"I'm busy as hell breaking even!"
"I'm busting ass just to stay where I am."
You probably know the feeling in the new, post-recession music production landscape: the work is there, but now you work twice as hard to get it, you work twice as hard to keep it, and you've likely compromised your rate, too. Things will likely get better, in both the short and the long term, but we're waiting for some risk-taking cowboys to take chances on a music industry that's undergoing a true changing of the guard.
The good news is that the economy is likely going to be slightly better off in 2012. Barring some unlikely lack of cooperation by Europe's super-powers on their debt reform, the US economy is likely looking at about 2.5% growth (which is slow, but adequate) with a slight improvement in employment, too. Thus, our customers will probably have a little more money to work with.
One thing that won't change soon will be the frugality our clients have practiced over the last few years. People have learned to get by on less and this mentality is logically carried over to their project planning and budgets. Recording consumers are aware of the myriad of production options out there today and they can't be blamed for pursuing lower-budget options, but the question is, will those cost saving measures purchase their satisfaction, or not?
The upside is that many of our clients have already tried "cost-cutting compromise" during the recession's trough and may be tired of all those lowered expectations, especially with what must amount to a backlog of musical projects sitting on the shelf waiting for funding (or just waiting for some good old optimism).
Our clients might be more prone to take a chance with a reasonable budget for their music if they had a concrete idea of just what to do with the finished product. I mean, really -- what rock-solid advice can you give aspiring recording artists/performers today? Manufacture a CD? Skip the manufactured CD and do download sales only? Skip all sales and just give your music away to promote live shows? After all, is the recording the product or is it promotional material for the actual product? Then, what -- streams, downloads, download cards, clean links, YouTube, or one-off CD burns?
I expect to have to bust it to cut it in 2012. As such, let's be prepared for lots of effort going into possibly minimal reward. But if you're hard-working and inventive while fully utilizing modern technology (not to mention possessing the ability to handle a few bumps), 2012 can be more rewarding that last year. Here's wishing all the best to my audio brethren out there. Happy New Year!