We’ve all heard of the “starving artist” trope. With student debt following students for an average of 21 years, no one wants to be struggling to find work after earning their degree. Luckily, many reputable art schools set students up for a successful career in the arts by educating them on the business side of things. Students can earn a major, double major, or minor in fields that teach them the skills they need to run the business of the arts. Some “business of arts” degrees offered are:

  • Art production degrees – stage production, cinematography
  • Business degrees – management, marketing, fashion merchandising, manufacturing
  • Design degrees – fashion/apparel design, media design, graphic design, industrial and product design, interior design, costume design
  • Communications degrees – advertising, strategic communications, public relations
  • Health and education degrees – music therapy, music teacher education

There are plenty of art-business degrees that allow you to take part in your artistic passions, whilst learning about how to make an art business successful. Damien Bracken, Dean of Admissions at Berklee College of Music, explained the process students undergo in order to discover where they fit in the music industry.

“All students come to Berklee undeclared so for their first year they have not selected their major, and it gives them the opportunity to explore,” said Bracken. “We know from surveys that we’ve done in the past that most students come to Berklee with a focus on performance, and then if we survey them again at the midpoint, it’s radically changed. It’s split throughout all of the 12 majors, and that’s part of that discovery process.”

Bracken explained that these 12 majors are designed to be career tracks: composition and writing, technology, music business, music therapy, and professional music tracks.

In terms of this “business side” of arts, at Berklee, the music business management major has three tracks associated with it that allow students to specialize in a particular area: products, entrepreneurship, and artist management. In order for students to gain hands-on experience in these roles, Berklee runs two record labels, one of which is run out of the music business department.

“Students involved in that label will audition artists for the label, they’ll record them, and release product. So they get the full 360 vision of what’s involved in doing that. Berklee, historically, has always been a very hands-on institute and we really believe in giving students the pragmatic life skills that they’re going to need to succeed in whatever their career path may be,” said Bracken.

One may ask, why couldn’t someone get a general business degree at any school to get involved in the music business or other form of the arts? While this is possible, there are many advantages to doing this at a school that is specific to the industry you want to participate in. Students get direct hands-on experience, such as in Berklee’s recording studio, and have access to networking and forming connections within the industry.

“I think the real advantage of being a music business major at Berklee is the fact that you’re surrounded by people doing virtually every aspect of what’s out there in the industry. You have performers, you have songwriters, you have arrangers, you have engineers, so your experience at the college is like a microcosm of the music industry,” said Bracken.

Like many industries, networking in the music and performance industry is a must. At an art school, you have access to people in the industry, helping you build your personal network. Then, when you finish college and go out into the workforce, you can call on these connections for future projects.

Art schools also recognize that location is hugely important for their students. The AMDA College and Conservatory of Performing Arts has locations in both New York City and Los Angeles, the entertainment capitals of the U.S. While AMDA is focused on performing arts, they also offer opportunities for students to get involved with these fields in unique ways. Students are surrounded by the world of the theater and film businesses, learning how to work within this space in whatever way they choose.

“I learned what it meant to become powerful within my own creativity, as opposed to fitting the mold of what I thought casting wanted me to be,” said McKale Bingham, an AMDA College and Conservatory of Performing Arts alumnus.

Meanwhile, the Academy of Art University teaches students skills necessary for a wide array of artistic careers. From fashion to architecture to design, there is a slew of academic and career tracks for creative students who are interested in a variety of areas within the arts. Professors at the Academy of Art University are also known for their extensive field experience.

“Academy of Art University has a very creative and inspiring environment due to its geographical location as well as its talented and knowledgeable faculty and professors,” said Andrea Nieto, Academy of Art University alumna.

Again, stressing the importance of location, the Academy of Art University is located in San Francisco, a city known for its diverse culture and technology.

These three schools highlight careers in the arts that are all across the board. Students can choose their particular artistic path with the knowledge that they are attending an established art school, and can create a stable career in the arts by learning the business of it “behind the scenes.”

Even for students who do want to, say, try their shot at becoming a musician, having the business background teaches them how to market themselves and build their career in the business. Other students may find that they want to manage artists, and learning the specifics of what goes into doing this successfully in the field is vital.

Learn which angle you want to take as a student who aspires to make a career in the arts, and which colleges make the most sense for your passions and interests. Also, keep in mind that double majoring or minors are also a viable option if you aren’t sure which path you want to take. The vast field of the arts is a feasible career for many, and the business of art and entertainment continues to open doors outside of becoming a star.