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Business Savvy: Doing the Numbers
How much can I possibly earn in pro audio? Do I need to aspire to technical stardom to make it all worthwhile?
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When In Doubt, Quantify
When you feel those uneasy feelings coming on (like wondering if your goals are realistic), it’s time to do the numbers. Quantifying your goals is the first step in designing a set of objectives that are specific, measurable, and achievable.

Everything, including non-financial goals, can be quantified in terms of number of units, pricing or revenue, and timing or date the results are achieved.

As they become quantified, your creative, financial, and personal goals turn into objectives. Here are a few examples of solid, trackable objectives in each of the three categories.

Creative Objectives
• Produce “X” live shows each month.
• Design and install “X” systems each year.
• Create “X” patent-able products or processes each year.

Financial Objectives
• Earn “X” from pro audio work each year.
• Increase average per-project fee earned from “X” to “X” by “X” (date).
• Earn “X” from non-traditional sources (patent royalties, consulting etc.) by “X” (date).

Personal Objectives
• Work “X” days per year (the rest is free time).
• Contribute “X” ($) or “X” (time) to my local charity, church, school, or community.
• Get my weight to “X” pounds and cholesterol level to “X.”

Are My Goals Realistic?
If your entertainment business information comes primarily from the general media - television, radio, newspapers, and magazines - you would conclude that all music industry people are either rich or dead.

That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Still, think about it. Working technical people are rarely talked about in the media. Some are lured to the entertainment field by the promise of “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” along with the “American Dream” scenario of getting rich doing something glamorous.

I trust that most readers understand that the chances of getting rich quick in audio production are about the same as in any other line of business: pretty low.

Is there a middle ground between celebrity and oblivion? You bet. In fact, that’s where most of the thousands of professional audio people and live event technicians in North America are: somewhere in between.

Here’s the point. You don’t need to be a technical superstar to make a good living in pro audio.

Portrayals of music business celebrities—including their roadies and record producers—in the media can be illustrative and entertaining, but seldom serve as a real business model.

What’s Realistic For Me?
How much can I possibly earn in pro audio? Do I need to aspire to technical stardom to make it all worthwhile? Many audio people just want to be able to “pay for their habits” (like buying more gear) and be near the action in the entertainment business.

Others want to make a modest living doing audio work full time. Others want to “get rich and retire young.”

Theoretically, all the above are possible. Your business plan, including detailed goals and objectives, is an important tool for achieving what you want and staying in control throughout the process.

Goals and objectives are essential for financial success, creative development, and personal growth. Writing down your goals and objectives is a powerful exercise that provides clarity and the ability to communicate the information with others.

Along with developing technical chops, the time you spend on developing business chops is your best investment in your career as an entertainment technology professional. And remember, “What gets measured, gets done.”

John Stiernberg is founder and principal consultant with Stiernberg Consulting.


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