I also collected some numbers on what kinds of audio jobs students found soon after graduation in the New York area. As of 2015, it broke down like this:
Live Events (Live Sound, A/V, DJ): 61%
Music Production (Recording Engineer, Freelance/Self Employed, Record Label): 18%
Sound for Multimedia/Sound for Picture (Post-Production, Audio Books, Broadcast): 15%
Other (Pro Audio Sales, Education): 7%
Tellingly, employment in the “live sound” category increased by almost 50% over a 3 year period, while employment in the “music production” category dropped by nearly 50%. Employment rates in “mulitmedia/sound for picture” and “other” stayed fairly constant as a percentage of job placements.
It’s also worth noting that over this same period, there was an increase in both the total number of graduates, and the percentage of graduates who quickly found relevant jobs. However, since the total number of graduating students increased, so did the raw number of students who couldn’t find jobs—even as their percentage decreased as a portion of the whole! So again, direct comparisons can only go so far.
There’s a lot of nuance in numbers like these when you dig deep. As always, no isolated statistic can tell the whole story. We need logic and sound reasoning to craft realistic narratives that truly make sense of the numbers.
One thing I know for certain of is that trying to predict the future too precisely is a fool’s errand. A trend will often continue unabated, until at some point it can no longer go on, at which point it may quickly reverse.
Because of this, it’s wise to approach employment statistics with some principled scrutiny and skepticism. I also like to try and remember that many of these numbers come from the US government. Though a well-meaning and well-educated bunch no doubt, they are also working within the same kind of institution that brings you the Post Office, DMV, VA, and FCC— none of which are widely renowned for their foresight or infallibility.
What we can say with some certainty is what has happened recently, and what is happening right now. We can also make some reasonable guesses about what trends are likely to continue for some time, barring major shocks. Here are a few things that I’m reasonably sure of:
1. The world now has more video, and therefore, more recorded sound than ever before. As companies continue to figure out more ways to monetize streaming web video, we can only expect more jobs there.
2. Recorded music, after a decade-long beating, is finally on a subtle upward trend again—aided in part by the slow but certain monetization of streaming audio services, as well as crackdowns on pirate websites. These developments have finally begun to make “paying for music” seem like the more convenient option once again, as well as the more ethical one.
3. Live events—both in music and in the corporate sector—are attracting more revenue than ever before. In the age of a non-stop stream of digital tools and information, people seem to be refreshingly willing to pay more for real-life experiences once again. That’s good, because evidence suggests that experiences make us happier than things.
4. Video games continue to bring in more dollars than movies and recorded music combined. The number of audio professionals employed here is small at the moment, but swiftly growing. Of course, more money often attracts more competition. Look for this field to continue to grow in the future.
5. As long as there is audio, there will be jobs in audio. Sometimes more and sometimes less. But this much is certain: Short of the collapse of civilization as we know it, audio isn’t going anywhere.
Justin Colletti is a mastering engineer, educator and writer who lives in Brooklyn, NY.
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