Music Industry Skills Shortage Is Acute, Study Could be the Answer
After two-plus years of lockdowns and letdowns, the music industry’s recovery is in full swing.
The appetite for live action is palpable, promoters say. The response, like nothing we’ve seen.
In a typical year, Australia’s sweaty summer months are a hot destination for A-list acts.
After the bummer that was COVID-19, a wave of talent and a market “saturated for sure,” Frontier Touring COO Susan Heymann told The Brag’s Fear At The Top podcast in 2022.
And from this surge, a spike in demand for qualified workers in virtually every category, from musicians to production crew, ticketing staff and publicists, social media experts and marketers.
In some instances, there are more jobs than people to fill them. Experienced staff are in-demand, and hard to find.
As The Music Network previously called it, there’s too much of the good stuff, too few hands at the pump.
“There is genuinely a skills shortage right now,” says music industry veteran Ed St John.
“Something happened during COVID. During those two years of no gigs and no work, a lot of people left the music industry and went somewhere else – especially the casual workers who survive from one gig to the next. They either retired altogether or found other ways to earn money.”
And because “there was no work, there weren’t any people replacing them at the bottom of the ladder. As a result, the industry now has a skills gap.”
Those comments are supported by businesses across the music ecosystem, by music industry charity Support Act, whose clients are at the industry’s coalface, and was the subject of a deep-dive panel discussion at the 2022 Australian Festival Industry Conference on the Gold Coast.
Now is the time for young people to start a career in the music industry, St John says.
Education is part of the answer.
The ex-music journalist, former CEO of Warner Music and BMG, and now chairman of the Australian Institute of Music (AIM), St John is passionate about higher education.
“Once you actually look behind the curtain and see the process of songwriting production, A&R promotions, marketing, sales, you know, digital media, all those different things, you actually start seeing just what a fascinating, complex, sophisticated industry it actually is.”
It’s “not just a bunch of people in black t-shirts standing around smoking dope, it’s actually people doing very skilled work. And that becomes quite intoxicating for people, when you realise that there’s a there’s a professional industry, that’s functioning and needs people.”
AIM’s bachelor degrees take 2-3 years to complete, but AIM CEO John Chalmers says many people are starting the process with a one-year diploma course in either music or arts and entertainment management.
Prior to taking the reins in 2022, Chalmers was chief marketing and communications officer at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).
He started his career in the music industry as a journalist and wrote for Australian Men’s Health, Rolling Stone and the New York Post. He also edited music magazines Onion and Rip It Up, as well as fashion magazine Attitude, and carved out a career in communications and marketing.
“The industry is hiring smarter and smarter people,” Chalmers explains.
“It may have been the case for rock ‘n’ roll jobs in the past, but today they’re looking for people with a very sophisticated understanding of the industry. You only need to look at all the digital platforms as proof of that.”
And “for the first time, perhaps in Australian history, there are actually more jobs than people out there.”
Education offers more than altruism.
AIM delivers outcomes, Chalmers and St John say.
Among its recent graduate placements are positions with ARIA, APRA, Sony, Music Health and performance roles in Moulin Rouge.
Currently, a string of students are rising up the ranks of the music industry here and abroad, including Geordie Casey (director e-commerce and creative capitol records Los Angeles), Nadine Riezouw (general manager Warp Publishing, London), Rachael Tulloch (manager Unified, Vance Joy, Jack River, Melbourne), Jodie Feld (A&R director BMG, Sydney) and Sandra Botros (APAC senior business affairs manager, TBWA, Sydney)
“Someone with an interest in a music career could start studying a diploma in February this year,” explains Chalmers, “and they would have an academic qualification by the end of the year. That qualification, especially with an internship, puts you at the top of the pile for any job opportunities, or you could decide to keep studying and complete a bachelors degree.”
Established in 1968, AIM has been educating and training Australian musicians, audio engineers and music professionals for over 50 years.
AIM has a campus in King St Melbourne and a brand-new, state of the art Sydney campus on the shores of Sydney harbour at Circular Quay.
Its student body currently numbers 800, including several hundred international students studying off-campus.
Hitting the books opens up doors, teaches the business behind the art, and creates contacts for the long journey, St John says.
“The music industry is full of people who just don’t want to do anything else,” he notes.
“It’s a calling that’s taken many music lovers to the next step of not just being passionate listeners and lovers of music, but to make it their vocation. That really is the bridge that AIM is trying to build.”
Education “has the power to transform lives. And you can make a career out of coming to study with us.”
Visit aim.edu.au for more.