Where Can a Music Major Take You!
Ever listened to your favourite artist and wished you could make your own music, or work in the music industry? Well, it’s not as impossible as you think! With hard work and dedication, you could have a variety of career paths in the diverse world that is music. So where can a music major take you, we hear you ask? Read on to find out!
Many people think that working in the music industry means having to be a singer or songwriter, but this is completely untrue! The music industry is bigger than you think, and has a variety of majors and careers that all link to different areas of music production.
“The music industry is bigger than you think”
Steps to a music major and career
There are many avenues available in the music world; whether you want to go into performing, creating music, or working with artists to produce and share their music, you’ll need to have a degree of planning and lots of dedication to reach your dream.
“There are many avenues available in the music world”
One of the first steps is roadmapping. This is the process of visualising your end goal, and planning the steps you will take to get there (this is something to do before choosing universities).
For example, if your end goal is to be a recording artist, you could start your journey now by posting regularly on Tiktok to share your love for music, and meeting with college counsellors for application auditions (we’ll get onto that in a bit)! In a year, perhaps you could plan to have released some songs on Spotify, and have a certain number of followers, to promote your music. Then by the end of your major, you would have taken the steps to build contacts and kickstart your career!
“Make sure you have a source of sustainable income included in your roadmapping”
Note: music careers take time, and are not always financially easy (especially at the start). Make sure you have a source of sustainable income included somewhere in your roadmapping. That way you’ll be way less worried about scrambling for a job to cover your basic living costs, and can focus more of your energy into music.
So, you’ve decided on a major and colleges to apply to. Now comes the actual applications and auditions (cue the ominous music)! But no seriously, auditions aren’t that bad, and are there to showcase your talent to the college. Here are some of the steps in applications to most music schools.
Prepared piece - Almost all music school applications will involve some sort of audition where you play a prepared piece of music of length 3-5 minutes on your primary instrument/voice. This can be a cover or an original piece. Whatever you decide to play, start practising early to give you the best shot!
Improvisation - This is the on-the-spot stage where you improvise a short piece over an instrumental progression or drumbeat. Remember, here they are trying to see your musical creativity!
“They are trying to see your musical creativity”
Sight reading - Possibly one of the most infamous parts of any music audition! Sight reading is when you are shown a short piece of music that you’ve never seen before, given 30-60 seconds to read it, and then play it. Anyone else feel like running for the hills yet?
While this is commonly seen as the hardest stage of the application process, it really isn’t there to catch you out. It’s fine to make mistakes. They’re looking to see how well you can recover from any slip ups and what you focus on in your prep time. So don’t stress about it, sight reading is only there to gauge your level!
“It’s fine to make mistakes”
Ear training - Like sight-reading, this stage is there to gauge your level and not necessarily examine you in the way the prepared piece is assessed. Ear training (known as ‘Aural’ in the UK) involves a series of call and response exercises, identifying intervals, and pitch matching. In other words, ear training tests your musical skills beyond just reading and playing music.
Interview - The last stage is the interview, where the college wants to get to know you and your motivation for music. Aside from having a resume and portfolio ready, some other ways to prepare is knowing your answers to some basic questions. What are your professional career goals, and why do you want to study at this college? How will their diverse environment benefit you, and what will you contribute to them? The interview isn’t something to stress about. Just showcase your passion for music, and you’ll be fine!
So, where could I study a music major?
There are numerous contemporary music programs in some of the best music schools across the world. Here are some that we’ve chosen!
Berklee College of Music (Boston, US)
Berklee has a wide variety of music programs ranging from contemporary to classical music. It gives its students lots of performance opportunities to showcase their talent, making it a popular destination to kickstart music careers, and ranks near the top music colleges in the world!
The Juilliard School (New York City, US)
“If you are an aspiring musician, this is one of the places to be!”
Like Berklee, Juilliard is recognised as one of the world’s most prestigious music schools, ranking 3rd worldwide (Top Universities). The school is affiliated with the Lincoln Centre, hosting some of the best live music performances found anywhere in the world. If you are an aspiring musician, this is one of the places to be!
Royal College of Music (London, UK)
This music school ranks first in the world (Top Universities), and offers its students training in all kinds of Western music and performance, situated in the heart of London close to the world-famous Royal Albert Hall. Where better to foster musical dreams? Find out more about their application and audition process here.
Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris (Paris, France)
CNSMDP, more commonly known as the Paris Conservatory, is one of the world’s best conservatories, ranking fourth overall (Top Universities). It offers its students a rich range of music and dance majors, taking inspiration from traditions of the ‘French School’.
New York University (New York City, US)
NYU is known for the high success of its students, and ranks 13th in the world (Top Universities). It offers music majors in the prestigious Clive Davis school, a popular application for many aspiring music students. Alternatively, you could also apply to its Steinhardt school which offers fantastic majors in business, production and songwriting!
“The location of the university is important too!”
These are only a few of the best music schools and conservatoires in the world. While prestige and ranking are some factors to look at when applying to music majors, they are not the only elements to consider. The location of the university is important too! Studying somewhere like Los Angeles, Nashville or London is a fantastic way to gain more exposure to the music world and find internship opportunities to expand your skills.
Tell me about some music careers!
“Music careers are not limited to performance or songwriting”
Music career paths can go one of two ways. You could either be part of making new music, or help new music to reach its audience. Remember, music careers are not limited to performance or songwriting; there are lots of sub-careers that people don’t tell you about!
If you want to be part of making new music, perhaps some of these careers would interest you.
Some possible majors for artists include:
- Industry studies
Industry studies is an especially important part of a music career, and it could be useful to take electives/modules about the music industry even if you want to pursue other avenues of music. Learning about what people in the industry are looking for can be a valuable asset in planning your own career strategy!
What if you want to help new music reach audiences?
Some possible majors for behind the scenes careers could be:
- Music business
- Music production and engineering
- Entrepreneurship for record labels
“There are so many possible avenues in the music industry!”
See what we mean? There are so many possible avenues in the music industry! You’re bound to find a career that interests you.
Two things to keep in mind on your musical journey are internships and networking. Both are extremely important in paving your career, and can teach you valuable skills. “The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity” ~ Keith Ferrazzi. This is key! Networking is about offering your skills and showing your passion to contacts in the music industry, to build a community of like minded individuals. It’s NOT about getting things from people. Building contacts and skills from internships will massively help you when it comes to your musical future!
Mythbusting: Music edition!
Myth #1 - The only careers in music are being a performer or a music teacher
If you’ve learned anything from this article, you should immediately know this is absolutely false! The list of music careers is endless, and varies from music engineering to music business and law. Don’t ever think you are limited to a few narrow avenues simply because those are the ones most portrayed in the media!
“The list of music careers is endless”
Myth #2 - Music careers only start when a record label discovers you
This again is false! YOU start your music career the second you put yourself out there. Many people who are ‘discovered’ by record labels have been at it for years, and have put in hours of work, practice, and networking to showcase their music to the world. Learn from friends in the business and about what the industry is looking for - that is when your career will start!
Myth #3 - Going to music school is a ‘cop-out’ compared to other majors
“It is just as academically challenging as any other major”
Anyone who says this has obviously never taken a music degree! While it certainly involves less maths than majors like physics or economics, it is by no means less difficult. Music majors often have double the amount of classes per semester as other majors, and involve many technical aspects to create and practise music. If you’re putting in the work (which you will have to do to be successful), it is just as academically challenging as any other major.
Myth #4 - You have to know exactly what job you want before committing to a school
This again is false. A music school is where you learn about the avenues of music, and start to develop your interests. Through clubs and internships, you can discover new aspects of music careers and shape your path.
And that’s a wrap on where a music major can take you! If you want to learn more, check out:
- Our webinar on music degrees and careers (where some of the slides in this article come from!)
- Our webinar on entrepreneurship in music, to learn more about new frontiers of work in the music industry
- Our panels from March 2021 and April 2021 on careers our top music mentors have undertakenn