Today we’ll be looking at the the possible ROI (return on investment) of an audio education for the purpose of getting work. In Part 1 I said,
“If you're going to school to train for a first or second career, you're spending thousands of dollars on your education and you want a paid job afterward.”
I want to zero in on this because this is the reason the majority of people go to school. And if we’re talking about the ROI of our education, we’re talking directly in terms of paid employment. So the question is:
Are there any jobs in audio production?
After graduating, I sent out cover letters and résumés, I followed up with phone calls, networked with studios and professionals both in music and post, brought flowers, did some interning and I can tell you there are virtually no jobs out there. If there are, I have not been able to find them and no one has been able to point me to one either.
Now, it hasn’t been all bad. After graduating, I took up a music director position part-time at a church in Toronto. With my previous education in performance and theology and my experience as a performer, the position fit like a glove. During that time I interned at a small studio which turned into paid work, not as an engineer but as an administrator. I've also done some in-studio engineering work. Most of my producing and engineering work, however, has been freelance. I’ve been able to work with some remarkable artists and performers while being my own boss. But . . .
At tax-time I’d be hit with the numbers: as a career, it was not a success. Self-doubt crept in. Was I unlucky, self-deceived, or completely incompetent? No, as my former audio instructor, Jim Lamarch has observed,
"I am speculating out of experience and close observation, that fewer than one in ten graduates ... actually find meaningful employment in this field and that most grads are forced to take non-related menial labour employment for years to survive and pay off hefty student loans for an education that they’ll never use. I am now communicating with some of my best students (graduates in media arts) over the years (facebook) and (with the exception of a rare few), they’re employed outside of the entertainment/music/audio business in totally unrelated vocations. Many were brilliantly talented and dedicated students when I taught them.".
ROI - The Hard Reality
The following is a glimpse into the life of a typical, ambitious audio graduate:
Ben just spent about $25,000.00 and a year of his life to get his audio diploma. After graduation he looked for work and contacted a number of recording studios in town. The message was always the same: the manager told him he’d have to intern anywhere from 3 to 12 months at 8 to 40 hours per week for free. As he was leaving one studio Ben had the chance to chat with one of the assistants. He couldn’t stand too close this the guy because the b.o. was enough to peel the paint off the siding, plus the guy looked like he had been run over by a truck. Ben asked what it was like working there.
The assistant said, “Man, it’s saucesome!”
“You mean, ‘awesome’, right?”
“Yeah, yeah, sorry, dude. I had to do a food run and the band wanted Italian . . . that’s still on my mind,” he said.
“I thought interns did the food runs.”
“No, man,” said the assistant, “We oversee the interns doing the food run, but the intern was fired so I had to do it.”
Using a few Jedi mind tricks, Ben found out the assistant worked around 50 to 70 hours per week. And with one final wave, Ben learned he earned somewhere between $15,000.00 to $19,000 per year, or about $5 per hour.
As he said goodbye, Ben decided he was the one who needed to “rethink his life.”
Not only do you spend a pile of money getting an education, but you're also asked to work for free and if you do happen to get a job, you make less than minimum wage. This is disrespectful and probably illegal, but that’s how white people pay their dues, right?
An audio education is a lousy investment in terms of its ROI because the job prospects don't square with the high tuition. Any entrepreneur will tell you to reduce the risk as much as you can. Unless you’re a gambler, it’s my belief that the return on investment should at least equal the risk. Theo Paphitis’s Rule One in his twelve rules of business is: Reduce the Risk. He says,
“I’m a great believer that the risk should reflect the reward. If it’s a high-risk strategy, then I want a high reward. My whole business philosophy is based on a risk-reward ratio. But it’s got to stack up. If it doesn’t, don’t do it.” from Enter the Dragon: How I Transformed my Life and How you Can Too, p. 252
Join me next time for the happiest part of this blog series: Attending Audio School: Part 3 - The Reward
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