The recording school business seems to be booming. In fact, I think the recording school industry is booming a little too much! In my area alone, I know of five guys who have went off to recording school. I’m confident that this is more or less equal to the amount of cash spent on recording in the area in that same amount of time.
I don’t know what it means the amount of money to educate a person is equal to the amount of money being made in a field, but I’m sure there is some economic word for it. I’m sure this word is synonymous with DISASTER.
Parents, Where Are The Jobs?
Simply put, take a look around in your area and ask yourself “Who will hire my kid?” and “What kind of pay will it bring?”. Off hand, I do know of one guy who graduated recording school and got a job at a live sound installation place. I’m sure the pay isn’t great, but at least he is fairly close to what he wants to do and can feed a family. Beyond that, everyone I know who has graduated from recording school does NOTHING involving recording. Why? Because it is REALLY hard to make money at this recording business these days.
Of the recording school graduates I personally know, here is where they work:
Parents appliance business
Live sound installation company
Obviously, this is a very limited sample, but I would expect it to be this way about everywhere. Don’t take my word for it. Ask around. Talk to the locals. I’m positive you’ll find someone who attended recording school changing your oil.
Is Education Necessary For An Audio Industry Career?
Granted, there are quite a bit of different jobs in the audio industry, so let’s start by focusing on the silver tuna. Let’s talk about the producer who does multi-platinum records and makes millions of dollars. What are his/her qualifications? Well, he/she has to be able to crank out a hit caliber recordings. There is probably some luck involved. That’s it. There are zero rules in regard to college education, knowledge, IQ, common sense, or anything like that. It needs to be said that this isn’t much different than attempting to be a rock star. Actually, there are more rock stars than producers, so I’d argue that being a big producer is even harder than being a rock star. There are a lot of starving kids who crawl back home to mom and dad after they fail to reach the big time. Then again, there are a handful that do make it.
Let’s talk about engineers. Audio engineers typically don’t make that much money. I can hire a big boy engineer for $850 per day. That’s pretty damn good money! Unfortunately, these people don’t work everyday. It also needs to be said that these types of engineers are the BIG BOYS. They are extremely talented, extremely skilled, and have been lucky enough to make it to the ultra top of the industry. It’s much more common for excellent engineers to work for a small fraction of that. What is the education level of these engineers? How many attended recording school? In a huge majority of cases, the bigger engineers are older. Back in the older days, there were no audio recording schools to speak of. So a dominating amount of professional engineers who can actually feed their families did not attend recording school. It needs to be said that this generation of audio engineers got in the “ground floor”. We’ll talk about that later on.
There are local and home studio owners out there. This is where I sit. It’s a TOUGH place to be. You can read all about that here: http://www.recordingreview.com/blog/downsides-of-the-home-recording-studio-business/. The bottom line is so many people can easily record themselves, it’s getting harder and harder for people to dump money into an intangible service when instinct makes it easier to purchase tangible products regardless of the time and skill required to get any great results out of them.
There are tons of industry specific jobs out there. I’m sure that every guitar amp manufacturer employs everyone from marketing people to factory workers to techs to whatever. It may be possible to get a job for Groove Tubes or AKG. I have no idea what the job outlook for that is.
The Market Is Saturated
In every demographic of the recording industry, saturation is occurring. The big boy studios are closing. It appears that there will always be a few robo high end studios out there to serve the people who have the big bucks. However, the current quantity of big boy studios is nothing when compared to say 1995. There are less bands signed to major labels these days. The amount of work for studios and engineers is reduced. At best, we can only hope that the number of signed major label bands stays the same. I would expect it labels to continue to minimize their rosters.
There was a day when a recording engineer wore a lab coat. The process of making a recording was much closer to manufacturing diapers or fuel injection. Back then, people didn’t attend recording schools simply because no one really wanted to record bands. These were the days before the glorification of the music industry. The engineers that started in 1970 or so got in when there was relatively little competition. Now that has all changed. Now people are willing to be starving actors just for the shot to say “Up the road and to your left” in the next bad, Nicholas Cage movie.
In the home studio world, every person on the planet either has a standalone recorder box or an audio interface. These people used to pay local studios to record them. Now they do it themselves.
What Do Big Studios Need?
The modern big boy studio is incredibly complex with computers running consoles networked to London, etc. It’s crazy! I saw the machine room in Blackbird Studios (top studio in Nashville) and it was INCREDIBLE! The person who ran the network there surely had a phd in computer networking! It’s about what I would expect to see in a giant IBM factory.
Electrical engineers are always in demand (both in industry and in big boy recording studios) for a zillion reasons.
Big boy studios probably wouldn’t mind having Grammy caliber engineers around either. However, years and years of practice on top of a REAL education provided from an apprenticeship with a Grammy caliber engineer/producer would. This is something you simply aren’t going to get at a recording school. I’ve heard some recording school productions. It usually leaves much to be desired.
What Do Big Studios NOT Need?
Big studios do not have any reason to hire the #436 on the Top 500 Engineers in the city list. Most recording school graduates don’t have the type of engineering experience to allow them to take on the $850 / per day robo engineer with platinum records on his walls. (Note: You will NEVER make $850 per day from the studio. That comes from freelance work.) If they aren’t qualified to engineer recordings, what does a recording school graduate do? Make coffee? Wrap cables? Yes, if they are lucky (with no pay).
If My Kid Wanted To Attend Recording School….
If my kid wanted to attend recording school, I’d have to tell them that there is simply no way in the world I would pay for it. It’s not because I’m a pessimist. It’s because I’m convinced that recording school is a dead end. There are ways to get to the top, make huge connections, etc. However, I don’t think the recording school route is that way. Recording school is an entertaining experience with money to throw a way. It has little to no connection to actually making money for your kid.
If my kid really wanted to attend recording school, I’d insist that they either:
A) Get educated in a field that will not only put them in high demand in a recording studio, but also give them options for when they decide that actually need to feed a family. As noted before, computer networking and electrical engineering are both excellent fields to go into.
B) Go for a direct internship for a big producer. This would take some charisma and balls. It’s a risk proposition, but it’s one of the few ways to get “in the door”.
The recording school business is booming but the recording studio business is not. Use your head, parents and help your kids understand that they certainly can realize their dreams, but that things are a little more complicated and a little tougher than they appear in those shiny ads with the giant SSL consoles.
In conventional crafts, the system is setup that a person gets an education to get his/her foot in the door to really learn on the job. The recording industry is different. The people who get the education tend to be on the fast track back home, sleeping until 2pm, and trying to figure out what the hell to do with their lives.