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Getting out of the day job…

Sep 02 2010 | 8:01 am

Not sure if this is the right board for this but I really respect the opinions of people on here could really do with some advice regarding my career. I’ve found myself in a pretty annoying position where by my shitty day job has increasingly become my only job and I’m finding it hard to get out of bed every morning now! I studied Creative Music Technology and got a 2:1 degree, became fascinated with interactive media and created my own company that created digital hardware to help young people with special educational needs access music. The trouble is that their is no money in it and I have a small family to support, so I have been working aforementioned shitty day job to make ends meet. I would love to get onto the ladder as a studio engineer but I simply can’t start off with the £10k per year wage packet, plus the competition is ridiculous, I’d love to design audio for TV, film and gaming but again the competition is enormous and very few jobs come up. What I’m thinking now is that I might go back to uni to do a masters but I need to study something that will actually land me a well paid job which I give two shits about. I’d love to study sonic art but that is not realistically gonna put the food on the table! So here’s the question: if you were me, had a degree in creative music technology, an interest in sound design, production, interactive media and interface design but also had a family to support and needed a reasonably well paid job (i’m taking at least £25k per year) what would you recommend to study to make me as employable as possible? I’m thinking web design or angling toward computer game audio (I don’t have much experience with code outside of very basic actionscript and html but I’m quite advanced when it comes to max/msp). I’m open to any and all suggestions. If you can be arsed this is a link to my current website which will show you the kind of things I’ve been doing / am doing. Sometimes its just good to get a different perspective on stuff! Many, many thanks if you got this far!

Sep 02 2010 | 8:31 am

I can appreciate where you are coming from. I like my job and it’s well paid but, increasingly, it’s not where my passions lie. But how do you carve out a space for yourself to work in when there is no-one paying? I can only imagine how much more difficult it is for you, with a family, than me.

I have a friend in the games business, I’ve asked him if he knows (or knows someone who knows) the best in’s to computer game audio. May come to nothing but I’ll drop you a line if he comes back with anything useful.

You can certainly make money in the web sphere especially if you have design talent and can work directly in HTML/Javascript (e.g. by mastering jQuery). I hired a guy precisely because he has those skills and it means we can evolve changes to our interface really fast.

But unless you want to work on music websites, web design isn’t really going to be address your underlying problem. Sure it will be different, and you will be immersed in new learning, but eventually you will be faced with the grind of client work. Unless it’s what you *really* want to do I suspect you might find yourself, a couple of years down the line, with the same questions.

I have no real answers, it will be interested to hear other people’s view points.


Sep 02 2010 | 8:53 am

Ha, all sounds very familiar, (think we went to the same uni as well!). Luckily I’ve managed to land a job where I get paid (not much) to do Max, but I don’t think its going to last forever and I’m sure I’ll be in the same spot again before long and with second baby on the way.

I say go and do a PHD, would fit in perfectly with special needs stuff, you can get funding and do a job at the same time, pick your own topic and open a load of avenues during the process. Also, get onto mailing lists like the sonic arts network one and sometimes research posts come up, where you can do a job and PHD at he same time and not always teaching based either, and there’s sometimes good artists residencies available (relocating temporarily may not be an option with family though). That’s my (naive?) plan anyway!

Sep 02 2010 | 9:21 am

My story might help you make some decisions.
I’m in my 40’s and 15 years ago I took some fairly radical decisions – quit the shitty day job, study more, be creative, help others.
So I worked for a special needs charity, designing music performance and composition environments, poor wages but the most fulfilling and exciting stuff i’ve ever done, pretty cutting edge. This gave me free time to study, so I also took 2 Masters degrees.
Currently my income is still on the poor side, we have a wee son, bills need paid every month, but I’m now doing a full time PhD in DMI design. Will I ever have a ‘career’, ‘pension’?? I get enough grey-market work (directing musical theatre, performing, designing DMIs) to keep the wolf from the door.
I feel that the best place to be, in times of recession, is in academia, keep the head down, wait out the storm.

It all depends on your age, location and what your ultimate goal is…

Sep 02 2010 | 9:43 am

Here’s what my friend had to say about game audio:

There is a wide marketplace of audio providers in the game industry… I would say I get more contacts from composers during the course of a year than from any other service provider. As a result, it’s very hard to break in, and cold calls/cold emails won’t generate any traction. The best you can do is to start attending games industry related events (the local regional development agency should be able to give details) and try and network the old fashioned way. Small indie developers are often looking for audio as they tend not to have it in house, and this can get much needed game credits onto the CV.

There is an IGDA "Audio development" special interest group ( but I’ve had nothing to do with them, so I don’t know if they’re a good resource or not.


Sep 02 2010 | 10:37 am

dunno academia is a bit weird for max type things and audio related matters… i actually teach sound production (and sometimes max stuff) at uni, so i like to think im fairly well placed to gauge the situation. what strikes me about them is the reluctance to engage in the industry, and the lack of forethought to anticipate what students will be experiencing once they finish… ok some uni’s are better / worst than others!

my experience has been that teaching approach is mainly theoretical (usually some bs about social media), with usually little in terms of solid practical support or teaching. basically its cheaper to read off a text book to 300+ students than to do lab-based teaching… i have actually been put off doing an MA or a PHD because i dont believe that i will actually do anything other than read / write about an imaginary project which i will never be able to bring to fruition (or maybe i will be able to pay someone else to do it – hahaha)… and that is what they call a practice-based degree!?!?!?! sorry but that dont cut it for me.

i’d rather spend the money on a house / mortgage, and get on with being actively involved in festivals / gigs / production with real outlets – not some stale peer review! so i would actually encourage others to get experience in the real world, even if it is badly paid. sure its not always viable to do it on the long term, but at least u get to meet ppl and u never know what will come of it. this is especially true in the audio / music industry, where academic qualifications dont seem to count for much… if u want to do studio work then a logic / pro tools certificate with a decent portfolio of sound work will probably get u further than a degree!

i wish i was born earlier then i might have been able to do an internship at one of the classic studios in the 70s, where they actually taught u stuff, paid u and it led to some work! dunno if i can say the same about today’s academic route!

as always ymmv!

Sep 02 2010 | 11:09 am

Current academia, in my experience, is becoming practice-based across levels and across disciplines, especially in design. The university I attend almost frowns upon the ivory-tower ‘research for research’s sake’ ethos; whereas industry focus in academia is more discipline-specific I guess.

Sep 02 2010 | 5:25 pm

i would suggest you to give up the idea of career and focus on arts and philosophy.

focus, ignore, procrastinate.
then again, i dont have kids, and i dont have to pay rent, and that is making a big
difference in conciousness.
but i suggest against studying audio or multimedia. this is only you trying to
make a compromise between what you want to do and what you think is realistic.

webdesign or computergames is bullshit. but as a biologist or geologist you will
easily find a good paid job. which is far away enough from your other hobby. :)

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