Do you need a music degree to make a living as a musician?

I think that a question a lot of young aspiring musicians have is.

Is studying music a good choice?

Well yes and no! Do you need the education to make money as a musician? NO!

  Nobody cares about your bachelors degree.

The thing about education today is that in many parts of the world education is so expensive! And frankly, you don’t need a degree to become a musician!

In Norway, where I live we have a free education system which is awesome. So when I studied music, I only paid for the cost of living. The cost of your education something that you should consider. Because my education only cost me my time, I didn’t really have to get that big of a payday to make it worth my while from a monetary perspective.

Is a music career for me?

When you’re deciding if you want a career in music you really have to ask yourself, Do you find practicing fun? Because if not, it’s an uphill battle that I don’t think you should pursue.

Of course, today, some of the best-paid musicians are not actually musicians with a music degree and you might be one in 100,000 that might succeed with relatively little effort. But its a bet with bad probabilities!

How much money do musicians make?

This depends a lot. Musicians get paid anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars a gig to millions! But most regular musicians are subsidizing their performance practice with a teaching practice.

How do musicians make money?

There are a lot of ways for a musician to make money. In today’s world, there are many independent artists that are making millions by having a relatively small, but engaged social following. 1000 raving fans might pay you better than the scraps from being under an agency. However, As an independent artist, you have to be your own marketing machine, which is a lot of work!

Make money on Youtube as a musician

As a musician, you can also make youtube videos and earn ad revenue! But you have to be really entertaining to succeed at this because to be able to make any significant kind of money on ads you have to have a lot of traffic! You get paid anywhere from 1 USD to 20 USD per thousand ad impressions.

Sell merch

If you have a social following and reaving fans you can also sell merch! Putting up a Shopify Store is something that anyone can do today! And you don’t have to hold any inventory if you don’t want to! There are companies out there who will hold your merch, fulfill the order and ship it so you don’t have to.

Play gigs

Playing gigs is the old fashion way of doing things. There will always be a place for good live music, but the gigs that pay good money are really competitive so you have to be exceptionally good to get those.

Teach online!

You can also teach an online course as a musician. This is a very lucrative route to go in terms of the money you can make. But if you don’t know your stuff please, don’t just put another crappy course out there.

What about Spotify or Itunes?

Selling music through one of these platforms is relatively easy with a service like CD baby. I definitely think you should sell your own music. But you need high volume to make it profitable. If you sell your track for 1 USD iTunes takes 30% then you have to pay taxes on it. You will earn about half of the selling price with sales tax excluded!

The upside is that you can make it completely passive! Royalties are awesome! In many cases, you earn very little, but you also get a completely passive income source that is separated from your time expenditure.


License your tracks through Envato markets!

Another thing you can do if you know how to produce music is to sell a license for your tracks through a marketplace like Envato markets. Creators are always looking for good music to use in their project and a lot of people use marketplaces like Envato to fulfill their needs! Here is a link to the audio marketplace if you want to check it out.

You can make music for video games, commercial, really anything you want and there are probably people who might pay you for it. But again to succeed at this you generally have to be a good musician!

Focus on marketing!

If you really want to be a “successful” musician you have to focus on becoming valuable to the marketplace and you should spend a good portion of your time doing content creation! Generally content is king.

There are hundreds of ways to monetize music and your creativity is the only thing that limits you. But a life of a musician is not a safe way to go in terms of your earning potential and you’re at the mercy of your audience! But you can make money in many ways as a musician, no doubt!

What did I get out of my education?

Well, I studied music for 3 years in high school then 3 years in a music conservatory.

The value of a music education is not really in the education you receive but in the like-minded people that you will meet!

Full disclosure, I didn’t finish my degree and had to drop out due to some health issues that prevented me from pursuing a career in music. I have psoriasis in my fingers so practicing 4-6 hours a day became very painful!

As you get into a higher music education institution you will discover how high the bar is set and how good you have to be to become a “professional”. Here is some good news for you, most musicians are crappy marketers so it might not be as hard as you think to make money on your music!

Think about how you position yourself in the marketplace and develop a brand.

Then you will be ahead of many extremely talented musicians. If nobody knows you it doesn’t matter if you’re the best musician in the world! (At least from a monetary perspective)

Should I pursue a music education?

Well, studying music is great. And the environment and the openness of the people are awesome. However, to make money, a music degree is not something that you need at all.

Nobody cares about your bachelor’s in performing arts.


Music is art. Just focus on making stuff that moves people or is really entertaining and you’ll be golden!

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