Major Career Change Thoughts - Any Advice/Anecdotes Are Welcome

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Modgear

Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2021
Messages
6
Location
US
Hey all,

This post may be a little long but I am seeking meaningful advice/guidance, so context is important. I have been reading through this forum a lot recently as a refuge from some other audio-related internet discussion boards, and have been impressed with most everyone’s respectful tone, thoughtfulness, and attempts at objectivity on probably one of the most subjective topics (music and audio gear). That’s why I am bringing this somewhat personal subject matter here. For some slight background, my audio journey thus far in my life started with piano lessons as a child, then diving into computer music production in my late teens in one of my biggest shifts in passions, away from competitive sports.

I have now been making different types of electronic music for the past ~4-5 years, mainly electronic bass music/hip hop focused, but have dabbled in very experimental/ambient stuff and considered pursuing sound design. My progress so far has certainly not been linear as a result, as I have explored a wide range of different styles and music making equipment (Daw based, live coding, a brief eurorack obsession, hardware samplers, some more esoteric synths and workstations). I even stepped into the world of analog video for a minute. With a ton of new experience in sound design and compositional techniques, I have learned that I am ultimately happiest and most productive working in the Ableton, keeping 1-2 choice pieces of outboard around for a little sound design/tactility when I feel the need to noodle around. I do have a couple collaborative tracks with over 500 listens. My collaborator has played them out live, and they have recently been well-received from those “in the scene” of the music I like, which was a big boost to my confidence.

With a very miniscule taste of success over the past months, it has already kind of eaten away at me as I am the type of person who likes to be “all in” on things, and since I started my career ~2 years ago, my musical progress has been certainly limited. I work long hours and my job is stressful, and I feel I am hamstringing my potential for music/audio (my passion), while doing a career I don’t really like. My creative energy has dwindled at points, though when I am able to sleep/relax enough, the spark to create always comes back. As I come closer to reaching a major milestone in the completion of paying down my student loans, I feel I am gaining freedom to take the financial risk in shifting careers. I do think though, that where I am currently at on music, that pursuing a career solely as an artist is not the logically smartest step at this point, given I really need a couple more years to get where I want to be sound-wise and the ever-uncertain dynamic of the live event space.

So, given my desire to pursue an audio-based career, but the decision that DJing my tunes won’t be a steady enough income source for what I would like for a meaningful period of time, I have been considering entering the mixing/mastering business as a way to diversify my potential income streams if I leave the corporate universe. I know that any self-loving individual probably would pursue a more sensible business, and I know that audio is full of politics and extremely competitive, just like the corporate universe. However, I have the hunger to make a name in the scene and believe I could deliver a solid product. My mixing style isn’t the most clinical, but I am confident I can make a track sound good on a system and have found creative workarounds towards getting a kind of warm, heavy sound ITB without using mostly stock plugins etc. I do have a lot of room to improve still I don’t want to come across as arrogant - I just mean to convey that I am pretty confident I am able to reach a sound that meets MY preferred criteria with whatever available tools.

I have recently had a perspective changing health event that makes me want to take action and go after an audio career with my head down NOW, before I watch myself die doing something I hate for a living down the road. Given the background, I think my path forward could go several ways

1. Find a studio to employ me: This would be good in that I would get some sort of established cash flow if I could actually find a job doing some audio engineering. It would inevitably be less $ than I am making now, I would have less control over the process, and time would be less flexible, and I would have less say over what types of music/audio I am actually working on, at least for a few years. But the advantage would be learning from really experienced pros, making connections with other established musicians and engineers, and having access to very high quality gear. And I would still have way more time to make music than I currently do. I don't know how hard it is to break in as a relative novice though?

2. Build and run my own studio: I think this would be my ideal plan, but the hardest to pull off. I would need to have a greater personal financial/time investment (maybe like ~$5K?) to get or build a 16-channel console, and maybe some outboard compressors, a mastering EQ and limiter. I can’t afford pro audio gear, so I would have to use less desirable equipment, or I would have to learn how to build this stuff “from scratch” (This is why I joined this forum, the wealth of knowledge makes building out a console and some other outboard seem somewhat attainable for a novice). Pros - complete control of the process in dialogue with the artists, potentially greater financial incentive (I have always wanted to be a business owner), greatest time flexibility, the ability to work on the content I personally believe in, learning electronic knowhow and soldering skills would pay dividends as my caps blow over time. Downsides - Least “guaranteed” money, I would be working with less established artists, would probably have to learn electronics building with zero experience (huge upfront time sink). I know I can mix and master well ITB, but I understand that it is a HUGE marketing advantage to having outboard, and analog stuff is just cool and makes the environment more fun. Part of the idea is not having to look at a computer screen ALL DAY. I really like this option the most but it’s also probably totally crazy, I am not always the most realistic.

3. Stick with the corporate, focus on music only (not mixing). In this scenario, I would not be pursuing an audio engineering career, but would completely lever into music as a career in my free time. The downside here is my audio career pursuit would be quite one-sided if I ever “went for it”, and I ultimately think I would never make the jump if money from shows was the main source of income.

Sorry for the lack of brevity, I just laid a lot out there. If anyone else has any thoughts on my different scenarios, what they would recommend, etc, that would be wonderful. Thanks for taking the time to read and share your experiences!
 

ruffrecords

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Messages
13,821
Location
Norfolk - UK
You first need to make one big decision. Do you want to be an employee or run your own business? The approach to each is rather different. If you want to bean employee then you will only need to be able to sell yourself and your skills but the amount of money you could make is limited. If you want to rune your own business you will need also to be able to market your skills (not the same as selling) and be able to create and manage a business. The amount of money you could make is potentially much greater.

Cheers

IAn
 

Tubetec

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 18, 2015
Messages
3,180
Id say above all else if what your doing is making you very unhappy , no mater what age ,find something that doesnt .
I wouldnt deny Ruairi's point that youth ,which you have in your favour, is a definate benefit either.
Lifes too short to get stuck at the coalface of a job you hate.

Id be inclined to say try working in someone else's studio for at least a small while , it might suit it might not , but at least you'll get a bit of experience under your belt which will stand you in good stead later .
 

Modgear

Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2021
Messages
6
Location
US
Thanks everyone, I really appreciate the responses. Clearly have a lot to think about and planning for my next steps. Definitely do want to be an equity owner at some point, but see the value in learning from others too.
 

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