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Life in the Entertainment Industry

Member for

21 years
Okay, so I'm seriously considering what I want to do with my life and I know I want it to be something involved with music. It's the only thing I feel a real passion for and I'm not a good enough musician to make a living so I thought about audio engineering. I've been checking out SAE Institute in NYC. It's only a 30 min train ride from my home and the tuition is $19,000. It would take me a year and half to complete (part time) and when I'm all done I get a diploma. Not a degree a diploma. So my real concern is if I can actually do anything with this education, career wise. Is there anyone here who has attended this school? What does it take to make it in the business? I'm young, naive and know NOTHING about recording but I'm passionate about doing something that I love for the rest of my life and I really think this would be something I would love. I would really appreciate any feedback you guys have here as I'm starting to see my entire life before my eyes and want to make the right decision.


Member for

21 years

Member Sun, 07/20/2008 - 14:29
spitfire3416 wrote:

Okay, so I'm seriously considering what I want to do with my life and I know I want it to be something involved with music.

so I'm guessing you have no interest whatsoever in making money, raising a family, owning a home, etc.?

Seriously tho, I would look long and hard at depending on any music-related career being your 1st and full-time vocation. The scales are tipped way in the favor of the failure-to-earn-sufficient-money side.

One of my biggest regrets in life was not listening to my daddy when he said "Son, this music thing is alright, but just make sure you've got a real job to fall back on".

Have you taken a look at the placement rate vs. enrollment among graduates of recording schools, and the average pay rate. I'm sure the school showed you some glowing figures. I'd be sure to get a second and third opinion.

Not that really great careers as recording engineers aren't to be had, but I suspect most fully-employed working AEs started as gophers for no pay and worked their way up. Either that or had enough cash to buy the gear and learned by doing.

I'd be interested in hearing from some of the folks who have gone through these programs about whether or not the diploma was worth the expense, and if what they learned in school adequately prepared them for the real world of recording sound for a living.

Me? If I had $19K cash, I'd put it into making a couple of good sounding rooms and get some basic gear, a couple of decent mics and jump into doing.

Just my $.47 (adjusted for inflation and the price of oil)

Member for

19 years 9 months

Thomas W. Bethel Mon, 07/21/2008 - 04:54
I have been a professional audio engineer for 39+ years.

It is something that I enjoy doing and feel good about doing as a profession.

It is NOT financially rewarding but I have been able to pay the bills.

I would think carefully about what you are planning. Today anyone can go to GC and purchase some equipment and call themselves an audio engineer. There are simply too many people doing "audio" for anyone to make any real money at it. Larger studios are closing down and what was once a thriving growing studio business is not currently doing very well. The outlook for the next couple of years is for more large studios to close and more bedroom and basement studios opening up either as DIY endeavors or providing cheap recording and mix-downs for people who need recording done but can't afford the equipment to do it themselves or don't know how.

I would think you would be better off going to a 4 year college. Getting a degree in audio plus something else (finance, accounting, business) to pay the bills and go on from there. A broadly based college education will always be something that you can fall back on if the economic times go bad. A very focused education at one of the places as you describe maybe good but it is no substitute for a 4 year college degree.

I have had a lot of people who graduated from places like Full Sail apply for jobs here. They have worked with some of the best consoles and equipment in the world and seem to think that every studio has to have a Neve or SSL console. They also have gotten the idea that they need no additional training and that they "know it all". It is hard for them to understand that every studio is different and that every studio cannot afford an SSL or Neve console and may not really need that level of equipment for the jobs that they are doing. Of three most recent Full Sail graduates that have applied here one is currently selling cell phones for a living, one is working a GC and one is currently unemployed living in this parent's house. I am sure there are very successful graduates of these recording schools that are making a name for themselves in the business but I also think that the number of people who are really "making it" is very small compared to the number of students that graduate from these places every year.



Member for

21 years

Member Mon, 07/21/2008 - 18:04
I was going to go to a recording school when I was young and naive too. Then I went for a tour and the guy told me that I would be better off spending my tuition money on equipment and learning on my own. He wasn't much of a salesman.

I agree with Bill. Have a backup plan.

Member for

13 years 10 months

bent Mon, 07/21/2008 - 19:22
I went to a recording school.

I got out and found my way in the industry.

I cannot complain about the direction my life has taken since going to school to learn how to get along in this industry.

I never would have run monitors or FOH for Sister Hazel, The Newsboys, Otis Redding's son, Britney Spears, CC Deville, Kenny Loggins, or Kirk Franklin without it...

It is what it is, and like all learning - you only get out of it what you're willing to put into it.

My father is a retired teacher.
My aunt is a retired music teacher, my uncle a retired high school counselor.

I am a high school dropout who eventually figured out what he wanted to do with his life. Yeah, the dropping out part went over really well with my family!

School's cool, man. School's cool.

Member for

13 years 10 months

bent Mon, 07/21/2008 - 20:08
Oh, I just wanted to add this quick little thought I had about the industry:

The number one rule of recording school is: You DO NOT TALK ABOUT recording school!

The second rule of rcording school is: You DO NOT TALK ABOUT recording school!

Unless you're looking for a steady job or your fellow engineer tells you he went to a recording school first, that is.


Member for

21 years

Member Mon, 07/21/2008 - 21:04
Whoops, apologies might be in order, Spitfire.

Suspicious name + post which looked a lot like a sales pitch....I guess I jumped the gun assuming the worst. (please don't anyone reply with the "when you assume you make an...blah blah blah")

My serious reply would be, I made the decision about 14 years ago to take a risk and put the money I would have spent on college into recording gear (despite the warnings that a studio in such a small town would never make money). About the same time my best friend went to a very well known recording school in Orlando (you know the one).

He has been working Full Time in audio since he graduated, I am still only a part-timer.

The moral of this story is... we are BOTH very happy at what we are doing. I have no doubt that I would have been a better engineer if I had went to school for it, or moved to a big city and interned at a major studio, but I have fun doing "Demos" and my quality of life is A+++.

Member for

15 years 11 months

RemyRAD Tue, 07/22/2008 - 04:46
I came into the industry through a more convoluted manner. Neither my Mom or Dad are technically oriented. Never mind that both of my parents were successful orchestral & operatic performers. They gave all that stuff up to have me and my little brother. What a couple of dopes!

So I am early on transfixed over the family tape recorder. Thankfully Dad became an advertiser with his father and played violin for Motown to make extra money for the family. So being brought up in radio & TV stations & recording studios corrupted me early on. So I got my own battery operated tape recorder when I was seven. That got boring after a while and I got my Novice Amateur Radio License at 14. But I hated Morse code and really wasn't good with it. So at 15, I got my third class FCC radio telephone license. I was already making recordings for my friends and was practicing to become a "disc jockey" since I wanted to record music. I really hadn't realized the difference between a disc jockey and a recording engineer. I thought it was all the same stuff? Then came divorce & a move. My new high school in Baltimore, didn't have a radio station like the one in Detroit. So I cut all of my classes except for band and built my high school radio station. Unfortunately, at the end of my junior year, I was told I didn't have enough "gym" credits to graduate as a senior with my class! I thought they were kidding? They weren't. So I dropped out and got my GED in a single week! Thankfully, I also had 2 incredible mentors. One through a friend of the families. And one through a happenstance. These two gentlemen taught me most of what I know today. It was over 15 years of education by 2 electrical engineers who owned studios. Neither of which liked each other. It's OK, I loved them both. I am forever indebted to them.

At 19 I had actually enrolled in the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. I was one of the most difficult and unruly students and the first of my class to end up as a disc jockey on the number one rock station in Baltimore before I ever graduated. Never mind about the fact that I had worked for the largest recording studio in Baltimore and other radio stations prior to my schooling. But it did teach me that I had learned what I needed to know about broadcasting. I'm not really all the hot about all of the recording schools that have sprung up just to keep a studio's doors open. But you'll still get some of the important basics to get you started. Degree, diploma, certificate, means nothing. It means you're smart enough to get through the tests and has no bearing upon your talents or capabilities. That's the passion factor. All of which is the most important.

No, your chances of making a great living are slim. And if you're stupid like me, without much of a business plan, you'll cash in your 401(k) to purchase your console thinking you'll make enough money before retirement. WRONG! It's a good thing I've gotten fairly competent as a TV/video Technical Director, Shooter, Editor. But I don't think I'll be retiring at 65? At least I paid cash for all of my equipment and own everything out right. So even though business sucks right now, my overhead is virtually nonexistent. If I need to sell my equipment, I'll be able to buy a house since I won't live long enough to obtain a mortgage at my age. I had a house but divorce fixed that. So having something else to fall back on is really important. So I'm a Jackie of all media and mastering of one.

It's all really a crapshoot. Ask anyone who was extremely successful. It's like the lottery you have to play to win. You might get lucky? I've been modestly successful and quite happy with my 15 seconds of fame. Although I'd like another 15 seconds please. Three major award nominations just isn't enough!

My current situation is, I'm Finishing the fourth makeover/upgrade to my mobile remote truck over the past 17 years of operations. I'm hoping this will inspire more new business? So no junk in this truck (at least not much). It's not little either. It's as big as a Greyhound bus. All top shelf stuff. A new house at the time of my divorce would have been smarter. But no. I'm just a dumb recording engineer with the best sounding control room in Washington DC. And it's in a Mercedes-Benz 1117 truck. So I can take it with me when I die.

How about a cup of coffee? Decaffeinated please, with some Irish stuff.
Ms. Remy Ann David

Member for

21 years

Member Tue, 07/22/2008 - 08:41
I'm a 24 year old Engineering student, I do audio on the side.

In reality I'm a 24 year old musician bum who studies robotics on the side.

School is great for meeting people.

When I'm older, looking slightly creepy(er) and sick of being poor I'll stop studying and get a job. That way I can afford to keep my biggest addiction, music.

Go to the cheapest school you can find, with the hottest chicks, enjoy your youth and spend your time doing what you love.

Ms. David, your post is inspirational. I want a bus. Forget the coffee.
*Likes his Irish stuff neat, well spoken and outgoing*

Member for

21 years

Member Thu, 07/24/2008 - 12:38
Greener wrote:

Go to the cheapest school you can find, with the hottest chicks, enjoy your youth and spend your time doing what you love.

haha i doubt any recording school i go to is going to have the "hottest chicks" but i do feel you on enjoying my youth and doing what i enjoy to do while i'm young. i just worry things could go wrong real quick. i have 40k saved. i figured 20k for school then 20k in equipment and theres the last 5 years of my hard earned money out the door.. in a years time. wise idea? still not convinced it is.... SO MANY QUESTIONS RUNNING THROUGH MY HEAD!

Member for

13 years 10 months

bent Fri, 07/25/2008 - 20:32
Another thing I'd like to add to the thread:

I think that one of the best things about this industry, at least in my segment of it (primarily live productions), you really learn the value of teamwork. I have made a TON of connections, and have friends across the country due to the nature of the business. That to me is invaluable. It is a great feeling when you're able to sweat your ass off in the sun setting up a show, bitching, cursing, bustin' the other guys balls - but when all's said and done, the truss is in, the truck's packed, the gold bond has run it's course... you've made some lifelong acquaintances. Some of mine live close enough that we go fishing together, shoot pool, our families have get togethers.

My point?

I couldn't imagine any other job I'd ever want to have.
It isn't easy, but it ain't rocket science either.
It's a passion, a calling. But you've gotta be able to take your fair share of abuse, and you've gotta constantly prove yourself - that's part of the fun...

(Where the hell am I supposed to find a couple of Newman KM84s, 4 channels of Shure H4, and a BTR800 kit at 11:28 on a Friday night???)

Hehehe... And so it goes...

Member for

21 years

Member Fri, 07/25/2008 - 22:13
I know it's not all that Audio related... Well half isnt.

Put 20 grand in Govt. assured stocks or bonds. For about 10% return. Any interest it earns just reinvest. Leave for 10 years.

Spend the other 20 on books and gear. Fake it till you make it.

I don't have to pay for my school upfront. Only have to pay the Govt. back if I end up earning money...
Such a big if. :P

Either way, if you can save 40 grand in 5 years. You got it made.

Member for

21 years

Member Fri, 07/25/2008 - 22:51

I was thinking that exact thing.

Came back to say: When I save Govt. I don't meant yours.

It shouldn't be too hard to find something low low low low risk with ten points return.

Which Government?
The Commonwealth Government.
(from a bank add... not funny)

Member for

21 years

Member Sat, 07/26/2008 - 09:21
i've been second guessing myself if this is really what i want to do for the past few days now.. until i read your post bent.. thanx. i needed that. theres just so many people on here that knock going into this field as a profession its hard not to be leery about it. hey bent, how long have you been doing audio recording?

Member for

13 years 10 months

bent Sat, 07/26/2008 - 09:36
Well, truth be told, I went to a "recording" school, but recording has never paid my bills unlike a number of the folks on this site.

I've been doing both live sound and studio work for 15 years. I started working with local bands in the mid nineties, worked in every dark, dirty dive bar around Florida (FUN!).

In 1998 I got a job at Disney as an audio technician - kinda fell into that one, the school I went to, though very close to Disney World, never bothered to tell us that there were JOBS there for us audio folk... Imagine how pissed I was when I learned that... But, I was able to cut my chops on a shoestring 'budget' every weekend, so I guess that's where my real learning took place. A school only teaches you so much, but it's a good start - just don't let the fact that you've gone to school go to your head. That's the problem with most ARTI / FS / Valencia / etc. grads - they get out thinking they know it all, when more often than not they don't know squat...

Good luck in whichever path you choose!

Member for

21 years

Member Sat, 07/26/2008 - 09:53
nice man... i'm torn between sae in ny and arti in orlando. or if i should just get a job interning and learn most of what i need to know that way. then just read a shit load of books and put my money towards equipment. having gone to school and with your experience which route do you think would be best suited for me? i think school is a good idea because it gets you off to a good start but im not the kind of guy who stays set in his ways. im always willing to take on new advice and if i'm going for this i'm going balls out. should i go to school or just learn by interning and practicing?

Member for

13 years 10 months

bent Sat, 07/26/2008 - 10:27
If you have the money you could simply join your local IATSE and start pushing boxes on gigs that are set up through the hall, or you could go to SAE or ARTI (from ARTI you could put in a resume at Disney or Universal since you'll likely be in Orlando anyway).

You might be able to take a few live classes at FS in Winter Park and do the same as the ARTI route...

The recording side of the industry is HARD to break into, especially now what with the GC and MF box stores making it sooo easy for people to record themselves.

Live production work is all around and easier to find a job in, IMHO.
You can make a decent living pushing roadcases and prepping / striking shows - and you can build a resume a lot faster than working in a studio.
IATSE up north is pretty cutthroat, down south it's a bit more laid back. You could sit on the bench for weeks before you get called on to work a show in NY...

I think that studio work will come back, but it's gonna be a while before anyone new can pay the bills through it, 4 or 5 more years I'm guessing...

PS, I hope you don't mind but I changed the title of this thread to more accurately reflect the direction this discussion has taken.

And I've made it a sticky.