Your Income and Your Art

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The creative industries are challenging. Competition is fierce and with the rise of the web comes from all over the world. There is little doubt that the music industry in particular is big business. The latest stats from the Australian council of the arts confirms that “Australians continue to spend over $2 billion on music every year” (2010), however that in the billion dollar music industry there were, “Less than 200 musicians and composers who earned over $100,000 from their creative practice in 2007/08 – and the median creative income for performing musicians was $7,200” (2010). Not great news for a budding sound engineer when considering who comprises your target market!

Fortunately however, the role of a sound engineer crosses many modalities and contrary to what most from outside the music industry may assume, is not just limited to recording bands in a studio (although this is my passion). The need for audio engineers in the performing arts is increasing as the following graph from the ABS indicates:

AVERAGE WEEKLY HOUSEHOLD EXPENDITURE AT CURRENT PRICES(a), 1984 to 2009–10

1984 1988-89 1993-94 1998-99 2003-04 2009-10
$/week $/week $/week $/week $/week $/week
Literature 4.16 5.82 7.54 7.56 8.43 9.38
Music 0.68 1.21 1.29 2.07 1.65 0.92
Performing arts(b) 0.81 0.92 1.92 1.48 1.59 2.93
Visual arts and crafts(c) 0.42 0.58 0.72 1.09 1.66 2.38
Broadcasting, electronic media and film(d) 1.28 2.01 3.13 4.13 7.87 10.86
Other arts(e) 0.95 1.22 1.41 1.28 1.86 2.53
Heritage 0.09 0.13 0.25 0.17 0.39 0.43
Other culture(f)(g) 6.94 7.94 9.13 8.90 12.94 15.96
Total(c)(e) 15.33 19.83 25.39 26.74 36.40 45.39
(a) Not adjusted for inflation.
(b) Comprises Live theater fees and charges and Music concert fees and charges.
(c) Excludes Art and craft materials which were allocated to a category that was not predominantly cultural prior to 1998-99.
(d) Excludes the hire of TV games for surveys prior to 1998-99.
(e) For 1998-99, includes Cultural fees and charges nec which were included in other cultural categories in previous surveys.
(f) Includes the Hire of TV games for surveys prior to 1998-99.
(g) For 1998-99 and 2003-04, includes Other audiovisual equipment and parts which were included in other cultural categories in previous surveys.
Source: Household Expenditure Survey, Australia: Summary of Results, 2009-10 (cat. no. 6530.0).

People are going out to see live performance more than ever and the trend seems to be stable. The rise in household expenditure on broadcasting, electronic media and film is significant and will provide many more opportunities for sound engineers into the future. Audio Engineers are essential in film, radio, television, for computer games, live music performances, theater and at sporting and corporate events. Whilst my ultimate goal is to have my own recording studio and produce music, it may well be that I will work in one of these other areas as I create my reputation and improve my skill set. This will mean I am working for a wage as an employee and I believe this is a good place to begin building my brand.

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A recording studio requires a substantial capital investment and whilst a solid business plan and a loan from a bank would be required, a deposit will also be needed to secure these extra funds and as an employee I will have the means to save towards this goal. The experience gleaned working for a large operation will also stand me in good stead and ensure I have the industry experience and knowledge required to start my own business when the time is right.

My plan is to enter into a partnership with a like minded and equally skilled practitioner and this will also allow the burden of start up and operational costs to be shared. Partnerships can however be tricky and in my history as a business banker I have seen many go the way of the Dodo. The key is to have proper agreements in place from the outset and be yoked with a partner who has the same desire and goals as I do. Someone who compliments my skills and has the same ambitions. Could be hard to find!

For the moment, my focus is to excel in my studies and use this opportunity to learn as much as I can, so that once I graduate I will be a great fit for a company requiring an audio engineer. I am confident in my interview skills after having spent 25 years in the corporate arena. During this time I hired many of my direct reports personally and for me, it is all about securing a face to face meeting and being confident that my demonstrated ability to impress in such environments will secure me an entry into my chosen career.

References

Australian Council for the Arts ‘Artfacts’ website (2010). Retrieved from: http://artfacts.australiacouncil.gov.au/music/industry-8/australians-continue-to-spend-2-billion-on-music-each-year/

Australian Council for the Arts ‘Artfacts’ website (2010). Retrieved from: http://artfacts.australiacouncil.gov.au/music/industry-8/australians-buy-3-recordings-per-second-thats-100000000-a-year/

Australian Council for the Arts ‘Artfacts’ website (2010). Retrieved from: http://artfacts.australiacouncil.gov.au/music/industry-8/in-the-multi-billion-dollar-music-industry-musicians-earn-7200-a-year/

Australian Bureau of Statistics: Household Expenditure Survey, Australia: Summary of Results (2009-10). Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/mf/6530.0/

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