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Money and Music – Is There a Relationship?


I was very close to majoring in music in college. There were three colleges that I applied for, each with very different majors. I ended up going to the college that gave me the best financial aid package. It also ended up being for the major that everyone thought that I should do. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for the major that deep down I wanted to pursue…which was music.

My love for music really blossomed in high school band. I did it all…jazz band, marching band and concert band. There is something truly magical that happens when you play music with others. I’m sure others who play will understand what I mean. It’s something that is difficult to describe.

A survey recently conducted shows a relationship between people with a musical background and those who have a higher education and higher earnings:

The poll by Harris Interactive, an independent research company, showed that 88 percent of people with a post-graduate education were involved in music while in school, and 83 percent of people earning $150,000 or more had a music education.

[Via Yahoo.com]

I am part of the 88% because I have a college degree. But, I don’t make anywhere near $150,000 a year. If I did end up majoring in music and perhaps become a music teacher at a school, I doubt I would have made more than $150,000/year. It would be interesting to read about what professions those with music lessons ended up in.

I’ve thought about enrolling our son in music lessons, but they are costly and he hasn’t shown an interest in any of the instruments we have in our home. But he’s still young and of course I will be ready and willing to share my love of music with him if and when he is ready. But it won’t be because he might end up making more money in his lifetime…it’s because music is such a beautiful thing.


  • Reply The Chef |

    The survey I feel shows the correlation between music and money and no cause-effect relationship.

    The relationship can be:
    both start with the letter ‘m’ both have 5 letters in it and we all like the sound of both.

    But jokes apart I can take a cue from the book Freakonomics that I read recently along with your post then I can put the following relationship.

    Music courses are expensive(as per you) and only such students can afford them who have great passion or who are financially well or have financially well parents. Now it make sense that most music lovers end up with higher education degree as they were financially well and landed up in a well paying job riding on their education.

  • Reply Lucy Lastic |

    My musical abilities extend as far as being able to play (badly) ‘London’s Burning’ on the recorder. I used to drive my Dad daft with it when I was younger because it really was the only thing I knew how to play. I think my typical financial circumstances indicate that there may be more than a grain of truth in the theory behind your article 🙂

  • Reply misskate |

    I think music lessons are one of the best activities a child can have. Learning to read music and play an instrument has been linked to better understandings of math and foreign language, the practice necessary to learn an instrument instills discipline and understanding of long-term goals and accomplishment.
    BUT, your son is still pretty young. One of my closest friends is a concert pianist and teaches piano. She says about seven years old is the best age for a child to start learning. You could start putting money aside now and then have a little nest egg for when he is old enough to start.

  • Reply Mrs. Micah |

    I think music lessons can be good for you, whether or not they’re actually linked to financial success. But your son is young yet, I didn’t start lessons until I was 8. In a few years you’ll hopefully be in a better situation and he’ll still be young enough to learn. 🙂

  • Reply JW Thornhill |

    My oldest daughter is naturally very talented as a singer and pianist, she has student loan of more than $38k for a degree in music from Wayne State University. But, she has not been able to utilize her education for employment.

    At the time that she was in school she had considered only minoring in music but, one of her instructors persuaded her differently.

    I recently read the bio of Mitch Albom on Forbes website and it says that he plays in Rock band occasionally. But, as we know he earns his $6million annual income as a writer and radio personality.

  • Reply jaye |

    I know music lessons are costly–been there, done that. Depending upon where you live, your public school system might offer music lessons for free or at reduced cost. My kids were able to take recorder lessons for free in elementary school (though we had to buy the recorder and book for $14.00). In 5th grade, they can join the school band for free (though, again, the parents are responsible for renting or buying the instrument). My older son plays clarinet 3 times a week with the school band, and his sister is excitedly planning to start playing the sax next year.

    My kids will never be musical geniuses, but they really enjoy what they are doing. Since we no longer pay $40/week for piano lessons, we feel much happier about the situation! If your son becomes interested earlier on, YOU could always teach him!

    There’s nothing in the world as great as a good public school system!

  • Reply Law student |

    I agree with the chef that there’s probably no cause and effect relationship between music and money and I also agree that it might be more of an indication of the wealth of the child’s parents. (I also want to point out that your study showed that most people who earn $150,000 or more took music lessons, not that most people who took music lessons earn $150,000 — many don’t.) I have two things to add to the chef’s point:
    1. The elite in this country see music lessons as an important extracurricular that builds concentration, dedication and intelligence, and thus they foist music lessons on their children at a young age, though they don’t expect them to become musicians.
    2. The country’s elite universities like to accept children overextended in extracurricular activities and musical ability is one of the characteristics they prize. Thus, a good musician (who also has good grades, worked on yearbook, ran the school newspaper, etc) has a better chance of getting into a top school, which then feeds the student into a high-paying career should the student so choose.

    I fit the description of the people in the study, and I can tell you what profession I ended up in. I played the cello from the time I was 10 until I was 18. I didn’t love it, and I hated to practice, but my mother always taught me never to be a quitter so I played all of the way through high school. I went to a top Ivy league school, where the never-quit mentality served me well. I ended up at a top law school, where every student is virtually guaranteed a job that pays at least $160,000 a year before bonuses. (You get your job offer your second year of school, or in my case, even the first. For example, I interviewed with 30 law schools, chose to visit 8 and ended up with 8 offers in three cities from law firms that wanted to pay me $40,000 to work this summer and $160,000 upon graduation.)
    I would say most of my classmates studied musical instruments in high school. One even had a career as a musician before enrolling in law school, but that is far from the norm. Most of us juggled music lessons with foreign language lessons, community service, and work on our high school newspapers.
    I would also say, from my experience in college, that most of my friends who went into investment banking studied music, and most of my friends who ended up in med school studied music, too.

  • Reply Law student |

    I want to add that my parents aren’t rich (although many of my friends’ parents are) and that I started instrument lessons at my public school on a rented cello. If your public school has a good music program, you should definitely get your son involved. 🙂

  • Reply DC Smith |

    “Post-graduate education” is more than a degree – it’s education beyond a bachelor’s (undergraduate) degree. I have 2 bachelor’s degrees, but no post-graduate education. The people in the study probably have their masters or doctorates, which makes $150k more reasonable.

  • Reply Tricia |

    Hmmm…my bad. I misunderstood the education part. I guess I don’t apply to this at all!

    In any case, I still like music 🙂

  • Reply MOMM |

    A good friend of mine (and valedictorian of our graduating class) went on to major in music and graduated a few years ago. He now works in real estate and I think he quit even looking for a music related job. He doesn’t have a Masters though. Oh and he lives in Minnesota now which I think has had problems with hiring teachers in the past years?

  • Reply mab |

    I’ve long been interested in music, though I never knew how to play an instrument until a few years ago. When I was in college pursuing a Computer Science degree, I had a conversation with one of the registrars. I was considering getting a minor in music, but I wasn’t sure what was available for someone who couldn’t play. She informed me that an inordinate amount of Computer Science and Engineering students took minors or double majors in music.

    I think there’s something about the natural mathematics inherit in music that appeals to a mathematical mind, at least on an intuitive level.

    Anyway, I mention this because it’s possible that a large amount of those 150k+ earners are in some aspect of the technology field.

    Just food for thought.

  • Reply Kevin M |

    I think there may be a point there. I would expand it past music to people who are interested in the creative arts.

    My brother as a young man was a fantastically gifted artist, dabbling in graphic arts, printing, metal sculpture, carpentry, etc. He turned that creativity into the high tech industry and has made a killing. Most other creative people I know also make a very handsome living, unless they stuck to their music or art. Once they went out and got a real job, their creativity enable a quick rise for them.

  • Reply Eileen |

    I bet the reason why the statistics show that those who had a music education and are earning > $150k a year are probably because most of them came from families that were already well off. I mean, who can afford an music education? Music is an expensive pursuit from what I understand. You have to already have the money to pursue it.

  • Reply Ashley |

    You have to be careful reading stats like that. I had a teacher tell me once that UNC once put out stats that said the average salary of those who graduated from their school with an architecture degree was some crazy high number.

    What they didn’t tell you was Michael Jordan graduated with that degree. But they used his salary in creating their stats. He obviously wasn’t using that degree! hahaha!

  • Reply Daniel E. Friedman |

    I strongly that music sharpens and broadens the mind. This probably accounts, in part, for your statistic with respect to income and music background.

    As for making money in this business, it is most certainly possible. However, most musicians that I know multitask within the profession (performing, teaching, recording…)in order to produce income. It’s not easy to make a living, but the means by which we make it are wonderfully rewarding.

So, what do you think ?