What Jobs Can I Get with a Music Degree?

December 12, 2022

The music industry is a dynamic place. More accessible recording technology and the rise of platforms such as TikTok have helped lower traditional barriers, but the rise of streaming services have transformed profit-sharing. Historically common record and distribution deals are becoming more rare. And, with interest in social media virality and self-promotion growing, billboards, commercial spots, and traditional contracts have increasing competition.

If you are considering a music degree, it’s important to know what these changes will bring and what music job prospects may await you after graduation. CU Denver’s Music & Entertainment Industry Studies (MEIS) program aims to prepare students for the modern world of music by taking a forward-facing and inclusive approach to music education.

Music & Entertainment Industry Studies at CU Denver

Within the College of Arts & Media (CAM), the Music & Entertainment Industry Studies program offers students a unique approach to music education and a variety of degrees. Students can choose from four distinct undergraduate areas of study: music business, music performance, recording arts, and singer/songwriter. Each degree represents a cornerstone of the music industry, which allows students to carve out their own niche with the help of a specialized curriculum and experienced faculty.

CU Denver MEIS Degrees

Music business is a self-explanatory field of study that focuses on this industry’s business side. Students will be prepared for a quickly changing field by studying finance, law, publishing, concert promotion, music production, and management.

The music performance degree focuses on preparing graduates to be professional musicians. With cutting-edge music styles and industry-specific curriculum, this degree works well with a variety of creative and commercial pursuits, and is suited for any number of specializations (guitarists, bassists, vocalists, keyboardists, percussionist drummers, and more).

Recording arts allows you to take a deep dive into audio engineering in a contemporary music/entertainment context. Students will be taught by expert faculty, use state-of-the-art recording equipment and software, and build professional-level portfolios along the way.

The singer/songwriter program is more than just a study of contemporary musicianship. This field of study fosters a collaborative and community-based approach. Successful industry professionals guide students and connect them to Denver’s rich music scene. This degree helps students cultivate the skills to succeed as singers, songwriters, and accompanists.

For the graduate level, two programs are offered: an MS in Media Forensics and an MS in Recording Arts. Media forensics prepares students for a myriad of roles in forensic audio, video, and image analysis through topics such as audio/image enhancement and authentication, speaker recognition, computer forensics, and criminal and civil litigation. Recording arts expounds on the undergraduate degree, while refining sound recording, aesthetics, multi-track recording, digital signal processing, and more.

MEIS students in the main recording studio

Why are CU Denver Music Degrees Different?

There is no lack of music colleges in the U.S., with roughly 1,800 spread throughout the nation. However, there’s an issue that plagues most, if not all of them.

These schools call themselves music schools, but they focus on Western classical music… a curriculum that was developed 120 years ago and has remained almost immovable.”

—Mark Rabideau, Associate Dean, College of Art & Media 

While there is certainly a need for classically trained musicians, the music industry has a much wider and international reach. Confining students to a relatively narrow and well-defined curriculum deprives them of the extremely diverse and rapidly growing music culture that exists today.  

That is where CU Denver’s MEIS program steps in. Rabideau emphasizes that the core mission of MEIS is repositioning creativity at the center of our students’ training and asking the question, “Whose music matters?” Rabideau believes that through centering creative education in MEIS, everyone’s music does.  

In this, MEIS aims to minimize systemic exclusion, which is historically commonplace within the music industry. While MEIS certainly still offers core courses in music history and theory classes, the coursework is largely framed around helping students address the issues they face through contemporary approaches to music.

What our students are really interested in is being part of today’s music scene.”

—Mark Rabideau, Associate Dean, College of Art & Media 

It’s all about helping students find their voice and individual creativity. Whether that’s through music business, recording arts, performance, or songwriting, MEIS offers a relevant way forward for the next generation of music professionals.  

Music Industry Jobs

The music industry has a projected 4% growth through 2031, which matches growth averages across most industries. These are the most common jobs (along with median pay) landed by music college graduates as of May 2021:

Artist Manager | Average Salary: $123,720

This role exists to manage artistic talent, help them find new opportunities, and shape the business behind their act. Planning, organization, directing, and negotiating are all essential skills for an artist manager. Artist managers will help book gigs, plan projects, organize record releases, direct tours, and more.

Postsecondary Music Teacher | Average Salary: $86,240

While higher education music teaching is a varied field, this role often focuses around teaching a specific skill or instrument. Alternatively, teachers can specialize in music history or theory. For this role, at least a master’s degree is required and often a PhD or DMA.

Recording Engineer | Average Salary: $67,090

As a recording engineer, you’ll be responsible for many technical recording components, including the overall sound recording and mixing and mastering the project to audio perfection. You’ll deal with analog and digital audio, microphones, signal flow, compressors, and more. 

Musicians and Singers | Average Salary: $61,160

While varied in scale, this field performs music and sings for live audiences and recordings. They perform a variety of genres, such as classical, pop, R&B, hip-hop, jazz, and rock. They also audition for a range of positions in organized music (i.e., orchestras, choirs, bands, and other types of music groups).

Session Musician | Average Salary: $60,980 ($30.90 hourly)

A session musician backs up or performs on another artist’s project on a short-term basis. You’ll get to work with a variety of genres, sounds, and styles, and may get to join a band on tour.

Music Director/Composer | Average Salary: $54,647

Composers are often thought of in the classical music sense. However, this job can be done in a variety of mediums including film, TV, and video games. Alternatively, composers can write and arrange recorded or live music. Composers need to have a deep understanding of music theory, and mastery of multiple instruments. Additionally, they need the technical know-how to record their compositions (for example: music notation).

Music Producer | Average Salary: $49,130

A music producer is knowledgeable in the business and creative side of music, and works in conjunction with musicians and record labels. This role runs recording sessions, arranges compositions, manages instrumentation, and guides the mixing/mastering.

Mark Rabideau, DMA

Mark Rabideau, DMA

Accomplished author, artist, entrepreneur, and educator Mark Rabideau, DMA, is an international figurehead in the music and arts. He aims to reimagine how artists and institutions can thrive within the contemporary marketplace, recentering creativity in all that he does.

Mark currently serves as the Associate Dean for Faculty and Student Affairs and is an Associate Professor for the College of Arts & Media at CU Denver.

Learn more about CU Denver’s music education opportunities and how you can build your career in this high-demand industry today.  


Contact us to learn more about how much programs cost, how to apply, and when you can start any of CU Denver’s music programs.