If you're a self-taught musician or producer who's already making progress, you may have found yourself wondering if investing in an audio education is worth it. If that sounds like you, this article is here to help you make up your mind.
It's common for DIY artists to weigh up the merits of formal music technology education, especially if you're already gigging, releasing music and building a following. After all, you can learn a lot just by trawling through content posted on the internet. While learning this way works for some, this route does have some pitfalls that can slow and ultimately limit your progress. For one, searching YouTube for tutorials on getting 'that sound' can be incredibly time-consuming. Too many options scattered around the virtual labyrinth can really inhibit your progress and leave you experiencing 'choice paralysis'.
Even if you've achieved a lot this way, an audio education at a dedicated institute can help you improve at a much faster pace than going it alone. If you've been thinking about your career prospects, improving your creative output and are considering a music tech degree, here's what you stand to gain from choosing this path.
1. Get better, faster with feedback from experts and peers
Arguably the most valuable outcome for self-taught musicians and producers is improving at a faster rate. There are many reasons why an audio education will help you get better results than going it alone and one of the most useful mechanisms for this is feedback. While it's true you can get feedback from friends and other artists in your niche, the value of this can be limited, especially within the bubble of a specific scene. Feedback from experts spanning multiple areas of the industry and various disciplines will often be much more objective and useful. Improving on this type of feedback will help you develop much faster.
Being among peers who also love music but might be interested in different styles and genres to you is another great advantage. As you are learning together, this creates what's known as a 'community of practice' where skills and techniques are shared between members alongside those taught by educators. When a range of production techniques that are typically used across different genres are shared throughout the community, a melting pot of ideas is created where styles, tastes and techniques converge. Being at the centre of a community like this has many benefits that will speed up your learning and broaden your horizons.
2. Real-world industry experience using state of the art equipment
Working in the box using a DAW and VST plugins is a fantastic way to get started with music production, but you can easily fall into the trap of staying in your comfort zone when producing like this. In reality, a career in the audio industry is multifaceted. Professionals can take on many roles, finding themselves working in studio recording, live sound, sound design, immersive audio, game audio, sync, audio engineering and more. The list goes on and on.
A music tech degree provides the opportunity to learn in state of the art facilities, like those found in many areas of the industry. Working on assignments that match and simulate real-world settings, using industry-standard equipment, expands your ability to step into the field and pick up work in multiple areas with greater confidence and competence.
3. A broader perspective
One point we already touched on was being around tutors and peers who might be interested in different genres or have experience in areas of the industry that might be new to you. Exposure to a broad mix of tastes and knowledge can lead to discoveries, inspiration and new areas of interest. Gaining a broader perspective almost always leads to more exciting opportunities as your scope is naturally wider with more on your radar.
4. Collaboration opportunities
If you talk with established music producers and ask them how they honed their craft, you'll often find collaborating with others is one of the first things they mention. Music tech degrees are built on collaboration at every step and you'll find yourself being able to work with like-minded people, who are on the same journey as you.
Whenever you team up on a project (there are many opportunities), you'll always come away from the experience having learnt something new. Many exciting acts and future ventures are born out of connections made in education, someone you collaborate with at university might become your future musical partner.
5. A more focussed and direct learning experience
Learning on your own can be rewarding but there's a lot to be gained from a more structured, direct and holistic approach.
The human brain thrives on structure and stability and is able to assimilate new ideas much faster, if the information is presented in a planned and orderly way. Our graduates often tell us how they benefit from a more structured approach to learning and thinking about music production, compared to when they were teaching themselves.
Following a learning plan and course structure with assignments that have deadlines (yes deadlines!) pushes you to become more organised and disciplined. Developing proactive working habits as a result of this practice can produce substantial workflow gains alongside the knowledge and skills acquired. Learning about the industry in a more holistic manner compared to focusing on one area of production is another key benefit to embarking on a music tech diploma. Developing your ability in many areas will help you become a more rounded professional.
6. Networking opportunities and industry links
We already discussed the benefits of collaborating, which is a form of networking and there are many other opportunities to discover as well. Audio institutions employ lecturers who have worked - and still participate - in the wider industry. They can connect you with the right people to help with projects, find work placements, collaboration opportunities and more if you are willing and proactive to seek out connections.
Students often make connections at industry guest lectures. We enlist experts from each corner of the sound and music industry to host talks, lectures and seminars for our students. Some recent examples include Ableton Live Education Tours and talks from Spotify marketing experts. Our guests often leave business cards or point students towards contacts, who can help with various career paths or ways to connect with industry.
Interacting with students in other year groups or on other courses also creates networking opportunities. At dBs, we regularly hold events where students can meet up and make new connections. This can snowball into finding new social groups, music scenes and more. Being part of a wider community opens up many doors, that you wouldn't find if you were learning on your own.
7. Better career prospects
Many of the areas covered already point to reasons why an audio education can lead to better career prospects. Learning more holistically, developing faster, gaining a broader perspective and real-world experience, in state of the art facilities, all add up. Alongside the more obvious gains, institutions like dBs also work directly with employers to negotiate work experience placements and find employment opportunities for our students. Information like this is shared within the community. We also provide academic and career support, preparing you for the next step in your journey.
Getting started in audio education can be exciting and we understand there can be a lot to consider. If you would like any further information about our courses or the career opportunities that await after graduation, please feel free to contact our admissions team. Alternatively, our open days are a great way to see first-hand what life is like studying at dBs. At these events, you can meet our tutors in person, take a look around our facilities and also ask any questions you may have. If you would like to attend an open day, check out our schedule of forthcoming events.
Ready to take your music-making to the next level? Check out our full range of undergraduate degrees.