Me: Good afternoon Space Studios
Voice: Hi, yeah, what it is see is I was wondering if you had any jobs going there like?
Me: Well, I could use someone to answer the phone, or maybe clean the toilets
Voice: No man, I mean producing like
Me: No, I’m afraid we’ve got everyone we need for that at the moment
Voice: Well, can I send you my shit like, so you can hear it and see what you think of my beats?
Me: Do they clean the toilets?
This is an all too common phone call, probably heard in studios across the country. Despite having plastered over our website that we did not have any vacancies, we got upwards of twenty of these kinds of approaches a month. Or, they’d be pitiful approaches from kids with impressive sounding degrees from various universities around the country. It is heart rending sometimes, it really is. Speaking as someone with an entirely unrelated degree, but which holds as much use unfortunately as a chocolate teapot, I honestly sympathise.
I really do wonder what these kids are being told before they get saddled with insane debts and a degree in a subject (along with goodness knows how many other graduates) in an industry that basically consists of dead mans shoes. I should be clear though – if music tech / sound recording degrees had been more available back in the mists of time when I was going through UCAS, I’d have jumped on a course, no doubt, instead of worrying about how you say “good morning” and what the bleeding felicity conditions of such an approach are…
I am not going to knock the degrees – I believe in Socratic learning (especially now people have to pay for it!), but really, what do the poor graduates expect? Are they told how difficult it is to get a job? Or that their degree may not be looked at in the best of lights?
Sure, a degree does bring some rigour to it, and I assume the graduates have to do some kind of reading, research and assignment writing. These are of course good skills to have, along with the oft-quoted myth of time management and self starting skills (yes, I have used those two lies on a CV before). But is such a degree really worth the paper it is written on?
How much time do the students get in the studios? How much time do they get practising and listening with mic placement? Or coaching singers through difficult spells to really nail that take? In my experience, I’ve found that on different courses in different Unis, undergrads haven’t been allowed near the sexy desks that are in the prospectus. I’ve been told of undergrads only being allowed to use Behringer boards while SSLs sit gathering dust. Granted, if you can get a good sound with a Behringer desk, then excellent, you have some kind of skillset going on! But the kids are drawn there on the promise of using the good gear, but never really getting near it.
Then there've been lecturers visiting our place and enjoying actually being in “real” studios, rather than jerry built plasterboard studios provided for the students. Again, these are probably good enough to highlight a point, but is it good enough for someone being saddled with £20k of debt?
I would never want to tell anyone not to go to Uni, it’s a blast and they really are fantastic days. But I would recommend perhaps an alternative degree (music, physics, hell anything except Language and Communication!) – and then either buy a small recording rig and a subscription to Sound on Sound and just get out there and record as much as you can. Get as much extracurricular experience (behave yourself) as you can. Actually I’d say that to anyone doing any degree – join in with as much student society action as you can, it’s where the fun is at.
Or you could even get some work experience in a studio. But that’s a story for another blog…
Christian Thomas is Production Director at Space Studios. He hated his degree in Language and Communication and doesn’t see why anyone else should have enjoyed theirs.