At one time or another, we’ve all had fantasies about being in the music industry. When we’re in the shower or driving alone in the car, every one of us has belted out a solo or imagined what it would be like to play a grand concerto.
But the fact of the matter is that most people in the music industry don’t make their money by playing. No, the music business is very much a business, one that requires experts in entrepreneurship, accounting, and more.
So while very few people will have the luck and talent to become music superstars, many people can find satisfying and lucrative jobs within the music business, especially if they have a degree.
The best music business programs focus on both parts of the profession. They give you a chance to develop your music skills, even performing in front of audiences and participating in ensembles.
But they also teach you the ins and outs of the industry. They feature a faculty of professionals in the field, and they give you access to internships, where you can gain experience and make connections.
Which school should you attend to begin your music biz dreams? That’s a surprisingly complex question, with lots of variables.
We’ve put together a list of the ten best music business schools in the nation. Each of these programs feature experienced professionals on the faculty as well as an outstanding curriculum.
So if you’re ready to be the star behind the star, then take a look at this list of the best music business schools and degrees to find the right school for you.
Here are 10 of the best music business schools in the US.
Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL)
The music program at Florida State University covers almost everything you could think of, from classical to musical theater, from commercial music to jazz.
With this mixture of concentrations available, FSU ensures that all students will receive comprehensive training in the field, getting a taste of everything alongside their emphasis.
In the commercial music program, students not only gain the training one would expect from a standard music degree but also courses from the College of Business. The program prepares students for everything they need to navigate the commercial aspects of the modern music industry, including film scoring and entrepreneurship.
No matter which program they’re in, all students in the FSU music department are eligible for studies with a semester abroad, an opportunity relatively rare in US music schools.
University of Colorado at Denver (Denver, CO)
There are many ways to judge the quality of a music program. But if Billboard Magazine, the leading publication of the recording industry, calls you an elite school that is shaping the future of the music industry, then everyone needs to take notice.
The University of Colorado at Denver earns that high praise for programs such as their forward-thinking music business degree. In this program, students prepare to succeed in all aspects of the modern music industry, including management, entertainment law, and marketing.
Within the program, students take classes in areas such as musicianship, audio engineering, publishing, concert management, and more. They leave the school ready to work in established streams and to start their own innovative trends.
After graduation, students have gone on to successful careers in some of the best companies in the industry. UC Denver alumni are currently working at Warner Music Group, Spotify, Rolling Stone, and more.
CSU Northridge (Northridge, CA)
A subset of the school’s BA in Music program, the music industry studies program at California State University Northridge has over thirty years of training the best in the business.
This commitment to the finest candidates can be seen in the quality of classes students take. Instead of focusing solely on business and industry-only courses, students in the music industry studies program also take traditional music courses and also perform in ensembles. In fact, students must first pass an audition to gain entrance into the program.
The audition is one of two requirements for those applying to the program. They must also write an essay outlining their qualifications and participate in an interview with faculty members.
Those who do pass the school’s exacting standards benefit from CSU’s focus on experiential learning. Students study the tools of the trade through internships, by producing events, and by working in a student-run and faculty-advised record label.
Middle Tennessee State University (Murfreesboro, TN)
Located in Murfreesboro, only 45 minutes away from Nashville (a.k.a the music capital of the world), Middle Tennessee State University offers a music business program unlike any found in a school of its size.
With a faculty filled with industry experts and state-of-the-art resources and connections, MTSU prepares students for success in the music business.
A recent example of this success can be seen in alumnus BryTavious “Tay Keith” Chambers. Chambers has been nominated for a Grammy award, thanks to his work producing the song “SICKO MODE” by rapper Travis Scott.
Several other former MTSU students are also up for Grammys, including producer and 2003 grad Torrance “Street Symphony” Esmond and producer and 2000 grad Wayne Haun.
Poised to receive the industry’s highest honors, these students speak to the quality of the school’s program.
Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA)
Anyone interested in quality music programs already knows about the Berklee College of Music. The conservatory has earned its reputation as one of the country’s best training grounds for excellent musicians.
The school applies that same commitment to quality to its music business and management degree. With three tracks available to students – self-directed or entrepreneurial activity, music products, or management in corporate environments – students leave ready to join the industry immediately.
Students attend lectures from industry professionals throughout the program and examine case studies of initiatives that succeeded or failed.
At the end of their degree program, students create a final capstone project. The project may be an internship within the industry, leading a music industry project, or something else that fits in the music business theme.
Whatever track they choose, students gain an understanding of the complexities and goals of the modern music business.
Syracuse University (Syracuse, NY)
The appropriately titled music industry program at Syracuse University equips musicians with the practical, legal, creative, and theoretical knowledge they need to succeed in the music business.
The four-year program puts students through coursework that allows them to analyze and participate in industry trends. Students gain an understanding of music organizations and their contributions to the biggest issues facing the business.
While completing their work, students still have multiple opportunities to perform, including in the school’s many ensembles. In addition to impressive internship options, students may also earn a double degree by applying to Syracuse’s Whitman School of Management to earn an MBA.
What is interesting about Syracuse is that there are actually a few music business options.
Another popular option is the Bandier Program, which is perhaps one of the most respected music business programs nationwide. Located in the SI Newhouse School of Public Communications, this program helps students gain access to internships with major music companies from around the country.
Thanks to its robust alumni network, graduating students of the Bandier Program have found careers at Sony, the Brooklyn Bowl, and more.
University of Miami Frost School of Music (Coral Gables, FL)
At the center of the business studies in the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music is the Modern Artist Development and Entrepreneurship program, aka MADE.
MADE puts the student first, letting them choose their preferred areas of interest. As the architects of their own education, they become experts in the performing, writing, and arranging of music while gaining the skills needed to market music, manage copyrights, and negotiate business licenses.
For those interested only in the business side of things, the Frost School offers the Music Industry or MIND program. Through MIND, students become experts in the day-to-day functioning of record labels, the roles played by publishers and distributors, and the effects of digital music services. It’s no wonder that MIND has received accolades from Billboard every year since 2011.
Belmont University Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business (Nashville, TN)
Located in the heart of Music City USA, the Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business in Nashville’s Belmont University sends its graduates directly into the industry.
The success of the music business major can be attributed to the school’s faculty. A combination of academic scholars and industry professionals, the faculty not only teaches the theory and practice of publishing, management, and booking, but also connects students with current leaders in the field through seminars and guest lectures.
The program offers students four areas of emphasis, including music production, legal studies, international music business, and live event management. Each of these programs deals with the pressing issues of our time, such as the effect of music streaming services and the logistics of music festivals.
Furthermore, students on the legal studies track receive preparations for law school, so they can go on to even more specialized careers.
University of Southern California Thornton School of Music (Los Angeles, CA)
At the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, it’s not enough to learn about the history and current trends in the music business. To be successful in a rapidly evolving industry, graduates need to be critical thinkers who take an analytical approach to the field.
The music industry program gives students just that training, thanks to its connections to the business’s Los Angeles roots. Students learn in the classroom under a faculty consisting of industry professionals.
These teachers include Bobby Borg, a former artist who has experience working with major labels, independent labels, and even DIY recording. In addition to teaching, Lindsay Wolfington is a music supervisor currently on several successful Netflix series.
Under the tutelage of these proven experts, students leave the Thornton School with everything they need to succeed in the music industry of today.
NYU Tisch Clive Davis School of Recorded Music (New York, NY)
The Clive Davis School of Recorded Music at NYU Tisch has a reputation as being an innovator in the field.
As the home of the first school to provide professional and artistic training to future industry professionals, Clive Davis has been fostering the creative, intellectual, and business skills needed to make an impact in an ever-changing field.
More than just students, Clive Davis calls its learners “entrepreneurs.” As such, they pick their specialties, such as performance or songwriting, so they can succeed in the field while improving their craft.
Those interested primarily in the music industry will be equally served by Clive Davis. The school gives these entrepreneurs the connections and training they need to find satisfying jobs and even start their own businesses, such as a label or a promotion outfit.