Graduated College? Working at Starbucks? Welcome to the Music Industry!

Graduated College? Working at Starbucks? Welcome to the Music Industry!

Graduated college? Working at Starbucks? Welcome to the music industry!

You might think I’m making fun of you, however I’m not only the President for this club…I’m also a member! Racking up a whopping 10 years in college, I now spend the majority of my days in a recording studio or out on a stage playing guitar. That’s right, playing guitar. Good thing I studied differential equations and genetics.

“The average cost of tuition and fees for the 2015–2016 school year was $32,405 at private colleges, $9,410 for state residents at public colleges, and $23,893 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.” (, 2015) Per year! Lucky me for attending a private university for a substantial amount of that time. For those of you who are paying back these loans, I’m deeply sorry for your decades long committed relationship to Stafford (or whomever is collecting on behalf of the government these days). Don’t feel bad, it’s not just the music industry. Only 27% of college graduates actually have a job related to their major. (Washington Post, 2013)

For those of you who are new to Nashville and haven’t attended college, I bet you’re reading this and thinking you’ve dogged a bullet. Think again. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but as my grandpa might say, “You’re full of energy, optimism, and stupidity.” Let me put that into context. If you had gone to a university, you would have learned some very useful basic skills. Among which are lessons in timeliness, organization, multitasking, stress management, and perhaps even futility - There’s always that one professor that will never be pleased. The good news is we have a section called “New to Nashville”… that’s worth a read.

Regardless as to where you come from, there is one major realization that we must all come to grips with. We don’t know everything. Please don’t tell my stepfather this…that concept would crush him. Other career paths, from accounting to physical therapy to psychology, all have yearly requirements of continuing education. Additionally, people often go to seminars to improve their skills, resulting in out-of-pocket costs in the thousands. This is considered standard practice. It’s for the benefit of their career… that thing that buys bacon and dog biscuits. There should be no difference in the music industry.

This is your career, right?… not a fly by night fantasy? Maybe you want to be a successful artist, a songwriter, an engineer, a graphic designer for the superstars. Hopefully, you already are! The quickest way for you to end your career is to stall out because you decided, “I know everything there is to know about what I’m doing.” You don’t. Neither do I. Nor does George Straight. We must continue to educate ourselves on our craft. How do we do that?

I proposed an idea last year that is essentially “design your own college”. Recently, I spoke to four separate online universities who quoted me a cost between $1,800-$3,200 per class. These classes ran from five to twelve weeks long, but would be considered the same amount of actual “work”. When I was told these costs, I asked myself what else could I do for the same amount of money? I pulled out a pen and started writing.

  1. Vocal Lessons / Guitar Lessons from a top rated instructor. $250-350/hour. (10 hours ~ $3,000)
  2. Live Music Production. $1,250-2,500 a day. (1-2 days ~ $2,500)
  3. Dancing Lessons. $100/hour. (8 weeks, 3 times a week ~ $2,400)
  4. Motivational or Sales Seminar with flight/hotel. (3-5 day seminar ~ $2,300)

This is where you can get really creative. I started writing my favorite guitar players in the world: Paul Gilbert, Eddie Van Halen, Brian May… and the list just keeps going. In an email to their manager I would write, “I’m looking to book a master class with your client. I would like 2-3 hours to sit down with Paul and ask questions about his view on the instrument. I’m willing to come anywhere in the U.S. or Western Europe to do this. Please let me know what your fee would be and preferably three viable times and locations. Thank you. Regards.” I was fortunate enough to have some of my idols say yes to this request. Tell me what that kind of experience is worth, because I still have a hard time wrapping my head around it. It’s certainly worth what I would pay a college for to attend English 101.

All of this to quite simply say two things. 

  1. To be successful you need to continue your education, and 
  2. Be not afraid of the costs that may come with it.

Keep in mind that this is your career. You are investing in yourself and your experiences. What’s more valuable than your success in an industry that you are passionate about? Nothing.

Figure out what you want to learn…Now, find a way to do it.


Washington Post

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