Think different. This was Apple‘s slogan during the late 90s. It’s time for people in the United States to think different when it comes to college. In particular, Recording Arts schools.
I’m going to tell you something that Recording Arts technical schools and colleges don’t want you to hear or read: You don’t need them.
I’ll also tell you something else that they probably won’t. The chances of finding a job in music production/audio engineering are slim. Just look at these Bureau of Labor Statistics figures. Those are real world numbers. How many people graduate every year with audio engineering degrees from the hundreds of schools across the United States? If you live in another country, find the equivalent numbers. You’ll probably be surprised.
So, right off the bat I will say that a career in audio is a very tough road to go down. You should consider another career path and maybe produce music on the side. Many go that route out of necessity. Why?
The reality is many musicians build their own home studios because good enough gear is cheaper than going to a studio. And once they are finished recording they sell their gear. Another reason is music has become a free commodity, first thanks to Napster then later YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, TIDAL and others. Paying for individual music albums is passé. Subscription services both free and premium are where music fans have turned. Budgets have gotten lower and lower as less people purchase music.
All is not bleak though! There are other areas where audio production hasn’t taken a big hit. Post production for movies and TV shows. Video game audio. Mobile app audio and live sound plus a few others.
Apologies…I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Adam and I’m a professional audio engineer. Since the year 2011 I have produced over 500 videos on the subject of audio engineering on a YouTube channel named Real Home Recording. Before YouTube I produced many internet radio shows (before they were called podcasts) since 1998 and engineered a good deal of local musicians.
Why did I start this web site? Simply put, I don’t like to see people wasting their money. I will not stand by and let this continue without trying to stop it any longer. What must be understood is that my desire to combat recording schools didn’t start in May 2017. Oh no. This has been brewing since the 2013 release of this video.
A couple more videos about the topic were uploaded to Real Home Recording over the years.
But this LA Times news article was the final straw. The article made it personal for me. In it, a young woman by the name of Emily Erdbrink spent over $200,000 learning audio and could not find a job for two years. She finally did get one after the article came out, but how many more people share Emily’s story and frustration? And even with a job, how quickly will that $200,000+ debt be paid back? This problem needs to end.
Most schools do not make any guarantees in terms of job placement but at the same time they are charging the same tuition rates that they do a doctor or some other high paying, in-demand career field. Instead of complaining about it yet again I’ve decided to do something about it: Offer legitimate alternatives to going to a college or a technical school for audio engineering/music production.
Alternative #1 The Internship
Before applying for admission to a recording school, call up every recording studio in major cities. Long distance is free and most cell phone plans offer unlimited talk time…there is no reason not to these days. Ask them the following questions:
- Do you have any internship openings?
- Do these internships require college credit?
- Do you have any job openings?
- If not, how often do job positions become available?You’ll find some interesting results. At many studios they have people beating down the door to work for them for free, so they will turn away free labor.Think about that for a second. Companies are rejecting free labor. That is INSANE! And rarely does anyone question this craziness. So many people are willing to gain experience at a “real studio” that they will work for no pay.
McDonald’s pays while training employees…why not audio? I even tried to do a free internship at McDonald’s and they wouldn’t let me. So, what does that tell you?
That said, an internship or apprenticeship is a much better option than paying a recording school tuition fees. You’ll learn more and get real world experience without spending a lot of money.
Having trouble finding an internship? Try bribery. No…seriously. A lot of studios are struggling to make ends meet. Offering them $5,000-10,000 and most will magically find room for you to be a fly on the wall and to scrub their bathrooms. Even if you aren’t getting college credit.
Just make sure you are truly getting something out of the experience, not just doing coffee runs and cleaning toilets. That’s actually the way the law works in the United States…internships are supposed to be mutually beneficial.
Don’t want to call around to different studios? I plan on making a monthly listing of internship/job opportunities in the major U.S. cities but you’ll have to pay for that.
Alternative #2 Start Your Own Studio
A scary thought, right? Well, so is spending $15,000 or a lot more and not being able to find a job. There are plenty of books available on the subject of audio engineering and music production along with video tutorials right here on YouTube. You’ll be paying your dues one way or another. Why not do it to your greatest benefit? Instead of cleaning somebody else’s toilets, clean your own damn toilets at your own damn studio!
Let me warn you again though. Commercial studios are dying at a rapid rate. Many have started their own recording arts classes to make up for lost income. The writing is on the wall…you just have to read between the lines sometimes. But if you absolutely positively want to produce music and attempt to make a living at it then I believe entrepreneurship is the best route. Instead of relying on others to provide a job, create the job yourself! Think Different.
Want another reason to not go to recording school or interning at a big studio?
Limited Access to School Gear
When you go to a college open house, they show you all of this cool equipment. Guess what? You won’t be able to use that equipment as much as you’d like because you have to share it with other students. And most schools won’t allow you to make money with the gear they own even though you are paying tuition to use it!
When you choose to start your own business and buy your own gear you can immediately start making money. Isn’t that why most people go to college in the first place…to better themselves financially and intellectually? More importantly, you have all the time you need to learn and use that gear. And if it doesn’t work out, you can always sell the audio gear to get a partial refund. Good luck getting a refund from a college after you can’t find a job!
Still Not Convinced?
I don’t blame you. You don’t know me and I don’t know you. So don’t just take my word for it. Here are some others’ thoughts on the topic of going to recording school:
Be sure to read the comments section on those videos as well. Again, I would strongly suggest another career field. But…if you REALLY want to be an audio engineer or music producer then keep reading.
The Journey Begins
You kept reading. You’re brave! But you are also in luck because you have found one of the best resources for audio engineering related information on the entire internet. I’ll point you in the right directions but it will be up to you to learn and implement the information.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of bad information on the internet mixed in with the good. I will do my best to only put excellent information on this web site. The other goal of this site is to not flood your brain with unnecessary or redundant information either.
What topics will be covered? From the newbie level questions of what gear to purchase and how to use that gear. Songwriting and arrangement tips. Onto the topics of mixing, mastering, marketing and the important stuff in-between.
If you need a mentor–somebody to help you set things up and to answer your immediate questions–then I do offer online and in-person premium tutoring and business consultation services to put you on the right track to starting your own studio.