Audio Engineering and Sound Production Alumni Chris Wiseman shares his opinion on the amount of work available in the Audio Industry.
One of my lecturers at JMC once said “Welcome to the industry. There’s no jobs here, but there’s plenty of work”.
What? Why am I paying this money and studying if I can’t get a job? You tool! You have a job teaching! Clearly, I didn’t understand what he meant at first, but when it dawned on me later that day it fired me up with energy and motivation that has yet to subside.
If you want to work, you have to go get it yourself. I’ve since been told by everybody in the industry "Gone are the internships, and job offers. Gone are most of the house engineer jobs at live music venues. Gone are the assistant engineers. Long gone is the tape op to producer career path.”
Yeah? Then who’s making all this music? And I don’t mean Flume and Tash Sultana. There ARE STILL studios. There ARE STILL bands. Games still have music. Movies still have soundtracks. Somebody is working. Somebody is getting paid. Things are being DONE. Who is doing all this work?
There are no jobs, but there’s plenty of work.
This is about going out and grabbing work for yourself. If you think you’re ready to work in the studio, or live for that matter, or on location, go find it! We’re exceptionally lucky in Australia to have such a vibrant and diverse creative scene. Here’s some simple ideas for a few areas:
Film and TV? Find a small production house, or indie director/producer (Youtube search for: indie movie Australia director or producer) and watch what they produce. Go to the Tropfest site and watch all the finalists. Find the directors you like on Facebook and stalk them (don’t be a creep). Don’t just send off random CVs. Check out their content and talk to them about it on Facebook. Show them your interest in their product and give them ideas of what you would do for them if given a chance on the next project. Are they doing something soon? ASK.
Live music? Go to gigs. Find an artist or band you love and ASK THEM IF THEY HAVE A REGULAR DUDE. What if they say no? Go find an artist or band you hate and ask them. They will gig with support acts. You might like THEM. Ask THEM. Work leads to work. Don’t be picky! Get one band, and you get the whole bill. That’s three or four bands in a night. Do that twice a month and within a few months you work every weekend and two nights a week if you want. That’s enough to move out of home maybe.
Radio/advertising? There’s thousands of companies and hundreds of agencies. Make leaflets and drop them off to places with your name and number on it. I know a guy who did this. If you’re into jingles and short audio spots, then you know that it’s a fast turnaround and constant stream of opportunity. This can be both dialogue recording (which you can do on location, or in your home studio) or making little stings in any DAW with a cheap VST synth and bashing it through a bunch of plugins. Honestly, have you listened to ads on the radio lately? I mean really listened? You’ll have a degree in audio soon, so should be able to make stings in your lunch hour for extra cash. Clients are everywhere.
I like the idea of working on Game Music. So I bought a ticket to PAX Australia (the largest gaming convention in Aus) a few weeks back and spoke with heaps of indie developers about their games. I played all the games I could at the show and listened to the music. I brought my own reference headphones (which was a talking point in itself, and showed I was serious). Most of them were doing the audio themselves. Computer programmers doing audio... I handed out my card and told them to think of me for their next project. I’d be happy to do a few demos during development, and if they liked what I did and it was working well with the game, we could work out a deal for the rest. Easy! It’s not like I was setting a rate then and there. I’m just saying give me a buzz and let me knock up a few things for you. If you like it, you can license it. Meanwhile, Doom (2016) and Wolfenstein: The New Order, are both global mega-hits for Bethesda and ID Software. They were scored by Mick Gordon, an Australian who works from home in Brisbane. BRISBANE! There’s a JMC in Brisbane, so I know some of you reading this are in Brisbane. He used to send out snippets of stuff to developers all the time. Now he’s living the dream.
You don’t need a website, you don’t need a showreel. You just need to talk to people - maybe get 100 cards made up with your name and number on them. Put “Audio Engineer” or “Sound designer” on them and aim to hand all of them out within six months in person. Don’t leave them around. Introduce yourself and at the end of the chat say ‘oh, hang on, I have a card here somewhere.’
You don’t need a heap of gear, plenty of mics and Neve preamps. Get the work first and then beg/borrow/steal (don’t steal) the gear you need. One of the most pleasantly stressful things is trying to track down gear for a job that YOU ALREADY HAVE. Hire it from a studio (they have everything), or if the job is paying enough, buy it new and then you have it for the next job.
Meanwhile, keep your day job at K-Mart or the pizza shop, as that will pay the rent and the bills while you get yourself set long-term. It’ll also let you put fuel in your car to get out to a location to meet a band or buy a mic for that job next week. But you should be investing just as much time in finding your own work.
There’s just no way of knowing what’s on the next page of life. Only when you look back across the whole thing does it start to make sense; a real story appears. Working as a producer or audio engineer is harder to start sometimes than it is to finish, but you can make a hell of a difference to your own story if you write the first chapter yourself. If you want work, go get it!
Besides, who wants a job anyway?
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