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Top Music Schools In The US: Best Music Colleges & Universities

Photograph of the blog post author, Sebastian Watzinger

Sebastian Watzinger

7.7.2020

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So, how can you make money and be successful within the music industry? That is the number one question that I hear when talking to young songwriters, musicians, and composers. Any of you who are working in the music industry for any length of time now know musical skills alone aren’t enough to build a career (at least not for the vast majority). The business side of the music industry makes at least 50% of a career. Your musical skills are a given and not only necessary to make but a basic requirement. In this article, I will introduce 4 of the top US music schools that offer various music degrees, either master or bachelor, including course descriptions!

music college US

Berklee College Of Music

berklee college of music

Berklee College of Music is one of the leading institutes of contemporary music and the performing arts. They offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs within almost any field of the music and entertainment industry. They have campuses in Boston, Massachusetts and Valencia, Spain, and offer an amazing (and more cost-effective) award-winning distance learning program, Berklee Online.

Berklee College of Music’s mission is to educate, train, and develop students to excel in music as a career. “Career” is the important word here. They work hard to have their students find success, financially and personally, in the industry – and they value musicianship and excellence very much. Overall, their alumni won 297 Grammy Awards alone. Some of their alumni are John Mayer, Ben McKee and Daniel Platzman from Imagine Dragons.

Berklee College of Music offers a couple of different programs in Music Business:

Bachelor Of Music In Music Business/Management

In this program, students learn the foundation of the music business from a musician’s perspective. Besides their core music curriculum, this program teaches the legal, financial, artistic, and ethical issues that face the contemporary music business professional.

You can find all the information about the program here: Bachelor of Music in Music Business/Management

The Business Of Music Marketing (Online)

If you have a Bachelor’s degree already and want to up your game in Music Marketing (that can’t hurt, right?), this is the course for you. You will learn professional level, cutting edge marketing techniques that are quintessential for any musician, artist, or music-centric business. This is probably your best (and cheapest option) to gain marketing and business skills that you can employ in your existing career right away.

You can find all the information about the program here: The Business of Music Marketing

Bachelor Of Professional Studies In Music Business

Yes, Berklee’s Online College also has a full Music Business degree. It promises to help you sharpen your knowledge of the concepts, skills, and methodologies needed to succeed in today’s evolving music business. How the music business currently operates and where the business is headed in the key areas of music publishing, licensing, law, management, touring, marketing, and entrepreneurship are key areas of study in this program. It is also 65% cheaper than on-campus tuition (a bonus).

Learn more about the program here: Bachelor of Professional Studies in Music Business

USC Thornton School Of Music

USC thornton music college

USC Thornton School Of Music was founded in 1884, and is the oldest cultural institution in Los Angeles. 

As part of the University Of Southern California, Thornton ranks among the top one percent of US music colleges and conservatories. As an elite institution, it blends a conservatory-style music education with the benefits of a top-notch research university. USC also offers its students a thorough music education in a real-world context. Amongst many prolific composers and performers are film composer for Fear of the Walking Dead and Godzilla, Bear McCreary and Producer and Film Composer Ludwig Göransson.

USC Thornton School of Music offers a couple of different programs in Music Business:

Master Of Science In Music Industry

This program is aimed at musicians with a Bachelor’s degree, who want to become this generation’s music industry leaders. Class topics include copyright, concerts, artist management, marketing data and analysis, and a one-semester internship.

Additionally, students have four emphasis track options including music performance, supervision, the business of touring/live event promotion, and entrepreneurship.

Find out more about this program here: Master of Science in Music Industry

Bachelor Of Music In Popular Music Performance

If you are serious about pursuing a career as a professional performer, then this Bachelor’s program is for you. It is a 4 year program, which immerses you into a creative environment. The course also stresses the musical skills required for a successful, professional musician. It also teaches the very important aspects of the music business and music industry like performance, songwriting and arranging, recording studio efficiency, music production and entrepreneurship.

Learn more about the Bachelor of Music program here: Bachelor of Music – Popular Music Performance.

Los Angeles College Of Music

LACM music college

Here is another college that is located in the heart of the music and entertainment industry. LA College of Music was recently named one of “The 20 Best Music Conservatories in the U.S.” by TheBestSchools.org. LACM is a smaller institution that offers programs ranging from classical instruments performance to Songwriting and Music Business. One notable alumni is ex-Sepultura Drummer Jean Dolabella.

Bachelor Of Arts In Music Producing & Recording

This degree provides a very solid, very hands-on program. It prepares you for breaking into the industry with working professionals as faculty members, and gives real-life experience in a real studio environment. This program also offers music business subjects to learn the fundamentals needed in the music industry. Find out more about this program here: Bachelor of Arts in Music Producing and Recording

Bachelor Of Arts In Music Business

Yes, Los Angeles College of Music also has a full-blown Music Business Program!

In this program, they prepare students for the modern music industry, and teach them how to understand revenue streams and opportunities for innovative business models. Important subjects like applied accounting, marketing, digital distribution and monetisation, A&R, publishing, licensing, music supervision, artist management, tour strategies are also part of the program. Learn more about the program here: Bachelor of Arts in Music Business.

NYU Tisch School Of The Arts

NYU Tisch

On Tisch School’s ‘about’ page, they say that “No other school exists in the world like Tisch School of the Arts.”

I would definitely say that is true! They are highly selective (if not the most selective school of all in the US). Located in New York City, a super vibrant city with a lot of history in the Arts and still one of the world’s biggest melting pots of the arts and otherwise, Tisch uses this to their advantage. Notable alumni of Tisch School of the Arts are Martin Scorcese and Lady Gaga, amongst many others. Tisch is a little different than the other 3 schools mentioned here. It is first and foremost a Theater, Acting and Performance school. Their Emerging Media Institute houses only one program for musicians and music entrepreneurs

Bachelor Of Fine Arts In Recorded Music

Their Bachelor of Fine Arts is geared towards students that want to expand their business, creative, and intellectual skills so that they might emerge as visionary creative entrepreneurs in the evolving music industry. They encourage students to develop innovative musical ideas and envision new music business models, work collaboratively, cultivate both intellectual rigor and experiment artistically and to assume leadership roles in the art and commerce of creating and selling recorded music.

Find more about this program here: Bachelor of Fine Arts in Recorded Music

Which Should You Choose?

graduation

I have presented some different options and programs to choose from – and these are definitely not all of the choices available. These are just the top music colleges in the US that offer music business and music industry degrees. So, what is the right approach to ensure that you choose the right program to align with your goals?

If you have your eyes set on a theatrical or musical career either as a composer, songwriter or performer, Tisch at NYU would definitely be the right choice. They have by far the best connection to the musical theatre, and not only because of their location.

With Berklee College of Music’s online degrees, you can pick and choose just the right subject that you feel you are missing in your arsenal. This is a great option for those already on the path to becoming a successful songwriter or producer, who you want to gain a deeper insight into how to best market your music. If you want to add to your performance and business skills as a classical or jazz performer, then USC Thornton School of Music would be a good choice.

If you see your music business career more in the field of film, TV, and popular music, then LA is probably the right place to look. The same goes for New York if you are called to the theatre or musical industry. I know, these are huge generalisations and not set in stone, but worth considering anyway. 

Final Thoughts

These are just some of the considerations you should make when choosing a college or degree in the music business.

Choosing the right degree and college is not an easy task. Depending on what your goal is, you should choose a couple of options and apply. I hope that this list helped provide some insight into the top music colleges in the US. Alternatively, check out our list of top music universities in the UK. Good luck!

Now that you have heard our recommendations for music colleges in the US, head to Music Gateway to collaborate and get sharpening your skills! We can also help with music promotion or sync opportunities, so make sure to sign up for your free 14 day trial.



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