Overworked, Underemployed and Feeling the Pressure: Study Provides Insights Into Australia’s Music Producers and Engineers
A fair chunk of Australia’s community of music producers and engineers is either overstretched or underemployed, and many are experiencing stress from their behind-the-scenes vocation.
Those are some of the findings from MPEG’s inaugural survey report, published today (Aug. 30) and based on a survey of members conducted between March and April of this year.
A total of 106 respondents participated in the project, the results of which provide insights into recording sector and its demographics, work and financial conditions, professionals’ health and well-being and more.
Among the key findings — almost one third (31.1%) of respondents characterised themselves as underemployed, while 13.3% work 60-hours weeks or more.
Also, it’s a predominantly white, male industry.
“Diversity is an issue for music producers and engineers in Australia,” reads the report, “much like other places internationally.”
Its authors found that 85.8% of respondents are male, 11.3% are female (two respondents chose non-binary, or 1.9%), and no-one specifically identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (2.8% of respondents preferred not to say or don’t know).
Of those who participated in the study, 50% said they sometimes, or often, work for free.
Cash flow is a problem for many studio pros.
Financial instability is a frequent concern from respondents to this survey, according to the document, which spans 22 pages.
Working the desk isn’t the goldmine some might be led to believe. Fewer than 20% earn between $30,000 to $50,000 each year and almost 45% earn under $30,000 each year.
Also, mental health shaped as a significant issue. More than half of respondents (51%) rated their mental health as average to poor, while 40.6% reported average to poor physical health, a stark reflection of the sedentary nature of the job.
This research was commissioned by the MPEG board, with assistance from ARIA Award-winning studio expert Dr. Lachlan Goold (Magoo) from the University of the Sunshine Coast.
“These findings provide a comprehensive understanding of Australia’s music production and engineering landscape,” comments Magoo in a statement.
“MPEG stands poised to drive positive change by leveraging this insight to create a more supportive and sustainable environment for professionals across the industry.”
The recording sector, he continues, “is a critical driving engine of the Australian music industry. In many aspects, the roles and work conditions of music producers have changed dramatically.”
Established in 2022 by award-winning producer Anna Laverty, alongside foundation directors Cath Haridy and Tom Larkin, MPEG, or Music Producer and Engineers’ Guild of Australia, provides a voice for its members, and represents their commercial interests and community through advocacy and engagement.
The organisation was shaped by the pandemic and the often-forgotten needs of producers and engineers, with the objective to “nurture and support up-and-coming talent, build upon the work of established and mid-career members, and advocate for the interests of the music production sector within the music industry at large,” read a statement at launch.
Currently, the trade body boasts over 300 members, including foundation members Mark Opitz, Nick Launay, Eric J Dubowsky, Nina Las Vegas, Uncle Kevin Starkey, Virginia Read, Aroha Harawira, Alice Ivy and more.
Read the Inaugural Music Producer and Engineers’ Guild of Australia Survey Report here.