Should You Go to School for Music Production?

By
Charles Hoffman
November 19, 2017

Let me start this off by saying that I'm a firm believer that with enough time and focus, you can learn anything on the internet. In fact, I learned how to code and design this website on the internet. Blogs, forums and YouTube videos are free sources of information just waiting to be taken advantage of. A number of years ago it was much harder to find quality music production resources. With the massive swell in popularity that EDM has seen over the past 10 years, there are more people producing music and more people creating tutorials than ever before. With so many resources at your fingertips, is it a wise decision to go to school for music production?

What You'll Learn at School

I'm a graduate of a school called Icon Collective that operates out of Burbank, CA. They offer a 12-month intensive music production program that covers all of the following:

  • Apple Logic Pro
  • Arrangement
  • Ableton Live
  • Keyboard Techniques (Music Theory)
  • Studio Techniques
  • Music Business
  • The Art of Flow (Unlocking Your Creativity)
  • Songwriting
  • Synthesis
  • Ear Training

You don't need to attend school to learn all these things, but the biggest benefit of attending school is that you're surrounded by like-minded people (all of whom are music producers). There are essentially two types of learning that take place. There's the formal learning that takes place inside a classroom, and then there's the informal learning that happens when you're kickin' it with your school homies, crushing 40s and writing bangers on your laptop. Between these two types of learning, the rate at which you'll learn music production will skyrocket.

One of the side effects of learning solely from the internet is that there will be massive holes in your production knowledge. Let's say you've spent months learning sound design and you can write the craziest dubstep leads. This is awesome, but when someone wants to collaborate with you and record a vocalist, are you going to feel comfortable stepping into a professional studio to do that? By attending music production school, you cover all your bases. The result is that you become a "complete" producer, ready to take on any and all challenges.

How Much School Costs

Most music production schools cost around $20k+ for a one year program. Your goals are the determining factor when it comes to whether or not you can justify the cost of school. Personally, I was looking to make a career for myself in the music industry. I knew that this is what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life. I also knew that even if it took a while, one of my goals was to be making money producing music for myself and others.

The school you choose and the friendships you create can really make or break your experience. A couple of my peers attended other schools that strictly taught audio engineering but avoided things like music theory, synthesis, etc. The biggest complaint I hear from these friends is that what they learned wasn't practical in today's music production climate. If you're making EDM, you aren't recording bands, so why would you pay to go to school to learn how to record bands? It doesn't make any sense. Finding a school that's going to meet your needs and then talking to graduates of that school about their time there is your best bet. If they're excited about it and tell you they made a good decision by going, take the leap yourself!

What You Can Expect Once You Graduate

You may luck out and get hired in a studio somewhere (which many people hope happens), but the reality is that you're going to need to carve your own path and force yourself into the music industry. I'm not going to sugar coat it and say that this is something that's easy to do. I had been told by countless people that starting a business was hard, and especially difficult in the music industry. Little did I know that this meant I'd be battling crippling self-doubt, financial strain and the complete destruction of my social life. The only reason that I've been able to get to where I am now is that I've set goals and had the perseverance to knock them down one at a time.

School probably won't directly get you a job, but it will give you the tools necessary to create your own job. When it comes to music production, I can thank Icon Collective and my peers for teaching me all that I know. However, it takes drive, dedication, and determination to make music production a viable career path. No one is going to hand you a golden ticket with your new job title on it. You're going to have to scrape, tooth and claw, out of the belly of your day job. To me, the constant daily struggles that come along with running a business are worth it. I get to interact with amazing artists and work on music every single day.

Was school worth it? It was for me. It accelerated my production knowledge to a point that has allowed me to work professionally. Whether it's worth it for you depends on your goals, as well as your level of motivation. If music production is a true passion of yours, I encourage you to attend school. Don't let your fear of job insecurity stand in the way. If you want it bad enough, you'll find a way to make music production a viable career choice.

Author:
Charles Hoffman

Charles is a Mixing and Mastering Engineer at Black Ghost Audio. After graduating from the University of Manitoba with an English degree, Charles continued his education at Icon Collective, a music production school based out of Los Angeles, CA. He is the founder of Black Ghost Audio, an audio engineering company that creates educational content for music producers. You can send him a work inquiry at www.blackghostaudio.com or contact charles@blackghostaudio.com.