You turn on the radio and happily find yourself listening to your favorite song. But do any of us ever think about what it took to deliver that music to your ears? Do we spend even a moment recognizing that it may have something to do with the work of the nation’s best schools for music production? Likely not, but perhaps we should.
The skills required to deliver the hit song, the flawless recording or the perfect sold-out performance are indeed the domain of the best schools for music production. That's where the people who work behind the scenes to bring music to the public learn and build the skills they need for success. It's also where they'll begin developing the contacts that will prove instrumental in their careers.
The path of a song from a fresh idea in the artist's brain to a finished piece that's ready to be heard is a long one and takes a proverbial village. If that's the stuff of a dream career, where you want your life to head, then read on. We'll tell you about some of the best schools for music production and how they can give your life the direction you desire.
Music Production Career
Music production degrees lead to a wide range of jobs on the business side of music. The best schools for music production train individuals for roles such as recording and finishing engineers, sound designers, audio directors, acoustical consultants, studio managers and film and TV music producers, just to name a few.
Production jobs in music contribute to the big business. The Recording Industry Association of America estimates that the music industry creates and supports, either directly or indirectly, 1.9 million jobs across a range of different categories in the United States. The total economic impact in 2015 stood at $143 billion, the RIAA said.
The industry data recorded by the RIAA study include music-related jobs in industries ranging from software and CD production, retailing, music production and distribution, music education and agency work.
Available roles branch out underneath each of those sectors. And before you can make it, you'll have to find your way to one of the best music production schools to improve your chances of success.
Characteristics of the Best Music Production Schools
The opportunities for a music production career are vast. But you may wonder: Is this a discipline I can truly study in a college classroom? Or is it best learned in apprenticeships or other hands-on learning experiences?
Every school is a little different, so you will want to do your homework. One thing to remember is music production is an umbrella term; you may not end up graduating with a degree in that name.
Don’t let that dissuade you. Let’s consider what a typical experience might be across our list of the best music production schools.
Fields of study
Given the diverse set of roles available in music production, you'll have a choice from many concentrations. That means choosing among the best music production schools. You'll have to examine curricula closely as well as your goals and objectives as a student.
A lot of what happens at the best music productions schools revolves around technology. You’ll also need a solid grounding in music as well as business. But the basics of any program will include instruction in recording, editing, mixing, mastering, and production.
Also, they'll include listening and analysis and various technology platforms such as synthesizers, processors, recorders and other hardware.
As with colleges in virtually any specialty, tuition costs span a wide range. Private schools, in general, will be more than public schools, but often can close the gap with more generous aid. According to U.S. News and World Report, the average cost of tuition and fees stands at $36,000 at private schools; $9,700 for in-state residents at public universities; and $22,000 for out-of-state students at public universities.
Questions to ask
No one but you as the student will know what characteristics you’re looking for as you consider the best schools for music production. But there are some key questions you should know.
You'll want to know which classes they require, whether you'll have chances at experience outside the classroom, the background of the faculty, the types of facilities and equipment open for use by students, and where recent graduates have gone to work upon graduation.
How We Reviewed the Schools
In the age of American Idol and The Voice, interest in careers in music has never been higher. That's true for families and publishers alike. To select our list of the best schools for music production, we consulted industry bibles such as Billboard and Hollywood Reporter.
We also dug into more narrowly defined industry sources such as CareersinMusic.com, MajoringinMusic.com, and MusicSchoolCentral.com. We made sure that professionals in the industry operated these sites. Lastly, we also consulted college guides such as U.S. News and World Report.
The Best Schools for Music Production
The focus of our search for the best schools for music production were those that repeatedly appeared on various lists. Some of our choices were inevitable: large schools with known track records in music careers.
Some others you might find a bit surprising, in places you might not expect. Note that not every program will send you off with a degree called "music production"; some will have a keen focus on technology and other aspects of the business. Our list is in no particular order.
Image via berklee.edu
Not only is the Berklee College of Music referenced on almost every list of the best schools for music production, but it's also considered one of the premier institutions for music industry learning. Based in Boston, Berklee offers 12 undergraduate majors in music, ranging from composition and film scoring to performance, professional music and songwriting.
Berklee’s bachelor’s degree in music production and engineering teaches students technical skills such as recording, overdubbing, editing and mixing.
- Getting Started with Music Production Book/Online Video
- As an added bonus, the text and accompanying examples are built around the free version of Studio One from PreSonus, so no matter what their musical or technical experience level, students don't need to purchase expensive recording software to benefit from the presented material
- The fundamental concepts and techniques delivered in this book apply seamlessly to any modern DAW
- The author includes 73 video tutorials, formatted for portable devices, that help further explain and expand on the instruction in the text
- Robert Willey
It also offers instruction in developing business plans, creative project management, audio evaluation and understanding of complicated and changing technology platforms.
Students can also select to pursue portions of the discipline as a minor course of study. Tuition for undergraduate study at Berklee cost $42,880 during the 2018-2019 school year.
Students who go there won't be short of opportunity for hands-on learning. Berklee provides 16 separate recording facilities, one of the most advanced centers of its kind in the music industry.
Image via belmont.edu
Belmont University in Nashville sits in the heart of the nation’s country music scene. In contrast to Berklee, which focuses on music education, Belmont is a broad-based liberal arts school with dozens of academic programs. It also happens to be widely recognized as one of the best schools for music production in the country.
But you won’t leave school with a degree in music production. Music production is an emphasis that’s part of Berklee’s music business major. The emphasis involves successful completion of about nine classes, most having to do with aspects of producing music.
The music business major involves accounting, finance, management, economics and other business classes along with music-specific instruction in publishing, copyright law, artist management and more. You can also choose to study commercial music technology with an emphasis on technology.
According to Billboard Magazine, the school is one of the 15 best music business schools in the nation. The school is soon to open a new performing arts center. Belmont overall has about 8,000 students. Tuition and fees for 2018-2019 are $34,219.
Image via music.indiana.edu
Indiana University is another Midwestern institution of higher education that makes our list of the best schools for music production. IU’s central campus is in Bloomington, a short drive south of Indianapolis.
Students who pursue their passion for producing here will have the opportunity to earn a bachelor's degree in audio engineering and sound production. As part of your studies here, you'll have to select a specific concentration. Among your choices are concentrations in the music business, arts administration, cinema and media production, and game design.
The engineering and sound production degree gives a broad-based understanding of the recording arts and combines core requirements in business and general education. The larger Jacobs School of Music includes other courses of study in areas such as music performance.
The degree sequence leading toward a bachelor’s in recording arts also offers countless opportunities for hands-on learning. The school’s website indicates that students will participate in recording more than 700 hours of various music ensembles at the school. Tuition and fees for out-of-state students at Indiana University are $35,000 for the current school year.
Middle Tennessee State University
Image via mtsu.edu
Students at Middle Tennessee State University are also working toward degrees at one of the nation's best schools for music production. Attend this college, also in the heartland, and you'll have many choices for your music business focus. MTSU is located in Murfreesboro, just a little outside of Nashville.
Middle Tennessee offers degree programs in audio production, commercial songwriting, and the general music business. Students in these fields will complete 10 or 11 classes in general education along with a similar number targeting the core of their interest and concentration.
Those who pursue their passion for music production may also be able to gain expertise in MTSU's College of Media and Entertainment and the Department of Media Arts.
Tuition and fees for out-of-state students in the current school year were a little more than $27,000. The school has an established track record of success. For instance, one of its graduates earned a Grammy Award after working as a producer on a highly successful children's album. Performers have also added to MTSU's Grammy-winning alumni.
Image via vpa.syr.edu
Music production students at Syracuse University can pursue a degree program in sound recording technology at the Setnor School of Music, or recording and allied industries at the Newhouse School of Public Communications.
The Setnor School also offers a degree in the music industry, which is targeted more towards musicians than the technicians and the business people out there.
The recording and allied industries major focuses on giving students an all-around understanding of the business of music. Students admitted to the program learn about the "media, marketing, and entrepreneurship." Though housed in the Newhouse School, this program is taught by educators from both management and visual and performing arts sequences.
Audio engineering students learn to serve several masters. That includes the creative, business and technical sides of the profession. After all, a song is only successful if it’s mixed, marketed and performed in the best possible way.
You’ll also have core requirements and will need to come with a sharp ear for good music. Tuition for the current school year at Syracuse stands at a little over $50,000.
Image via hello.fullsail.edu
Every good list needs one surprise, and this is ours. We found a consensus in our research at the Full Sail University, in Orlando, Florida, belongs on our list of the best schools for music production. Full Sail specializes in students interested in careers in music, performance, and entertainment.
Of the colleges we researched, Full Sail has the most diverse set of potential music production majors. These range from audio and music production to entertainment business, music business, recording arts and show production.
One advantage of Full Sail is that the school focuses specifically on the various disciplines. As well, Full Sail provides instruction at an accelerated pace with a larger number of credit hours per month than most traditional universities.
That allows you to complete your degree in as few as 20 months. The university also offers several programs as part of its distance learning program.
Full Sail handles tuition a little differently than traditional universities as well. The all-in cost will vary depending on your program. That is if you earn your degree in 20 months. A 20-month music business program, for instance, has a total tuition cost of $60,000.
Finding the Right Campus
The world of music production offers fast-paced thrills and lightning-fast changes. Students who love music but aren't themselves performers will find numerous opportunities.
And given the transformation in the music business, from analog to digital, new opportunities for applying music arise every year. Take a close look at our list of the best schools for music production. You might find a place to call home. And wind up on stage at the Grammy Awards!