Paying Your Way Through Music College

[Got your heart set on attending some kind of music college? Jess Walter has some ideas that may help you afford it. – AC]

Whether your style is hip hop, bluegrass, heavy metal or jazz, many musicians choose to go to Music College to pursue their dreams of gigging and recording. For example, Berklee College Music is the largest college of contemporary music in the world but, without financial aid, an education there will cost $67,213.50 a year. Unfortunately, this is not atypical of America’s top music colleges, with many graduates finishing their courses with $200,000 of debt. With a typical salary of jazz musicians at $23,000 a year, the financial commitment of going to school is no joke. If you have chosen to invest in your future this way, good financial habits are a must. Here are some tips on how to make money on the side and pay your way through music college.


Obviously, the ideal way to earn some money whilst at music college is through doing gigs. Not only will you earn some money, you’ll make connections and get experience that will be useful when you graduate. If you’re good, it’s not uncommon for teachers to give their students gigs they are offered but don’t have time for – all the more motivation to be a good student. Depending on your instruments, weddings can be a great money spinner and the demand is constant. For the holidays, many young musicians get contracts on cruise ships where they wash dishes by day and perform by night. Your college may have some restrictions on what kind of performing jobs you can take so be sure to check.


Music teaching is a great way to make good, steady money. If teaching your instrument looks too difficult right now (after all you’re still a student yourself!), consider early years music classes or music theory tuition.

Other side hustles

Even if they are not strictly speaking music related, several side hustles can be helpful to your career as a musician. These days it is important for pop, rock and jazz musicians to be able to market themselves online and a side hustle in social media or content writing will teach you these skills.

Financial management

Whilst making money on the side is always good, you can still get into trouble if your spending habits are poor. Be sure to track your spending, draw up a realistic budget and try to stick to it. There are certain life hacks you can try to improve your financial situation such as getting a deal on your student loan, which is very possible if your credit is good. Always check to see whether you qualify for financial aid of any sort and be aware your entitlement may change as your circumstances do.

Making the financial commitment to go to music college is a big commitment and only you can decide if this is the right decision for your future. By earning while studying and getting into good budgeting habits, the financial burden becomes very manageable. Good luck!

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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