How to balance your music career and your degree

Going to university can hugely benefit your music career – particularly if you’re studying for a music degree. Actually, even if you’re studying a non-music related subject, there are still plenty of ways that being at university can help progress your music career.

The tips below are designed to help you balance your degree with your music career. For readers who aren’t currently studying we also have an article with some great advice on how to balance your day job with your music career.

In this post we will cover…

  • The benefits of university for your music career
  • How to balance your degree and your music career
  • Practical tips & apps you can use to make your life easier


The benefits of university for your music career

University helps you to find yourself

As cliché as it sounds – university really does help you to bring out, well, you! It is a time for learning and a journey of self-discovery, as well as personal and musical exploration. Mixing with so many different people is a great way to discover new music, ways of thinking and creating, which brings me onto my next point…

University is incredible for networking

Generally in the creative industries it comes down to WHO you know, no matter how talented or skilled you are. Think about how many people there are at university studying subjects that may benefit you as an artist. For example, need help with your marketing strategy or press release? Make friends with someone studying PR or journalism – they’d be happy to help!

And remember, it works both ways. People can use your music as a platform, such as a videographer who wants to shoot a music video for their show reel, or a designer with new clothes they want larger audiences to see – this ultimately benefits you both.

A music degree can be beneficial for your music career

Young artists often ask: should I study music? There’s no simple answer to this question. But studying music does have its benefits.

If you study music, you’ll be surrounded by other musicians. They will have different tastes, styles and sounds to you. You might uncover fresh ideas and hidden talents. Through collaborating with others you will begin to develop a better sense of your personal sound and music taste. You could even form a band (fact: both Pink Floyd and Queen were formed at universities in London)!

Professors of music also really know their stuff about the music industry. These people will be very important contacts as well, stay in touch with them, utilise them. You never know – your lecturer may play or send one of your tracks to someone important they know!

Opportunities galore.

When I studied a music course at university one of the most amazing things about it was the opportunities we had. You’ll get the chance to meet industry personnel, musicians, and songwriters at various conferences and get the chance to go to important networking events. Even if you don’t study music, the opportunities on offer are HUGE!

It’ll give you a platform build a repertoire

If you are one of those people (like me!) that need some sort of direction or foundation to work on, then your university projects will be a great for building your repertoire, and assessments may tie in with what you’re working on musically anyway – so you won’t have to see it as uni work but something you’re really enjoying, and getting a qualification out of at the same time! Also, it means at the end of it all you will have a great portfolio of work to show for it.

Choosing to study in a city that has a large music hub can be of great benefit, for example London, Manchester or Brighton. Moving to study in these cities can open up doors that you would not have necessarily had in your hometown. These cities bring gig opportunities, artist communities, venue spaces, music labels/companies, and events.

How to balance your degree and your music career

If there’s one thing EVERYONE wishes they could do at university (this goes for any work) is manage their workload. Just like money, you need to budget your time as well.

If you’re studying a music degree you can tie in your assessments to what you’re working on musically, and when you have free time on the weekends you can always work on extra projects, even if the subject you are studying doesn’t even relate to music at all. If you’re serious about your degree, then it has to take priority, but there are many ways to manage your time effectively to ensure you have a life too.

Make a to-do list

Write down all of your tasks, how long each will take, and the day you are going to get them done by. This way you can focus on one thing at a time. Be mindful and work in the present and put all of your focus into the task at hand. Then set aside some specific time for your music. Even just half an hour, every small amount adds up. Check out some to-do-list apps, our favourites are:

A great way to manage your time is minmizing the time the task takes. For example, ordering your food shop (back to the food shopping example again) will take you half an hour maximum rather than doing the trip yourself. Little things like that can save valuable time for your music.

Get up earlier

Spending a few less hours in bed in the morning can be so productive! We musicians are usually night owls, but if you get up at say, 8am everyday – which let’s face it is not that early – you’ll instantly have a lot more hours in your day. Use the time you would normally still be snoozing to get a few items on your to-do list out of the way.

Work in a work, break, work, break system

We use rhythm in our music, so why not our work? By this I mean work for 20 minutes, then spend a bit of time on your music, then go back to your work. (But make sure you do go back!) Switching between the two will stimulate your brain and stop you from getting any sort of ‘writer’s block’ or hitting a wall with it.

Even when you have to stay up all night working on that essay that you (god forbid) left to the last minute (we all do it!) then why not listen to some music or a new playlist to get inspired whilst you’re working.

There’s a really cool app that I used whilst I was writing my dissertation called ‘Forest’ where you plant a tree for a certain amount of time and the tree is killed if you leave the app. It’s a pretty nifty way to stay focused. It can be used for your music as well – remember what I said earlier about putting all of your energy into the task at hand!

Sometimes at university you’ll not only need to manage your own workload, but your team’s time in a group assignment or project. I would really recommend using Trello for this, it’s a good way to keep track of all the work that’s done/needs doing, and you can even set the board background to a cool picture to keep you inspired! This kind of app is brilliant for managing your projects as an artist, especially if you have band members or a manager.

Remember to socialise and never stop making music

If you’re worried about how you’re going to fit in a social life as well then do not stress. Go to gigs with your friends, collaborate, have jam sessions as well as study sessions so you’re working musically as well as spending time with the people you love. Hell, we all need down time!

Most importantly keep making music, keep sharing it and no matter what, keep going. Today’s students are tomorrow’s superstars – actually, why not upload a track now? 😉