How To

Music Universities –Which Course? Where? How Do I Survive?!

Photograph of the blog post author, Mary Woodcock

Mary Woodcock


Small blue and purple gradient divider


So you want to make your footstep into the music industry? You have an idea about what you want to do but are possibly unsure of your options? First thing I would say is not to worry, I’ve been there and here at Music Gateway we want to share our experiences with you and point you in the right direction!

My name is Jonathan; I’m 20 years old and I have recently joined Music Gateway after finishing my BA (Hons) Degree course in Music Business at ACM in Guildford, U.K. I’ve experienced it all from start to finish so I would like to share with you my top tips for choosing the right course for you and how to succeed within it (Also worth pointing out, I am on the topic of contemporary music courses). Right, here we go…

What is the right course for you?

Now there are many different courses you can take. The question to ask yourself is what you want out of it and the end result you want to achieve.  Here are the most common courses you will come across:


Guitar, Bass, Drums, Vocals, Keyboard! Time to master your instrument and amaze your friends with your talent! This is the first thing many students focus on. Whilst this is a good attitude to have it must be remembered the main aim of the course is to make you into an amazing session musician. You will be trained in various styles and performance techniques, learn to sight read and be able to play anything put in front of you. The course is very exciting and active.

This is great and yes there is a chance at becoming a great rock/pop star by doing this course however my advice is to remember that your training is in your skill as a musician. Session work is fulfilling and you may get the chance to play for well established artists/bands so it is definitely a worthy course to pursue. You’ll be made into the best musicians possible.

Artist Development

Particularly in ACM a course in artist development is available. If you want to become a rock/pop star this may be more for you. Let’s say you’re confident in your instrument, you’re in a great band or are a confident solo artist and you have talent (this is possibly where the performance course brings you onto). Before you enter the deep oceans of the music industry you need to know how to survive the waves!

This course will teach you how to succeed. You will learn about intellectual property, future marketing, songwriting, production and stagecraft. It is about understanding and surviving as an artist in the modern digital age, how to market yourself, know what deals to make and which to avoid. You’ll learn what it takes to become successful within this industry and just how to get there!

Music Production

So you want to produce for the next big artist/band or even for your own music? This course will teach you all you need to know about recording/production/mastering techniques to deliver the best results from what you’re given to work with. It is about bringing a track to life as this is a crucial component for any artist as you are dealing with their core product; their song. It is what listeners hear and this can make or break a band and you have a large part of the responsibility for this; apart from the quality of songwriting itself!

Also, It is also shown that in particular universities such as ACM there are courses specific to electronic music production, so if you want to be the next DJ (the new rock stars) then this is what you want to pursue.

Creative Sound Design

Want to work with film, T.V and games? Sound is just as important as visual. In this course you will learn skills in field recording, synthesis, game audio, surround recording and mixing for film. Sound is becoming ever more important within films and even now games therefore if this interests you it is a worth pursuing as its importance is growing rapidly.

Tour Production & Management

Want to be involved with the exciting world of live music? Well if you want to become the next roadie, drum/guitar tech or tour manager for the hottest act in the industry then this is for you. This is a great way to get involved with the biggest acts and meet many big names in the industry and help them out on tour. Live is an ever increasing aspect for an artist/bands career so it is important they have the best support and best professionals on board.

Music Business & Innovation

You want to master the music industry, you are an enthusiastic entrepreneur and want to work for the most respected companies in the industry. Or maybe you want to manage the next Foo Fighters or really want to help your own musical career by knowing the industry inside out? Well look no further! This is a great course and one that requires a lot of effort.

I fully enjoyed my time on this course at ACM and during my time learnt about management, record company structure, publishing companies, marketing, digital distribution, music law, entrepreneurship, music psychology and effective writing styles. The music business is a thriving environment to work in and there are many options and pathways to go into. If you are an innovative and forward thinking person I recommend this course as this is an exciting time of change for the industry and you can be there in the middle of it. You may change the way the music industry works forever or find the next legendary act.

Generally the best way to know about the course is to go to the open days and speak directly to the lecturers and most importantly the students. They are the ones experiencing the course first hand so their experiences and advice to you is CRUCIAL! Most are friendly and approachable so don’t be afraid to ask their opinion.


The best way to get the full experience from a music course is to take part in extra projects, activities and to network with everyone around you. Go to the gigs, take part in different workshops and take note of the work experience opportunities around you on offer. Your time will fly by and you need to make the best use of it. Everyone you meet will be involved in the industry so making good friends and connections is crucial. You and your classmates are the future of the music industry so start making yourself known and build your skills and contacts.

How to manage the workload

Yes as much as you will be partying and going to see gig after gig after gig… you do have to work too. If handled right it is nothing to worry about.

I would advise effective time management. This is very important. Make sure you start your work early, do your research, practise regularly (if doing performance) and let your lecturers help you (that’s why they are there). The workload does creep up on you so take the initiative to get on top of it, especially if you have a part time job/internship on the side. As long as you use your time well you shall be fine. This is the secret to a happy university experience because in the end you are working towards a qualification so the effort is needed. As the old saying goes; work hard, play hard.

Picking the right university/academy for you

There are many different places to study around the world and you must ask yourself exactly what you want out of the course/university experience. My top tips to consider are the following:

Success Stories – to indicate how good that course is look at the alumni of the courses and where they are now. This will give you a good indication of the quality of the course and the opportunities /contacts that they offer.

Lecturers – do they know their stuff? Ideally to have lecturers who have previously been or still are actively involved in this industry is what you need. They know the ropes, have the skills and knowledge and will be your mentors to succeeding in your course.

Contacts – are they well connected with the industry; do they actively help students find work experience and opportunities to further their career? You will have to look for this yourself however a helping hand is always appreciated to help you make that first step in the right direction.

Student experiences – Again ask the students what they think of the course/university lifestyle. They are the best people to ask as they are experiencing it and will give you their honest opinion.

Location – is this suited to you? Do you want to move far or stay close? What is the student scene in that chosen location? You want to enjoy your time there outside the course after all! Also are there many part time jobs around the area available? Many students need to consider this. Also budget yourself and try to resist the urge to splash out your wages on that one messy night out!

Here is a small collection of the places around the globe to study that we recommend:

ACM – Guildford (U.K) and Oklahoma (U.S)

BIMM – Brighton (U.K)

Berklee College of Music – (Boston, U.S)

Berklee Online

SAE – London, Oxford, Liverpool, Glasgow (U.K)

The BRIT School – Croydon (U.K)

Garnish Music Production School – London (U.K) and Los Angeles (U.S)

These are all highly accredited universities/academies and they provide the best courses available. All it’s about is picking the right course and place suited to you.

You have full control over your path in the music industry and you can go as far as you like with the right effort but the most important thing to remember is this; only you can make this happen. Make full use of the course, the people, lecturers and experiences you have during your time on the course. So in short, get stuck in.

We hope this article has been of use and if so then please share, email and tweet this article around to your friends online!

Your music career
Get ahead.
“Making it in this business, means making sure you have everything you need to succeed.”
What you can expect from our newsletters:
  • Industry news and tips
  • Opportunities to submit your music and collaborate with others
  • Free software and resources
  • Free membership to Music Gateway
Are you sure that email is right?
Thank you! Newsletters will be sent to: .
Is this the right email address? If not, you can correct it.
Junk mail? Hell no - we hate that stuff too!
Tap here to get our newsletter!
News and opportunities
Thank you! Newsletters will be sent to: .
Is this the right email address? If not, you can correct it.
Are you sure that email is right?

Music Gateway Company Logo

Free. Forever.

Join for Free