Throwing in the towel?

general questions, comments and ideas about recording, audio, music, etc.
twitchmonitor
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Throwing in the towel?

Post by twitchmonitor » Tue Oct 26, 2004 3:06 pm

I'm seriously considering "giving up" on the "music thing." I graduated from NYU with a philosophy degree and I work at a dead end job 40 hours a week so that I can spend the occasional night or weekend recording....when I get the work. Despite some decent experience, a year-long internship at a great studio, etc....I haven't been able to find a position at a local studio or develop enough of a clientel to pay rent and eat, let alone the other expenses (insurance, bills, etc). If I lived in a Disney world I would hear some uplifting, inspirational music and I would march on to the beat of my own drum, following my dream. But in real life, I'm starting to realize that given the changes in and current state of the recording/music industry there's not much of a bright future. Even if I have a degree of success at engineering, it means that I'll work long hard hours with difficult musicians for little pay and with no job security. And that's if I get lucky. If I'm not I'll be a 40 year old, overeducated administrative assistant.

So I'm applying to electrical engineering programs....inspired by building all the various gear over the years....royer tube mic, sherlock, seventh circle pres, etc. I may still be able to get some recording in, but it's a really intensive discipline, from what I hear, and I'm going to have to make some serious sacrifices.

28 ain't old, but I don't want another 10 years to slip by with nothing but heartache, disapointment and stories of what could have or should have been.

:cry:

stewie
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Re: Throwing in the towel?

Post by stewie » Tue Oct 26, 2004 3:22 pm

i woudnt throw in the towel. just build up your OWN studio and dont worry about working for someone elses. build up a list of clients that are respectable and sound good . develop your own sound and people will come to your for it if you have something.

twitchmonitor
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Re: Throwing in the towel?

Post by twitchmonitor » Tue Oct 26, 2004 3:34 pm

double post.
Last edited by twitchmonitor on Tue Oct 26, 2004 3:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

twitchmonitor
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Re: Throwing in the towel?

Post by twitchmonitor » Tue Oct 26, 2004 3:37 pm

twitchmonitor wrote:
stewie wrote:i woudnt throw in the towel. just build up your OWN studio and dont worry about working for someone elses. build up a list of clients that are respectable and sound good . develop your own sound and people will come to your for it if you have something.
Hey, I've been trying to make that happen, but I can barely afford to eat, let alone rent a space and build a proper studio. And I'm getting clients, but the way things are going here in SF, people don't want to pay for engineering when they can just get a computer and a pro tools rig. An engineer, to many people out here, seems like an extraneous and unnecessary expense. Folks barely want to pay for studio time (despite the fact that it's so cheap that it's putting studio after studio out of business). There are bands and artist to work with who want and appreciate the value of a good engineer, but the bands are few and the engineers are many. Much of the work goes to established engineers...little folks like me pick up scraps here and there. Certainly not enough to eke out a living. Homeless people on General Assistance make more than I do from engineering. I shit you not.

Really...if it was that easy, I wouldn't be talking about throwing in the towel

tommy
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Re: Throwing in the towel?

Post by tommy » Tue Oct 26, 2004 3:43 pm

Your damn right 28 aint old. I'm 41 and although I don't hate my day job (it is one of those jobby jobs at 40 hrs a week) I do have to keep it in order to live. I've been recording bands freelance for about 9 years now and yeah I can't pay my bills if it was the only thing I had but I still can't see giving it up just because of the financial thing. The only problem is that because I have to manage my unmanagable time, I don't get to sleep as much as I would like to. And I don't get to go out and see movies or bands as much as I would like to but I know that. It's a matter of knowing what exactly is important to you. Given that most freelancers out there can't make a decent living at it, You have to figure out if you can live with the sometimes big sacrifices that come along with the gig. I've made a choice to do this because I like it too much. Therefore I have to take all the sacrifices that go along with it.

I think it's also important to know what the pro studio landscape is like out there. Obviousely it's not like a normal job. Especially these days. Many studio's (even a lot of big ones) don't really have "positions" to offer. More like an owner/engineer and a few trusted freelance engineers that bring work in. This obviousely makes the sacrifices even bigger.
If you can manage becoming one of these trusted freelancers in the studios that you like then you are on your way. All it takes is to do a great recording for a band that other bands will eventually hear. The work will sell itself. Easier said than done but it's do-able.

yardleyone
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Re: Throwing in the towel?

Post by yardleyone » Tue Oct 26, 2004 3:47 pm

could you really imagine not recording music?
all the bad leaves fall on cake for heaven's sake

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I'm Painting Again
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Re: Throwing in the towel?

Post by I'm Painting Again » Tue Oct 26, 2004 3:54 pm

keep working at it..dont quit!

electrical engineering school might be a good idea..but you might find yourself in some debt and in another 9-5 job you dont like..

the salary for a basic EE is 45k-55k at the highest..and those jobs want a few years of experience to boot..i think..

someplaces teachers start at 45k off the bat..summers/holidays off..teachers are always needed..thats something to think about..

my sister is a RN and she has a schedule i envy..its prety hard work but she makes a ton of money like 70k a year..registered nurses are in HIGH demand..she works 3 days on and then has 3 days off..sometimes 4..again theres some school debt involved here too but the jobs are in higher demand..
Last edited by I'm Painting Again on Tue Oct 26, 2004 4:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Scodiddly
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Re: Throwing in the towel?

Post by Scodiddly » Tue Oct 26, 2004 4:06 pm

Unlike a boxing match, which is the origin of the "throwing the towel in" phrase, shutting down your recording isn't necessarily the end of your recording career. With a EE you'd come back a real badass, maybe to a new golden age of the recording industry. Who can tell? But as I've gotten older I've realized that I've got a lot more time to do things than it seemed when I was younger. For instance, music. I'm still a very good bass player, despite not keeping my chops up as much as I'd like. But I've discovered I like playing guitar and singing as well, and if I'd tried to stick to a bass playing career I'd probably be completely nuts or an alcoholic by now.

If you find electronics interesting, pack away the studio, sell the stuff you don't really expect to want in 5 years, and go learn electronics. Perhaps by your 2nd or 3rd year you'll have a bitchin console (or mics, or A/D converter and software) you built yourself, and a new sideline recording music students. I got into building mics less than a year ago, because it seemed interesting, and now I'm putting together some surprisingly good mics even by professional standards. It's not because I was desperate for cheap mics...it's because I found it interesting enough to pursue.

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Re: Throwing in the towel?

Post by underthebigtree » Tue Oct 26, 2004 4:07 pm

Many of the biggest, most prestigious recording studios are in deep doggy-doo. The mid- and low-level ones are swamped with competition. Project studio-level recording gear democratized the music recording process (a great thing), but has made it inordinately difficult to run a profitable recording studio (not a great thing).

I would recommend that you market yourself as a freelance audio creator/producer of some kind. Find a niche and fill it in your area - post production, audio for radio, producing demos for teenagers, whatever. And have a good, solid income stream to fall back on.

I've made a good living in video game sound design, augmented by teaching Pro Tools and writing articles on audio production, for a long time. None of these things are actually creating music, which is by far my first love. But I found a niche and filled it.

Having said that, I had a background in computer science, and was able to pay the bills by programming for 10 years while I built my studio and reputation. So I would say that having an EE degree to fall back on is a pragmatic and practical plan.

Best of luck!

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Re: Throwing in the towel?

Post by Stephen » Tue Oct 26, 2004 4:07 pm

As far as renting space etc... See if you can find some partners and form an alliance. Perhaps you might find a band rehearsal space where you can build in exchange for recording the group.
Pax, Steve
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KennyLusk
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Re: Throwing in the towel?

Post by KennyLusk » Tue Oct 26, 2004 4:08 pm

28 is "just getting started".

Being a philosphy major you should truly understand "there is no fate but what we make."

Don't rely on others for your pleasure or your dreams. Make your life what you want it to be. In many ways life is just like Disney, in that you decide (unequivocally) how happy and how colorful your life is. You decide how fulfilled you'll be; day in and day out.

You have desires and you have dreams, so persue them. Do the things in life you want to do. Don't look for an opportunity for someone else to facilitate you. Facilitate yourself. Set very reasonable goals for yourself and begin to persue those goals but they have to be things you can make happen on your own. When you are acheiving your own goals on a daily basis and accomplishing step-by-step progressive success with "the little things" then your overall feeling of joy increases exponentially.

If you would like to be an audio electronics engineer then by-god be one. Even on the smallest scale your joy will overshadow any past perceptions of lack of acheivement. Eventually the things you've done on a small scale will resound collectively in the form of a song that will be your own. Ownership of your own path and your own successes is a major key to happiness.

twitchmonitor
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Re: Throwing in the towel?

Post by twitchmonitor » Tue Oct 26, 2004 4:17 pm

yardleyone wrote:could you really imagine not recording music?
I don't ever plan to quit doing it, but I'm going to have to relegate it to "hobby" status. If I enroll in an EE program, I'm simply not going to have the time. I love it and if I thought it was viable, I would keep at it, but I just don't think it is.

But when you think about it, here are a couple of other folks who pursued artistic goals while working at other things:

Rudy Van Gelder (dentist)
Franz Kafka (clerk)
Albert Einstein (patent clerk)
Charles Bukowski (postal worker)

I'm sure I could increase the list ad infinitum.
There is hope yet, but it will look a bit different than I'd, um, hoped it would.

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Re: Throwing in the towel?

Post by 8th_note » Tue Oct 26, 2004 4:21 pm

I hate to say it but I think you're making the right decision. Making a living from recording is only going to get tougher as cheap tools become more widely available.

I started recording about 3 years ago as a hobby. I'm a middle aged guy and it's something I always wanted to do. I began by recording a couple local bands direct to two-track RR and I progressed to computer recording. I've got a DAW and I've invested maybe 5k or 6k in the whole works, including microphones. With this modest investment and a few years experience, I'm able to produce a decent sounding record. Not as good as Linkin Park but better than Promise Ring.

Several of my clients have said things like, "Wow, man, you should get serious and do this full time." I just laugh and ask them if they would be prepared to pay $500 to $1000 per song instead of $50 per song. They look at me kind of funny and that's the end of the conversation.

I don't see how anybody can really expect to make a decent living in this business with recording capability so cheap and readily available. Plus you've got forums like this that speed up the learning curve by warp factor 6. Listen to Rewind+Record by The Stereo if you want a scary experience. This is a great sounding record that the band recorded and produced themselves.

Sorry to be so negative but I can't imagine trying to do this for a living. I'm keeping my day job....

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Re: Throwing in the towel?

Post by Chris_Meck » Tue Oct 26, 2004 4:33 pm

If you're doing this to get rich, then yes, you should quit.

If you're doing this because, like me, you calculated how much money you've paid studios over a decade or so and realized that you could have a totally sweet studio's worth of equipment if you'd just learn to do it yourself, then NO, you shouldn't quit. By 38, you'll have acquired some nice stuff and be pretty good at it.

If you're doing this because everything else makes you want to buy an Uzi and start wasting people, then you should not quit.

Just my opinion.

Chris
greetings from Flyover Country...

dgochenour
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Re: Throwing in the towel?

Post by dgochenour » Tue Oct 26, 2004 4:56 pm

BEARD_OF_BEES wrote:keep working at it..dont quit!
This is the most important message. If you like it, don't quit. Just spend the time that you can, and have fun. That's what I do. I have a 50-60 hour/week job and a 6 month old daugther, but the couple hours I get with music are life saving.
BEARD_OF_BEES wrote: electrical engineering school might be a good idea..but you might find yourself in some debt and in another 9-5 job you dont like..
This is true. ONLY go back to school if are truely interested, NOT as an escape. Otherwise, as B.O.B. says, you could end up where you started.
BEARD_OF_BEES wrote: the salary for a basic EE is 45k-55k at the highest..and those jobs want a few years of experience to boot..i think..
This is not true. Every job is different. You can make 4x what is listed above in the best cases. 2x in a lot of cases. But you do have to start somewhere.



Good luck making your way, and do whatever makes you happy. 8)
don gochenour

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