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Anxiously Bidding Farewell to 2010

At this time last year, we looked back on 2009 with few regrets for its passing.

At this time last year, we looked back on 2009 with few regrets for its passing. 2009 was a year of downturn and turmoil, and we were glad to be rid of it. Many forced to tread water through the end of 2009 have had to continue to work to stay afloat through 2010, some of our audio brethren choking on more than a few mouthfuls of water.

Despite some positive news and optimism this spring, the European economy has taken another dive, with repercussions for Euro-based audio manufacturers as well as European practitioners of the audio arts. Exchange rates have been favorable for the U.S. manufacturers selling into Europe, but even a favorable price can’t help sell gear to someone without a gig.

Where the core essentials of modern audio production in the studio are selling well, it’s in part because professional engineers who don’t own their own studio are engineers that have to pass up a lot of work. Budgets that once supported a studio and an engineer and a generous gear rental budget are reduced to the minimum; the engineers get paid, but only if they provide the project a studio full of gear (albeit mostly virtual).

Post-production facilities have tightened their belts and diversified, though also benefit from the proliferation of cable programming and increased production for the web. While the budgets are still modest, online advertising is getting more sophisticated. Post production as a market segment has benefited from a technology-driven shrinkage to a more compact infrastructure.

In live sound, major touring took significant body blows early in its season, but managed to stay on its feet and rebound somewhat. Regional work has accelerated as gigging becomes the primary vehicle for musical artists to put food on their table and as some major tours look local for gear instead of carrying their own. Regional competition is higher than ever, as the large sound companies take on more local and regional work to keep their inventory working, and I’ve seen an increase in the number of nominally independent live-sound pros that mostly work for major SR providers having small systems of their own to fill workflow gaps with local productions.

Every time I get a Plaxo or LinkedIn request from an industry colleague, I look at their info page with some trepidation, fearing I may find that they are newly looking for work. That’s too often been the case, even with many names that you would recognize from these pages as movers and shakers in our little industry.

On the other hand, many of the manufacturers exhibiting at AES this year reported having a good year of sales, some a great year of sales, and some a banner year. Those touting their success ranged from software makers to microphone companies to developers of sound manipulating hardware. The mood was buoyant, and attendees largely came away with the desired effect of such an event, refreshed and somewhat renewed, with a positive poke at their attitude.

It is the season of hope, after all. And while the economic progress we’ve made this year has been slow coming, slow growing and little comfort to many of our brethren, many others among us are finding some hope that the worst has past.

People who are down and troubled often turn to entertainment for solace and comfort, or simply distraction, and we provide sonic therapy as well as a sound bed for life. As small as we may be, the audio industry affects a lot of lives with our work, and we can take our own solace, our own measure of pride in that.

The team at Pro Sound News and the entire NewBay Media family wish you and yours the very best of this holiday season, and here’s a virtual toast to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2011 (clink)!