First of all, it’s been a while since my last post. That’s because I was working on my new book “Making It As Successful Recording Artist- Pro Tips And Core Essentials From An Industry Professional”, which you can get now on Amazon for Kindle or in paperback. It’s a great foundational guide on your path to success as an artist.
Second, I’m going to start this post with the uncomfortable truth that parents are not going to want to hear. If you aspire to become a recording artist, then going to college or a university for music is probably the dumbest thing you can do.
For decades, the narrative has been pushed that going to college is the greatest thing you can do in life. That narrative is simply false. In fact, financially speaking, it’s one of the worst decisions you can make if you aspire to be a recording artist. That also goes for almost any career that is not tied to getting a job that requires academic credentials.
There are many professions that an academic degree provides better access to, because of the fact that those professions have been set up to require academic institutional credentials to prove accreditation. And that’s warranted, if you’re looking to be a doctor, a psychologist, an engineer- or one of many other vocations where that industry requires technical expertise to acquire a job position. The academic system of validation has been created and entrenched in society for several centuries, so whether that system is fair, is a moot point, and not a debate for this post. But when it comes to being a music artist, then the last thing you need is to be saddled with the kind of debt that comes with most bachelor’s degrees and higher education.
Now I’ll probably get a lot of pushback from people who have academic backgrounds that love to point to their alma mater as a major catalyst to their success. And many parents are often those very people trying to create a secure path for their children. Naturally, the most important thing to them is a “well rounded” education that will help their child have something to “fall back on”, should the very risky endeavor of becoming a successful music artist not work out.
But this advice is from people who generally have no idea what they’re talking about when they advise young adults that want to become recording artists about a future.
People attend college for many reasons but the overwhelming majority of students tend to go to college because their parents, society, and general media messaging tells us that that’s what you’re supposed to do. But if you aspire to be a recording artist, then the accepted ways of lIfe paths go out the window. There is no script to becoming a success as an artist. There are some important strategies that have worked for many artists, but the way in which those are implemented vary from person to person and situation to situation, and are always changing and evolving. Either way, the pursuit of any career requires money and an investment in yourself. The music business is no exception.
That all being said, starting your career at a deficit of $100,000 to $200,000 in student loans, just so you can have a memorable social experience and learn general knowledge that you can easily learn from other sources, is hardly a winning strategy. That’s a lot of money that could be used to produce and develop your music, develop your fanbase, perform live, and promote your music. That’s a lot harder to do when you’re paying off a debt of several hundred dollars a month for many years. A debt, incidentally, that can not be forgiven through bankruptcy.
And where does that money go? To the school, of course. Which means you’re helping the owners and shareholders of your school make their dreams come true- not yours. In addition to that, the cost of college has wildly increased in the past few decades – even more than the cost of health care – thanks to low interest student loans. I’m not saying low interest student loans aren’t a good thing, but they have encouraged academic institutions to offer more incentives to attract students- incentives that often have nothing to do with learning. Things like new sports facilities and food courts with high end restaurants are big selling points for schools. Schools primarily care about their bottom line. So if students can get government subsidized money – taxpayer money – to increase the school’s profits, then attracting those students (and that money) by any means, is to their benefit.
So what’s the right choice? Well either way, there are no guarantees of success no matter what profession you choose. And no one can choose your life path for you. And I think it’s safe to say that in the post pandemic world, there is no such thing as “security” when it comes to almost any career path. But there is something to be said for the artist’s path – you will learn things that are far less emphasized at an academic institution, and far more valuable in the real world. Things like self reliance, building your own business, selling, DIY marketing, managing your money and resources, problem solving, and overcoming obstacles and adversity. Essentially, you’ll become a better leader.
There’s a great saying that the artist’s path is embodied by: “Life gives you the test first, and then gives you the lesson.” But that’s the exact reverse in the world of academia which teaches you to be obedient, follow the rules, don’t question authority, regurgitate information, and don’t think differently, so you can fit into an employee role somewhere, to fill the majority of employment opportunities in the world. All of these behaviors tend to be highly rewarded in academia, but it’s the inverse of these that are highly rewarded in the creative world.
So before you cave in to parental pressure, peer pressure, societal pressure, or insecurities and fear, think about how bad you want to become a recording artist. Maybe take a year or two off after high school. Save some money for a while. Work with a mentor that can help you learn about what’s entailed in becoming a recording artist. Work on some music. You can always go back to college if you decide it’s not for you, or after you have a better idea of how college fits into your life plan, and whether it’s worth it. In 2022, after decades of scripted thinking through an academic system that has promoted conformity, the old ways of thinking- go to school, get a job, and live happily ever after, just don’t apply anymore. Creative people require creative plans.