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Wasting your money on a music degree is stupid!


Everyone (including myself) has fallen into the trap of "purchasing" a music degree via an established institution. It took me a verry long time to realize that the cost in "Time and Money" had no tangible Return of Investment. This is is main topic of the article. The schools are not properly educate us musicians in the business of music. Their focus based on experience and observation is a sense of entitlement and blind expectations to win prizes. Competitions are part of music and they can help us grow and learn from others. The prize is simply a bonus. Grants, Scholarships, and Incentives are NOT a part of real life.

This article is written for people that want to build up a music career and want to look at the finances before undertaking the project. We know for a fact that the profession is quite profitable. We want you to know that the numbers add up and that there is a smart way and a stupid way. We believe that the university route is very stupid. Here we break down the numbers for you to make a decision. If you wish to see the numbers yourself, you can visit College Factual youself and and look at the official stats of what happens in college. 

"Life is not a competition and it is very rare to win a $10,000.00 prize."

Univesities in the United States are coaching musicians to do the wrong thing. A reasonable approach to any career should be that you could potentially cover your education costs within one year of having completed your training. In other words, if your total bill was $36,000.00, your job the first year should make you at least the same number. However, how many musicians do you know earning $3,000.00/month making music straight from college? Even if you knew some, the ratio is skewed the wrong way. Why would you put yourself in a scenario where your odds of getting a reasonable Return of Investment are very much against you? 

However... the total bill to attend a good music school is at least $36,000.00 per year. 

Many will argue that universities are established institutions and they have prooven to properly educate people over time. However, if you look at the actual results and statistics, you will start finding out that you were sold a piece of paper. I need to make a disclaimer here. The teachers and students I met during college are amazing. I made great friends with many of them and all of us were decieved into the system.

What is the system teaching us?

  • Paying for a degree expecting to graduate with a job.
  • Learning many irrelevant things about other industries.
  • Hoping to win a prize the same way scholarships were awarded.
  • Having a guaranteed large audience in your concerts and presentations.
  • Success happens by simply showing up.

What should musicians be learning?

  • Jobs available in the industry, their benefits, and their demands.
  • Building the necessary skills to support their talent.
  • Being an active performer treating music professionally as a job.
  • How to build up a following and an audience.
  • Knowing how to sell your art and maximizing your profits.

Did anyone figure out the real figures to attend one of those institutions?

San Francisco Conservatory

$42,000.00 / YEAR 

Berklee College of Music

$53,500.00 / YEAR

​Manhattan School of Music

$52,750.00 / YEAR

Cleveland Institute of Music

$41,500.00 / YEAR

What does this mean and what can I do about it?

The truth is that those numbers are the published numbers on the websites. This is the highest number that one could pay to attend those colleges. There are some talented virtuosi that get a full ride while a small portion gets a tuition reduction. In other words. Some dont pay at all, some pay half and some pay full prize. The truth is that ALL of those musicians are all very tallented. Only 5% of the musicians that attend those schools do not graduate. 

Let's say that you want to go to Manhattan school of music for 4 years for a degree in music and you are not recieving financial help. This education will cost you $200,000.00. Would you say that this is a good investment? What are your parameters to decide this? How much would you have to charge per concert to make that money back in one year?

The Online Music Guild Strategy?

Any career you want to develop has is costs and benefits. As a musician, you have to understand that you are an entertainer. This means that people are interested in your presence, talent, and exclusivity. The industry is very different that what msot people is used to because there;s uncertainty in normal fields and certainty in many uncommon fields.

You must have the talent to deliver music but also the tools and wisdom to support the career. The real things that make a difference in a musician's career is your following, your network, your connections, your assets, your merchandise, your experience, and your uniqueness. Building those up does require time and money. However, you know that when you focus on building them up with the proper objective in mind, you will be setting yourself up for success.​

Itemizing your costs:

  • Private Lessons - 3 per week - $100 each - Yearly Costs = $7,800.00 - This is assuming you take lessons for 12 months and no breaks.
  • Recoding a CD (one per year) - Yearly Costs = $5,000.00 - This includes Studio Time, Mastering, Production, and 1000+ CD Copies
  • Putting together a concert - One every month - $1000 each - Yearly Costs = $12,000.00 - This is computing Location, Helpers, and Promotion
  • Participating in a competition - One every month - $1000 each - Yearly Costs = $12,000.00 - This is computing Registration Fees, Airfare, Hotels, and meals,

The grand total is almost $40,000.00 per year but every step taken has built in the possibility of ROI and covering the costs per se. So this is a tangible way to understand your investment in your career and talent as a performer:
  • The lessons simply grow your talent. You could potentially finance lessons by giving lessons but the ROI is not direct from the lessons so it would not count.
  • Making a CD has direct ROI. It does not have to be hard music, it only has to be well played. Selling 500 CD's at $10 each would get you back the full investment plus you would get some more copies to continue selling. So we can say that ROI is covered by simply making the CD. ROI=$5,000.00
  • Concerts take more work. Let's say you rent a place for $500, pay $250 to someone to do the work for you and promote the event with $250 via social media or similar, the ROI is quite positive. First, ROI possibility is sponsors. Getting sponsors could help you offset the cost of renting the location. The person helping you would allow you to have time to practice and have all the details covered. Advertising the event will make people attend the event. If you have no sponsors but you manage to sell 50 tickets at $20 each, you would cover all the costs. ROI=$1,000.00 per event. Potential ROI per year is $12,000.00
  • Winning competitions is hard work. However, participating in a total of 48 competitions over 4 years will probably make you grow fast and potentially give you some prizes. However, this is not under your control and you cannot count prizes as ROI. However, you can count this as an investment for connections. This is crucial for any musician. 

When you look at the calculations, then you would know that the total bill of $37,000.00 has now gone down to $20,000.00 per year because your plan is set up to earn back what you have invested. Therefore, in 4 years your bill could be $80,000.00 total but you might have won some competitions, earned some extra back from more CD sales and now your portfolio is impressive. To summarize:

  • 4 CDs Released
  • 48 Concerts
  • 48 Competitions
  • Maybe 4 big prizes.
  • Innumerable contacts.
At this point, you should be able then to look at year #5 and be confident that you can make $80,000.00 in one year. In other words, you should be making about $8,000.00 per month. At this point you should be confident enough to charge for concerts rates that match up your number. You either need eight $1,000.00 per month or four $2,000.00 per month. This is up to you to decide. Now the choice is yours... Expensive schools with no ROI or the hard way that covers all the costs within one year and will develop the foundation for an amazing career.
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