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Berklee, a High-Priced Music School, Releases a Depressing Report on Music Jobs…

If the math on ‘regular’ college is starting to look suspect, what about the math on music schools and conservatories?

Perhaps the Berklee College of Music, a place where the annual cost of attendance can quickly soar past $62,000, is now answering the question on its own.  Because when you come out the other end, the real world is an increasingly brutal place for musicians.

Ironically, a report from Berklee itself is now reaffirming this reality. According to a rather dreary report on musician jobs released by the school this week, most musicians are struggling with moderate salaries (at best), are underemployed in their chosen craft, and are working multiple gigs to get by.  And, session gigs, recording gigs, and salaried positions are all on the decline. Here’s a quick summary of Berklee’s report on the state of musical employment in 2012.  The findings were based on a sample of 5,371 musicians and composers, conducted by the Future of Music Coalition (and released this year).

(1) Musicians are underemployed:

40 percent said they spend more than 36 hours a week doing music.

42 percent said they derived all of their personal income from music.

(2) A substantial number need to supplement their musical salares with non-musical income:

Average personal gross income of survey respondents was $55,561.

The average estimated music income was $34,455.

(3) A vast majority paid handsomely for a music degree (with a significant percentage likely in debt):

80 percent have a college degree or higher.

(4) Most musicians are working multiple gigs, non-stop to make these moderate salaries:

More than half of respondents are earning money from three roles or more. It gets worse, according to the Berklee stats.  Because over the past five years — undoubtedly a stressed-out period economically in the US, world, and music industry — musicians have watched their earnings power and available work erode.  In fact, most categories are fighting to maintain their previous levels of employment, or struggling under declines.

But wait: didn’t we already know this? At least at a top level?  The answer, of course, is yes: parents are notorious for trying to steer their children away from music, simply because the jobs are erratic and the pay is lousy.  But for those committed to their passions, perhaps the question is whether it makes sense to commit hundreds of thousands of dollars to a musical education that will probably lead to a life of Ramen and long-term debt.  Or, if that’s even a luxury young musicians can realistically entertain anymore. The full report, which includes a range of salaries and music-related job details, can be found here.

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Comments (15)
  1. Yair

    Depresseing as hell.


    Reply
  2. Rikki

    As a DJ i have never seen so much crap being made today….cant anyone sing without electronics? cant anyone play a danceable guitar solo?

    Its like the last days of disco….cheap throwaway disposable McMusic.

    show me some real kick ass musicians…hmmm that’s a rarity today too……


    Reply
    1. jim byers

      Unfortunately the music “business” is run by accountants. There are plenty of fine artists but they have to play crap to get air time. Don’t blame the musicians.


      Reply
  3. anon

    A culture which refuses to properly validate it’s artists of all disciplines who do good work does so at the risk of it’s own evolution.


    Reply
  4. Keenan McCloud

    Interesting stats, however the problem with this is that the industry as a whole has changed and as should the education to work within this industry. Labels need someone that can do it all, so if you are lucky enough to have the talent and creativity they want and the management skills to back it up (such as a degree) than you are only costing less expenses and putting more cash in your pocket. So before you start blowin’ that horn, think about the big picture. Education today is a business move, you’re only expanding your network, you don’t know that the person next to you is the next John Lennon or Mariah Carey. So to bash a school for its poor performance within the industry is not the schools fault, its more so on the hunger and creativity upon the individuals…and Paul, Go Bruins.


    Reply
  5. Beeftwerky

    Money and art have seldom coexisted. I get Rolling Stone in the mail. The folks that make the headlines are making money but the music is expendable. Nobody is gonna be remembered 20 years from now for playing a bunch of loops. It’s like Wall Mart mentality where you just want to grab it and go. Everybody wants to be the next great teen sensation and we never hear from the next Willie Nelson or Pink Floyd because that requires something other than hype and sex and let’s face it, attention spans are getting shorter and shorter and a good looking ass will make people stare a second or two longer. That’s the goal. Good music is an afterthought.


    Reply
  6. zog

    I’m quite surprised that anyone who can afford to pay $62,000 dollars a year is shocked about this ? This is the cost today of going to school and if you didn’t understand the realities of music and business before, then why are you or your kid going there? Its the same as med or law school the odds on making a fortune are low for those careers , even bankers are having a tough time.


    Reply
  7. Keenan McCloud

    Interesting stats, however the problem with this is that the industry as a whole has changed and as should the education to work within this industry. Labels need someone that can do it all, so if you are lucky enough to have the talent and creativity they want and the management skills to back it up (such as a degree) than you are only costing less expenses and putting more cash in your pocket. So before you start blowin’ that horn, think about the big picture. Education today is a business move, you’re only expanding your network, you don’t know that the person next to you is the next John Lennon or Mariah Carey. So to bash a school for its poor performance within the industry is not the schools fault, its more so on the hunger and creativity upon the individuals…and Paul, Go Bruins.


    Reply
  8. danwriter

    The story is datelined Tuesday, November 27, 2012, and the Berklee report is from 2012. I’m not suggesting that things have gotten much better for musicians since then but why put a two-year-old report up now?


    Reply
  9. Sgroovez

    How many graduates are employed vs. those that drop out?


    Reply
  10. Aaron

    I graduated Berklee in 2010 owing a wonderful sum of $142,000 in private and federal loans. I now spend almost every waking hour working a crappy salary job that has nothing to do with music just so I can make ends meet and pay my minimum on my loan every month. Life is good.


    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      I don’t think that’s exclusive to people that went to music school. That’s a very common scenario for people with all kinds of degrees. It’s not indicative of a problem w/ the Music Industry, but with the whole American university system as a whole.


      Reply
      1. BS

        Exactly. I agree. Most of the post-secondary system is bent on teaching out-of-date concepts and wrote memorization. For the foreseeable future skills that help students design technology/computing/apps etc should be the focus. I guess there is also the corrupt financial sector (boo), but generally speaking most conventional degrees don’t give students the right skills for today’s job market. Sad and true.


        Reply
  11. Kids

    There is absolutely no way anyone with any sense is going to enroll In a music school. Berklee, Full Sail, SAR or any of the others. Stop the madness. You are better off going to cosmetology school.


    Reply

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