If you want to work in the music industry as anything other than a performing artist, you may want to consider going to school and earning a music technology degree, which is something many people reading this article may not have thought about.
For decades (the better part of a century, really), the music industry was simple: make art and sell it. There were other sources of income (touring, merchandise sales, and so on), but for the most part, record executives found Singers and bands they felt the public would love, and everyone from the musicians to the Songwriters to the Producers (and even the team at the label) relied on instinct and intuition to do the rest.
Until the ‘80s, real instruments were used, and recording tech wasn’t anywhere near as sophisticated as it is today. Now, everything is tech-focused, and this trend isn’t going to change anytime soon.
Streaming drives the industry, data tells labels what to promote next and what trends are about to take over, and everything is produced electronically (well, almost everything). Technology is more important than ever in almost every field, with music being no exception, even though it’s still an art form that can’t be perfected.
A music technology degree is one of the safest bets a young person can make to ensure their future in this tricky business, but where does one go to take classes and learn everything there is to know about the latest tech, the newest devices, and what may be coming next in this fast-paced environment?
Here are the best schools to earn a music technology degree at:
- Berklee College of Music
- New York University
- Carnegie Mellon University
- University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
- Brown University
- University of Southern California
Location: Boston, MA
As perhaps the best school in the world when it comes to almost any music degree (especially ones focused on the business, not just the art itself), it’s no surprise Berklee College of Music has a core focus specifically in music technology or that there are many, many classes suggested that touch on everything thrilling for the tech geek in you.
Notably, Berklee College of Music offers those students who feel they are already well-versed in all things music technology a chance to test out of having to take a number of intro-level courses. If a young person only knows some programs or has a basic understanding of the tech used in creating today’s biggest hits and pushing them to the masses, even attempting to test out of these classes probably isn’t a good idea, as they are the foundation for what comes later in the degree program.
If, however, someone really has spent the time and learned an incredible amount at a young age, taking those courses will be a waste of both time and money (very important resources for everyone), and they should try to move beyond them quickly.
How do you know if you’re potentially ready to test out of this requirement? Look at Berklee College of Music’s glossary of vocabulary words you need to be familiar with, and if you don’t know even a few of them, you may want to suck it up and take the class!
Location: New York City, NY
New York University’s Steinhardt school is an excellent choice for anyone looking to one day work in music, and the institution has a fully-formed music technology degree encompassing a wide range of arts and tech courses and which, in the words of the program itself, provides “a solid foundation in music technology and the liberal arts for a career in fields like sound engineering, post-production, electronic music, and more.”
In addition to a number of liberal arts and music-only classes required to earn this degree, there are a large number of music tech-specific courses every student needs to complete and they highlight how deep everyone gets to dive into this field.
NYU courses like Computer Music Synthesis, Analog Electronics Lab, Analog Recording Technology, and the Music Technology Internship (which may wind up being the most valuable when it comes to furthering a career later on) may sound a bit intimidating at first, but those come later on, so there’s plenty of time to learn what you need in order to succeed.
Those who already know (or have an idea) they will want to go on to pursue a master’s degree in the same area of expertise (which is almost a requirement for many jobs these days) will be interested to know New York University offers a great deal that allows students to sign up for both a bachelor’s and a master’s in music, which most learners can complete in just five years.
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Like a few other names on this list, Carnegie Mellon University is often thought of as an institution, and while that is certainly true, this sort of title makes it feel…dated, which is simply not the case when it comes to this Pennsylvania favorite. The undergraduate program, known simply as Music & Technology, is branded as “a collaborative approach to the future of music,” and it strives to be exactly that.
The program, which is now a decade old, was co-created by Carnegie Mellon’s School of Music, School of Computer Science, and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, so it’s not difficult to believe this truly is a music technology degree and not just a music degree featuring up-to-date software.
Students who complete this area of study end up with a bachelor’s of science in Music and Technology, and they can then go on to secure a master’s of science with the same name, though of course, the classes featured in that program are much more advanced.
The university highlights the many different options students who complete a degree in music and technology will have when they go out into the world, listing the many fields former attendees have found work in, such as audio engineering, interactive music software, music robotics, recording technology, and even music information retrieval, which sees scientists diving into the billions of points of data to see what they can learn.
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Located in one of the country’s largest college cities, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is not messing around when it comes to music technology degrees, as it is trying to cement its status as the destination for those prospective learners who want to be involved in music’s future.
The school’s Performing Arts Technology area of study features three different and worthwhile degrees: a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Performing Arts Technology, a Bachelor of Music in Music & Technology, and a Bachelor of Science in Sound Engineering. Some of these options were created for those who want to be musicians, or who simply want to make sure they get to perform as part of their working lives, while others are centered squarely around the tech powering the industry.
Even some of the best schools in the world that offer music technology degrees don’t have this many choices, so if you’re not entirely sure which route you want to take as you enter your freshman year, but you know music and tech needs to be a big part of your professional life moving forward, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor may be exactly what you need.
The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor’s music division is so focused on ensuring the next generation is technologically literate, it even offers a program for students not yet in college. The Girls in Music & Technology courses aim to get young women into producing music and advancing the tech powering the tunes we all hear today. Offered for just $900 to those still in grades nine through 12, it’s actually a pretty good deal.
Location: Providence, RI
While it’s certainly a phenomenal university, Brown isn’t known specifically as a music school, so it doesn’t offer a music technology degree…though this doesn’t mean tech doesn’t factor into the music degrees available. In fact, it seems to be prominently featured, and there are courses catering to those looking to ensure they have the technological wherewithal to carry them to the career they want.
Computers and Music is the best example of a class that shows the school, which has been around for centuries, isn’t stuck in the past. The Introduction to Music Production course is also an excellent choice, as it is “designed to develop technical skills and critical listening ability in combination with the students’ exploration of the creative potential of music technology.”
Location: Los Angeles, CA
The University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music doesn’t call its music technology degree by that name, in part because it blends so many other aspects of the business and the art form. Having said this, it is offered under an umbrella called the Music Technology program, so it’s safe to say this institution is at home on this list.
The main degree those who are interested in living in Los Angeles (which could be huge when it comes to meeting other musicians, networking in the industry, and finding jobs, internships, and opportunities to perform) will want to check out is referred to as simply a Bachelor of Music in Production, but tech plays a big role in those courses.
For those who may be looking to focus on something else, but still work in music and receive a tech-heavy education, they can take on a minor in either music production or music recording, both of which are housed under the Music Technology program header.