February 11, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
The University of the Arts
Pennsylvania State University
Colorado Mesa University
Hawaii Pacific University
University of Puget Sound
Oral Roberts University
Seminole State College of Florida
Oral Roberts University
Northern Virginia Community College
Experiential Learning and Career DevelopmentWebsite
A.J. Merlino: I believe young graduates need to be well versed in all areas of the music industry. New graduates in music should understand how the entertainment industry ecosystem works, balancing artistry, business, and technology. Specifically, understanding intellectual property law, event promotion, marketing, artist management, music production/engineering, composing/songwriting/arranging, and technical mastery of their instrument(s). Relevant knowledge of hardware and software such as ProTools, Ableton, Logic, Sibelius, Artist Growth, and Photoshop to reinforce the aforementioned content areas will allow students to apply their knowledge. Besides skills directly related to the entertainment industry, employers will be looking for competencies in critical thinking, oral/written communication, teamwork/collaboration, digital technology, and leadership.
A.J. Merlino: Large cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Chicago have provided many opportunities for new graduates. Still, many smaller cities will allow individuals with a high skillset and little experience to thrive. Locations like Asbury Park, NJ; Pittsburgh, PA; Asheville, NC; and Denton, TX are prime locations for new graduates to look for opportunities.
A.J. Merlino: I believe the entertainment industry is moving toward immersive technology, such as virtual reality and immersive technology. Along with these technologies, 360 audio will become standard to create atmospheric experiences. I also believe services such as Artist Growth, which helps industry professionals manage workflow, data, promotion, marketing, touring, and finances through a singular platform, will proliferate. Technology will help connect the artist with the consumer more effectively and improve business efficiency and functionality.
The University of the Arts
School of MusicWebsite
Marc Dicciani: It's too early to say definitively, but DIY, working, learning, and purchasing remotely and changes in how the performing arts, along with most things, are viewed, used, and consumed will likely be the most significant trends.
Marc Dicciani: Most technologies will increase in importance and value as the tools of production, distribution, and marketing become more democratized and available to everyone.
Marc Dicciani: A pronounced increase. Because artists now are learning a more comprehensive range of skills than in the past, including technology, communication, writing, reimagining, presentation, marketing, hearing, visualizing, conceptualizing, etc., it will make them more valuable and flexible in the marketplace and more agile and self-reliant. This will help them in the arts and arts-related fields, and most other areas and careers, since these skills are all transferrable.
Some jobs that exist now will decline, and many new ones will emerge from the current situation. The most important commodity college-trained artists possess is creativity. Those who enter the market with a broader range of skills and experiences learned through a creative educational experience will be more prepared for whatever changes they see and make over their lifetimes. They will be the ones who create and lead that change.
College of Arts and SciencesWebsite
Marva Duerksen Ph.D.: Beginning teachers who have gone through a rigorous teacher education program are well equipped with in-depth content knowledge, pedagogical skillsets, and professional dispositions for adapting to the changing social contexts of learning. So, they should be confident in allowing themselves to be guided by their professional preparation in adapting their professional practice to their students' diverse needs and backgrounds, their families, and the communities.
The unfolding pandemic reinforces the significance of differentiating instructional practices and caring deeply about their students and our world in much need of healing. Finally, they should also commit to reflecting continuously on their personal growth and their roles in others' lives and enriching collaboration with peers on what is undoubtedly a rewarding profession.
Marva Duerksen Ph.D.: Suppose there is any lesson to take from 2020 regarding technological changes in education. In that case, it is the central role that video conferencing and online document management might come to play in how we interact in real times through overlapping learning spaces. Yet, the near future of educational technologies, I think, lies in developing innovative tools for engaging in both knowledge construction and information literacy. It will become increasingly important that students engage with online technologies with critical lenses for recognizing that, while all knowledge is constructed, all constructed knowledge do not hold equal value for enhancing students' capacity for lifelong learning and for caring about themselves, their fellow human beings, and for a fragile planet.
Marva Duerksen Ph.D.: Gone are the days when it was part of our acceptable popular culture that teachers do not make a living wage. While this might still be the case in some contexts, beginning teachers should be confident that they are entering a profession that offers robust compensation. Yet, I truly believe that educators deserve society's highest financial and social rewards for the irreplaceable service they render in sustaining healthy and stable humanity.
Pennsylvania State University
Dr. Adam Gustafson Ph.D.: In 2008, Google turned its computing powers inward, in a study called Project Oxygen. The project aimed to figure out what made an excellent Google employee. Surprisingly, the top answers focused on employees' ability to empathize, think critically, make connections across multiple subjects, and communicate effectively. These are all skills learned when one studies the humanities.
Those who are trained to share, adapt, and to think critically and creatively are going to be in high demand, and we see this in the growth of humanities majors throughout the lifecycle of their careers. According to an article from Inside Higher Ed, graduates of the liberal arts have a slower time establishing a job, but by their mid-50s are employed at the same rates and are earning more than those who studied a particular profession.
Dr. Adam Gustafson Ph.D.: This question is a bit of a misnomer. It suggests that education is the same as vocational training. Learning about the humanities isn't about gaining a job-related skill. This is not to say that job-related training is a negative thing. Societies are about learning those skills that allow one to learn and adapt to the changing job market. Humanities majors regularly go on to do very well at law school, medical school, and various other professions, precisely because they know how to think critically and communicate effectively.
Dr. Adam Gustafson Ph.D.: One of my first jobs was as a data analyst for a non-profit in NYC. I worked alongside computer engineers who helped to develop tools for our market. I remember asking one of my co-workers this very question. He responded that technology doesn't impact work. Technology serves work. When technology becomes the focus, the aims of the book are lost. This has stuck with me over the years.
We've witnessed tremendous technological growth, but that growth has always been in the service of other work. Data analytics and algorithms are created to understand better and serve the world in which we live. Communications tools are there to supplement our ability to bring people together. But, we are still going to need to tend to the world in which we live, and we are always going to need to know how to get along when we come together.
Colorado Mesa University
Dr. Graham Anduri: This depends on what career track a student is pursuing. Our Music graduates go on to be public school teachers, professional performers, industry professionals, and a wide variety of other music-related (and non-music-related) careers. In any case, experience at a professional level within one's field is always necessary to show, especially coming right out of college.
Our Music Education students spend 100s of hours observing and assisting in area schools during their degree before student-teaching full time in the final semester. Our Music Business students have to set up a professional internship before they graduate with a company within the music industry and are encouraged to begin setting up their own business while still in school with the tools they discover in our music business courses. Performance majors often finish their degree with a full resume of university performances and local, regional, and even national/international performances with various professional and pre-professional organizations.
Dr. Graham Anduri: The impact of technology in the music industry, just in the past seven months, has been immense. As it stands, current technology cannot effectively replace a real live musical experience, whether we are trying to perform, teach, or rehearse. Musicians worldwide are making things work in new, creative, and exciting ways and are driving the technology forward to adapt to all of the new restrictions we have in place, but doing things online remains a poor substitute for the real thing. However, some upsides have been that now we have a much more comprehensive (potentially global) reach for the things we create. It is tough to say what the next five years will look like.
Still, I imagine some exciting new advances that will enable more effective virtual collaborations for rehearsals, lessons, and performances that will serve to enhance, rather than replace live, in-person experiences. For example, movie versions of operas with CGI sets rather than stages or on-site sets are already being made by some companies. Virtual Choirs were first created by Eric Whitacre years ago and served as the model for choir directors worldwide during the lockdown. While these are cool products, in the end, they are not a substitute for an actual choir experience. Rehearsing with groups via zoom is nearly impossible because of the lag time inherent in VOIP programs. Still, several companies are working to reduce or eliminate that lag time to facilitate real-time rehearsing ability.
Dr. Graham Anduri: The performing arts, like many industries right now, have been severely impacted. Until the virus is brought under control, there will not be a way to go back to what we all deem "normal" performing experiences. As a result, many companies are going belly up without any revenue streams or bailout assistance. It will undoubtedly take a long time to get our whole economy back up to full steam, and we will likely have to create a new sense of what is "normal." Luckily, artists are creative and resilient and are already creating new ways to continue producing and performing high-quality art. I think the long-term, enduring impact will be a positive one in that we will all be forced to improve the ways we do things to survive, and once it is safe to return, we will all be better for our trials and tribulations.
Michael Mann: With the popularity of music that appears to touch each person's soul on this earth, it has become essential to consider an entrepreneurial dynamic to being involved in music today.
Although, there is currently ample room in the field for music educators, music therapists, and music performers in varying disciplines, some of the most "successful" musicians have created avenues for themselves by commanding their dynamic of music directive.
One of the fastest-growing degree programs that are being offered collegiately is the Commercial Music degree. This degree can open the door to a vast array of music emphasis positions that include running a soundboard, representing artists as agents, to lighting and audio engineering for concert performances. The commercial music degree also offers a route of songwriting and learning the inside track of how to manage a recording studio, to name a few areas in this degree content.
It is the fastest-growing degree program in collegiate music schools today, and seems to draw the most interest of those with an entrepreneurial mindset. If you are a student struggling to determine what your career might look like in music, here are two questions to consider: 1) What are your most important skills? 2) What would you want to be doing if you woke up every morning and could not wait to get to your work? For the practically minded, the third question could be,
what could I do to make an excellent financial income doing the work I love?
Music, in some respects, can be financially unpredictable, unless you consider the area of Music Education, where the doors appear to be wide open, and salaries can be easily predicted. However, other degrees in music can be less predictable, and the wages lean toward how successful one can be in that particular area.
With COVID, there has been a noticeable effort to bond the world with music videos, shared worldwide through various performances in social media and some have done so with great success. These videos require producers, musicians, technicians (audio and video), knowledge of copyright law, and possibly agents for those on the higher end of professionals, to name a few. If the social venue is charging a fee, then there are accountants and promoters. All combine the expertise of several genres in music for a successful production. Just one video production on a social media platform can employ hundreds of people with various skills in the business of music.
We all love music, but is it the career for you? Regardless, It appears that the universal language remains true - even in a pandemic.
Hawaii Pacific University
Teresa McCreary Ph.D.: Familiarize yourself with basic business practices and skills in grant-writing, fundraising, and audience development. Be willing to work in related fields, like arts advocacy, arts education, arts administration, music recording industry, music libraries/archives, and arts management.
Teresa McCreary Ph.D.: Web-streaming and recording, synchronous online sound quality, online teaching, and teaching resources, digital sheet music storage.
Teresa McCreary Ph.D.: Yes. Both in fortunate and unfortunate ways. Unfortunately, we will have to live with limited performance opportunities for a while. Hopefully, that is temporary. I'm sure there will be pent up demand when/if we get back to normal. I do not care for the phrase "new normal" because it implies we will never get back to regular live performances. Hope springs eternal! On the winning side, some concerts and workshops are accomplishing unprecedented audience reach for those who would not have been able to attend in person. The pandemic has also forced us to be more creative, innovative, and adaptive than ever. In a way, it has vividly illustrated the intrinsic and extrinsic value of our profession.
University of Puget Sound
Gwynne Brown Ph.D.: First, I would urge them to list and reflect on all of the skills that every music major acquires. There are so many, including self-motivation, attention to detail, communication skills, the ability to give and receive constructive criticism, resilience, self-expression, project management, calm under pressure... the list goes on. These are skills that employers are looking for in every field, so figure out what skills and qualities you've got because of your music training, and communicate them with confidence in your job search.
Second, the music world is not that big. There are three or fewer degrees of separation between you and somebody essential for your success. This means that as a music graduate, you already have some valuable connections. If you have impressed the people you've worked with-faculty, peers, guest artists, summer festival artists-then it's worth asking them, politely, to help you build your professional network. Relatedly, be sure that you're always mindful of your professional reputation. If people know you to be responsible, thoughtful, creative, and great to work with, that will pay off.
Gwynne Brown Ph.D.: Online connectivity will be essential, not only for disseminating one's work but for doing it.
Gwynne Brown Ph.D.: We'll always look back on this pandemic as showing us how urgently we need to connect to other people. That connection takes a lot of forms, but music has emerged as particularly influential in its ability to comfort and join us. Musicians have responded so generously and creatively to these difficult times. We won't forget how much our work mattered. I hope that the countless people around the world who have found solace and strength in music will remember the value of supporting the arts!
Dr. Mark Cole: On beginning a career with a degree in music: (a) don't listen to anyone who says there are no jobs in music; there are many career opportunities out there - the idea that music is not a career choice is usually promoted by people who have never made any music in their lives, or their experiences were bad ones; (b) use all the creativity you have developed to think "outside the box," as it were; every employer out there likes creative solutions and (c) work with everyone you can and develop a long list of colleagues and contacts.
Dr. Mark Cole: On technology: Technology in music has come so far in an incredibly short time. There probably isn't a single program, application, or tool out there that isn't or won't continue to be useful. As musicians, we should all try to embrace all that technology offers, while at the same time, recognizing that we are musicians - and technology is a tool to be used, not to take away the humanness of the art form. I think musical analysis tools and the upper end of the recording software/processing software will be the things that are with us for a long time.
Dr. Mark Cole: Impact of the Coronavirus: I may be in the minority, but I think the pandemic will make a lasting positive impact by reminding us how important music is to our very lives, and how being told we couldn't make music took a real toll on our well-being. The negative impacts will only be felt if we allow ourselves to see the pandemic in that horrible catchphrase, "The New Normal." There is NO such thing - like every other part of nature, we need to be careful and protect ourselves and our loved ones, while not allowing the after-effects to change who we are. We have survived a lot of these things in our history; the best thing we can do is to be confident we will survive this one too - and become more influential on the other side!
Oral Roberts University
Dr. John Jenkins: Remain optimistic and remain creative! Focus on self-care so that you can optimize your output. Spend a significant amount of time considering how you can leverage your unit skill set(s), passion, and voice to contribute to society's betterment through music and its various disciplines. Remember that "There's always an opportunity with the crisis." (Judy Smith)
Dr. John Jenkins: During this pandemic, many musicians are being nudged from out of their comfort zones. They are looking into ways of continuing their craft; whether it be finding ways to promote their music via the web, mastering remote learning or hybrid instruction (i.e., remote + residential, simultaneously), rehearsal/performance strategies to protect the health of all involved, and finding ways to carry out research safely. Musical entrepreneurship will become more common. Basic knowledge of graphic design software, digital media branding and self-promotion strategies, digital audio workstation (DAW) platforms, and more persuasive networking skills using email and various social media platforms will become more essential as we enter our "new normal." Many Millennials and Generation X/Y'ers are already using such technologies with much success.
Dr. John Jenkins: Absolutely! This pandemic is global, so the world won't be the same. Whether that's for better or for worse remains to be seen. However, as I stated before, "there's always an opportunity with the crisis." And the role of the Artist inexorably carries a substantial and essential mantle in bringing about healing to a world in crisis. Whatever it is we do, which pertains to music, our aim and output should bring about healing.
Seminole State College of Florida
Dianna Campbell: Be flexible as to your application of the degree. Be willing to start small for higher aspirations in the end. You may never be financially wealthy, but your life will be more precious for your pursuit of passion.
Dianna Campbell: Online instruction is here to stay. People have realized that certain parts of music instruction can be successfully administered virtually. Find audio equipment, musical software, and online resources that you are comfortable using.
Dianna Campbell: Perhaps, this is the most challenging question of all. We are adjusting so much, in such a short amount of time; I think there may be constant apprehension on the part of many to return, which will impact the job market. It is easy to be forgotten, if gone too long. I'm struck by the words of the iconic song, American Pie, "...the devil laughing with delight, the day the music died." Music will remain, but we will have to work harder than ever to stay relevant in this STEM world.
James Ripley: Versatility, perseverance, and creativity are what makes a great musician. Using these innate gifts will allow you to navigate these ever-changing times. There are many opportunities to blend performance, teaching, and technology to your advantage.
James Ripley: Simultaneous/synchronous performance by musicians in remote locations will become a reality, and we will take advantage of bringing the world together through making music. Digital "sheet" music will become the norm.
James Ripley: The pandemic effect will be felt by all, not just the 2020 graduates. However, my thought is that the sense of thoughtfulness and self-reflection, brought on by being more isolated, will have an outgrowth of community engagement over time.
Oral Roberts University
Christopher Brown: My general advice is to think in terms of multiple income streams. There are many ways to make an income in music besides performing. Private lessons, music arranging, mixing live sound, booking other acts for a fee, freelance playing are different ways a person can produce income. And there are more. A musician has to be a bit of an entrepreneur to survive. Be willing to play styles of music you may not like. It may be the difference between paying or not making your car payment. Show up to things on time, and don't stand people up - especially if you are a professing Christian. Act like a professional.
While you are in school, learn as many skills as possible. Become a better sight-reader. Learn how to produce music. Learn how to use notation software, and arrange music. Learn how to repair instruments - that is a big one! I think you get the idea.
Christopher Brown: Streaming will continue to be the most critical technology. I have students right now who have music on Spotify and are earning royalties. They are tiny, but they are still royalties. Streaming is monetized in such a way the onus for paying the fee is on the streaming platform like YouTube of Spotify. This goes back to question 1. I've told my production students that everyone should be writing their songs or co-writing and streaming them. External services are springing up, which offers services for the independent artist. Keep in mind that it is the number of subscribers or streamers which bring income. There is a guy on YouTube who drinks weird things like pickle juice or an entire 2 liters of soda. He has 2 million subscribers. According to what I have read, a person with one 1 million subscribers can make 50-90K annually. The Music Modernization Act 2018 is supposed to fix some of the issues with royalty payments. But they are setting songwriting aside. A music person could do all sorts of things on YouTube and build viewership. So, streaming technology and the income potential, which for those who know how to use it, makes streaming the most critical technology.
Christopher Brown: The pandemic has killed the live venue - for now. I know professional musicians who are struggling. I have a friend who is selling all of his gear on Facebook. I believe people will always want to be around other people while watching live music or other forms of entertainment. I wanted to see Tame Impala this summer, but they had to cancel. I think live venues will come back. And I think our favorite bands will go back on tour. Hopefully, Tame Impala will reschedule soon - like in the next year or so. I don't want to be the oldest guy there.
School of MusicWebsite
David Davies: At this point, it's still a little too soon to have a sense of what the enduring impact of the pandemic will be on graduates. Indeed, the performing arts industry has been deeply impacted by the suspension of all public concerts. I fully expect that some ensembles, management companies, and organizations will find it impossible to recover from the impact and close their doors. While that may change what employment looks like for musicians, it doesn't necessarily mean that there will be fewer employment opportunities. The nationwide shift toward the "gig economy" throughout the past decade, has been just as impactful in arts, which is not surprising, given that the "gig" terminology originates with us, and we've been "gigging" for centuries. I think it's likely that the pandemic will accelerate this trend. It will become increasingly important for young musicians to network in local and regional communities to work professionally.
David Davies: One benefit of the shift toward the "gig" economy is the effect it has in equalizing opportunities across regions. While some major metropolitan areas (New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc..) will always be concentrated centers of opportunity and talent, musicians are increasingly less dependent on major cultural organizations for employment. Generally speaking, however, performers tend to find the most work in urban communities and metropolitan areas. There is a nationwide shortage of qualified and certified music educators, so graduates with degrees in music education can find employment just about anywhere, especially if they're willing to relocate. Nazareth College has an excellent and well establishing music therapy program and this is also a growing field across the country. Rochester is known as a center of music therapy and has one of the highest concentrations of trained music therapists in the nation.
David Davies: Musicians are required to be much more "tech-savvy" in the current industry. Everyone, from recording engineers to classical violists, has websites and a carefully managed social media presence. Higher education has been behind the curve in dealing with this change in our industry. It's something that we've been working on addressing here at Nazareth and similar institutions around the United States. While the impact of streaming platforms on the recording industry is well known and "old news" at this point, the ongoing influence is felt by young professional musicians who have to navigate an increasingly complicated world of copyright law and to license as they work to build a current and comprehensive social media presence.
Laura Schumann: Enhancing technology skills, whether online or in person, taking courses to learn about software for online video creation, click tracks, recording programs such as Logic, Protools, Garage band, these can become invaluable resources during this challenging time. For music educators, take the time to brush up on the variety of instruments and skills you learned in the methods courses; the more knowledgeable and well versed you can be in several areas will enhance your appeal to potential employers.
Laura Schumann: I cannot imagine that there would not be an enduring impact, however, as an educator of music and music education majors, I am optimistic that the core skill sets we provide our students will continue to be essential for the immediate future, and well into our post-pandemic world. One positive aspect is that musicians and music educators will have gained practical experience working in virtual environments, which, I imagine, will continue to be a valuable skill set and experience.
Laura Schumann: With the unique challenges music presents and the added challenges of our current situation, a music graduate needs to be creative and flexible. A creative problem solver - someone who thinks outside the box and is willing to approach the concept of music-making in new ways. Musicians are faced with a myriad of challenges in our pandemic world, and addressing this head-on, with the safety and interest of all concerned, is critical. Researching current ensemble practice suggestions and guidelines (available in many places, including your state's Music Educators Association) is crucial for anyone beginning their music teaching career. Experience in other areas is also extremely beneficial - take advantage of every opportunity to learn about the application of technology.
Maintain all of your musical skills at the top of your game to take advantage of any opportunity that might present itself. Join any ensembles you can to maintain your instrument/vocal skills to keep your teaching current and productive.
Northern Virginia Community College
Dr. John Wulff: Study hard, practice your instrument, and maintain an optimistic demeanor.
Dr. John Wulff: Finale and GarageBand are very important for music students.
Dr. John Wulff: I believe students will survive and live through the pandemic.