Alright, so last night I randomly remembered why I wanted to start a music blog; because of the following conversation I had with a friend in Nashville, and also facebook posts by guitarist Bill Lonero (particularly this post- http://lonero.blogspot.com/2013/07/so-you-think-music-should-be-free-huh.html).
When I was working for a promotions company, I met a guy near Seattle who had built his own recording studio. It’s pretty badass, has a great lounge area and stage, plenty of sound booths, a kitchen, pretty much everything you could need. He knew what it had to be like because he’s been a recording engineer for over 10 years, working for many big-name labels and with many more big-name bands. He got placed into a recording job right out of a recording school, and he told me a bit about the school. This sounded like a great idea for me, and I told Cyrus about it as well, and he was thinking of doing the same thing. So I asked my friend Alex who had gone to a recording school and moved to Nashville what she thought about it, and this was her response:
JUNE 29, 2013 “Alright… A probably rather long description of the music industry and going to recording school:
Firstly, I’m not being cocky here, but I’m going to give you some of my qualifications, so that you know where I’m coming from when I say all this: I worked in Nashville for 5 years after going to the [Recording School] in [State]. [It] is your typical recording trade school. It’s 9 months and turns out students with a “certificate of completion.” (Bullshit)
I worked my way up in Nashville from an intern at [Recording] Studios to getting some of the biggest orchestra and christian music calls in town. I worked in plenty of country, hip hop, rock, and everything else too. By the end I worked on the scores for [Video Game] 3, [Video Game] 4 ([Brand] video games with epic/spy music respectively), on a scoring project for the [Band/group] (one of the coolest gigs I was ever able to get), and on hundreds of other christian orchestral projects (think of the bands at churches, I recorded the tracks for their choir concerts). I also worked with [multiple big-name artists/bands], etc. etc. etc.
The orchestra projects were my favorite. They require the most out of an assistant engineer (which is what my job typically was), because there are so many players and so much gear. When things go wrong, you have to remember that the session is costing someone hundreds of dollars per MINUTE. It’s crazy. I was chased down the hallway one time because I “wasn’t running fast enough.” I was running, but not “fast enough…” But that isn’t what made me quit. The work is hard. Like, ridiculously hard. But it’s worthwhile when sessions go well.
That’s the pay off: sessions go well and people are grateful for your hard work. You are an invaluable part of the machine. It’s awesome. At first… But at some point you realize that they just don’t pay you enough for all the shit you do! When something goes wrong on a session, it is the engineer’s fault. They in turn blame the assistant. And who do we blame? No one. We fix whatever it is. Usually while everyone else sits and watches, counting all the passing seconds… It’s terrible. That pressure can kill you…
Beyond the pressure, the pay is bad. You work 80+ hours per week and get paid for maybe 40 of them. You don’t work for a particular business and there is no engineers union, so there is no over time. You bill for everything yourself, which means that when some dumb producer hasn’t accounted for the fact that things always cost more than planned, the difference almost always comes out of the engineering budget. And you don’t get paid for the time you spend invoicing or the time you spend wrangling up clients. When you have “free time,” it is filled with these tasks.
Since everyone is a contract worker, you’re all in direct competition for ALL the gigs. There simply isn’t enough work to go around. And since the industry is moving more and more into people’s houses, the work is only getting sparser… So, you have to be the best. You have to be a good hang. You have to never make mistakes. Most importantly, the idiots there have to LIKE you. However you quantify that…
I was good at all these things. I figured out how to play the game. It was fine… But in the end, it’s just not worth it. You work and work and work. You are scared of the phone every time it rings because you never know who is going to want something insane next. Time when you don’t have to work is spent obsessing about work, or sleeping… It’s just no way to live.
I know this is getting long… One more thing:
On the topic of schools: Recording trade schools are a joke. They’re the only part of the music industry still making money. They each churn out hundreds of students each year. There are a hundred options… And when you graduate, you find basically no paid work. When you do finally find an unpaid internship, they retrain you from the beginning and all the time you spent in school amounts to basically nothing. I was never once asked where I graduated from or what my grades were. It doesn’t matter. That’s just the fact of the matter.
So, in short, I would tell your friend that if he likes recording, make it a hobby. It is fun. Recording guys’ bands is awesome! And being the technician behind the whole thing is great! If he likes it and wants to try to make money at it, he should just start networking with bands. The whole music industry is really all just about how well you can bullshit and talk yourself up. And the house studio is where the music is moving, so he should just stay there. Maybe he should get a job at Guitar Center so he can get discounts on gear. That’s the direction I would go anyway…
Hope that was at least moderately helpful… 🙂 ”
This is her opinion on recording schools and the Nashville scene, and has since gotten me thinking about just learning more about home recording and moving in that direction.