music producer is getting its value down by just inexperienced competition.
So you need to think in what you want for your professional life.
5. We´re not all the same
For some people, do better in a structured environment, where people are telling them this is what you need to learn, when to learn it, these are the contacts you need to try to be making, the type of music you should be mixing, get an internship there, use the local resources of the college, and such.
And there’s other people who rather be doing it on their own, by merely doing things over and over again, or with the people you like to make music, maybe learn at their room or home studio, but at their own pace.
There´s no right one! But there’s the right one for you as an individual though.
Both ways, to achieve any goal you have with your music, or with your life, you have to put in the work. Try and fail, learn from that and improve yourself.
You can do that going to college (some people actually just prefer to go to college) or making the learning process your own way.
6. A music degree does very little for you
By the time you finish your career, you will mostly have a bunch of new contacts, artist to make collabs with, musicians, producers, singers, and such. But, at the time to get a job
Like we mentioned, music business establishments, like big studios, and labels, are kind of falling apart. And the main reason to get a degree, having spent all that money and time, is to look credible to companies. And most creative companies, like studios, they don´t care much about a piece of paper that says what and where you studied it. They care about your work, your portfolio, what you have to show.
The fact is, a client doesn’t care whether you learnt from YouTube or the best audio school in the world, all they care about is whether you can produce great sounding music or not.
Not all the techniques are practical for a ‘home studio’ environment
This may not be a major disadvantage, but just something to think about. It’s all very well having access to a 60 channel sound desk, an acoustically treated live room, and cases of top quality mics, but unless you’re going to keep using that gear when you leave, it doesn’t help you very much.
What we´re trying to say is, if you’re planning on doing most of your recording in a home studio environment, you’ve got to learn to adapt and make the most of what you’ve got. We’ve met plenty of sound engineering graduates who came out of sound school spoilt by all the gear, and couldn’t produce any good results without it.
Don´t let that happen to you!
How to choose a good music production school?
If you decide you want to study music production, the next step is to find a good school that´ll be worth the time and money. If the 6 reasons weren´t enough, and you are doubtful, we´re going to leave you some tips for you to try to help you all make a good decision for your own.
- Access to great teachers
Find out who will actually be lecturing you. You want to be learning from experts with actual experience in the industry, not just academics or ex-students who have only just completed the course themselves.
- Access to great gear
One thing you can’t get in an online course is access to high-end audio equipment to learn and experiment on. If you’re going to go to sound school, make sure that they have the goods!
Apart from the gear, find out how long you have to wait to actually get into the studios, and how much studio time students typically get. This is something a lot of people overlook and are disappointed when they find out they’re not even allowed in the main studios the first year.
Besides, it´s helpful to know what the “pros” are using.
- Curriculum that lines up with your goals
As mentioned before, audio school are not just about producing music. If you know you want to produce music professionally, make sure that a good portion of the course actually covers this. Don’t just take it for granted!
Also, you can check our article about how to Improve your music while being away from your daw
We hope after all that data we could be helpful to make your own decision but if not, feel free to ask us anything you need in the comments. We are here if you need us!