Breaking The Industry – Smarts Vs Skills by Matthew Slater

I'm coming towards the end of my degree in Music Technology (Sound Engineering) and I'm trying to get real world experience that'll set me apart from others within the industry. I look over towards the college intake at University and I can see the gulf of difference between us. In the ways we have both approached the same subject from different angles. There's the uni lot, all taught the academic route, who have more smarts and get a lot more of the dry, technical theory behind the art of mixing; then there's the college lot, with heaps of hands on experience and dare I say it, a better instinct for what they're doing. In a way now that I'm ending my time at university I feel that a review is in order, was all that time spent worth it? This article will do just that. Which gets you "in" in such a tight industrry for work– talking the talk, or walking the walk? There is a wealth of individuals who didn't attend institutions in all walks of life, who have made it at their respective careers. Apprenticeships and on the job training, where enthusiasm is guided and instruction is given. Then there are the guys who have went it alone. Guys who have spent time noodling about in Fruity Loops at home, only for piracy and the creative spark to push them towards better software and more professional sounds. The sounds spread, tours start, the artist is signed and a full time position in what was just a pastime occurs. However, the individual is self-taught. They are chasing only the information that they wish to acquire, and what they happen to come across. They are selective in their choice of data to store, of what is of use to them. Those that are taught on the other hand, get information thrust upon them – carefully selected by elders, and deemed important by those in the know. It's like nuggets of wisdom dolled out from a parent – we may have disagreed with them at the time, but later on we realise they were right on the money. Just look at the world of TV and Film for example – there is an abundance of actors, actresses, writers and directors that have all come from nothing. No schooling on the subject, no mentor taking them under their wing. It was just pure natural talent and the luck to have the breaks in the right places. However, there is also a number of positions that aren't immediately obvious that require some amount of schooling and extensive background knowledge that is difficult to attain alone. Film crew, cinematographers, special effects teams – there is a number of jobs where no amount of natural talent is going to make up for knowing your stuff in detail. Those big movie explosions aren't created by a backyard pyro you know! In the land of music, you can get so far managing a band before they'll likely go for somebody with better credentials. The band can go as far as they like, it's the music doing the talking. Publicists, accountants and others within music corporations must have something on their CV, or make an excellent cup of tea. There are still roles that require no know how, except somebody putting in a good word. Like any artist that gets signed aren't asked what grade they can play guitar at, or what bands they've previously played for and to provide references. They just have to be good. Directors, producers, engineers, management, and many others associated with the act can get kept on if the band stay loyal to them. Do a good job and someone will remember and want you on their side. While a lot of industries can be seen as competitive and a little cut-throat – music is one where any contacts you make can be greatly beneficial. The whole industry is a job interview – but within the creative sector. There are no rules, no expectation to wear a shirt and a tie. It's an industry where the rules and the processes are constantly changing – in music there was vinyl, audio cassettes, CD's and piracy and now piracy and MP3's; in TV and Film there was video, broadcast shows, DVD and piracy and now High Definition torrents. Everything is streamed and on demand and saturated into our daily lives greater than ever before. In a world where music and film and TV, and other creative ventures that you may consider to be a prospective career, have evolved into entertainment from art as it once was – the bar has been raised. In todays society for music, film, or a TV series to be considered an art once more, the level of quality must be high. It must make an impact. The only way to ensure your work isn't considered a knock off, or a cheap imitation of so and so; is to back it with everything you've got. So get out there and play – keep gigging, network, help out others in the scene when you can and the hard work and favours will be rewarded. My answer is that no, you don't need to be educated – but you do need to be qualified. Whatever knowledge you've got, will never work against you. You need to keep developing and pushing and extending outwards and upwards from where you already are. In an industry that is constantly changing, you must adapt too.