Is Berklee Worth The Money?
Scroll through any audio group or forum and just below the 10 page argument on whether analog summing is a myth, you’ll find an equally long ramble about the value of a music tech education. No doubt the world’s largest music college, Berklee College of Music, will be the subject of a fair amount of that discussion.
At the risk of wading into that murky water here are my thoughts on the Berklee experience.
I began at Berklee in 2014 to study Music Production and Engineering. It’s fairly well documented how special Berklee is, a musical bubble in one of America’s greatest cities. The campus is filled with guitars and cymbal bags, people from all nations brought there by a love of music. But is this musician’s oasis worth the hundreds of thousands of dollars?
This question I think demands two answers. We seem to have entered a world in which the value of education is increasingly measured by your wage upon graduation. If you are judging a Berklee education on a scale of expenditure vs post grad income, then it is difficult to conclude that the education is worth the verage wages in the music industry and the potentially large student deb Berklee grads accumulate. To get an idea of just how huge that debt can be, Berklee’s website estimates a cost of $280k to complete the 4 year degree including all living expenses. The college’s alumni salary guide suggests a recording engineer will earn anywhere from $25k to $150k annually. Conclude from those figures what you will…
However, those who downplay the advantages you get from going to a college like Berklee are ill informed. Whilst the potential financial burden may rule out the majority of people, for those lucky enough to make it work it truly does grow you as a musician and individual. It is a magical place that would be most musicians dream and if anybody subscribes to the notion that an education in something you love carries value in and of itself then Berklee more than delivers on that front. It is indeed hard to imagine an environment more conducive to lovers of all things music. It is this environment which will give back as little or as much as you put in so make the most of being surrounded by fellow ambitious musicians and every musical facility you could dream of. I was taught by multi grammy winners, given access to Neve, SSL and API consoles in world class studios and completed projects that reflect the real world. The first day I walked into my job at a commercial recording studio it felt familiar, I already knew most of the consoles in the rooms and I understood my duties without having to be told. Not to say this will be true of every Berklee graduate nor that I didn't make mistakes, but for hard working students it can give a precious leg up in a high pressure and competitive industry. Not to mention that a Berklee connection helped me to get my foot in the door at my first studio…
In music we are all searching to make the leap into the upper echelons of music’s elite. The connections and skills you learn at Berklee make this leap a whole lot more possible and anything we can do to swing the odds a little more in our favor is worth a second look. I do think the price of a Berklee education is absurd and even taking into account the vast scholarships on offer the institution’s financially elitist position only helps to drive a music career further out of the reaches of most people. Combine this with the fact that a Berklee education is by no means a ticket to success nor does it even guarantee a career in music for a lot of graduates and I don't disagree that Berklee deserved a lot of the scrutiny it receives. However, would I have been involved in sessions this last year for Paul Simon, Mick Jagger, NBC, Warner Bros, CHVRCHES and almost every broadway cast album if I hadn't attended Berklee? Absolutely not.