Okay, I promised myself I wont quote the notoriously famous “jack of all trades, pro at none” line in this post – I just did that didn’t I? Damn! Anyway, this is a dicey topic as the key factors to be considered such as mental ability, opportunity and financial income vary amongst individuals and greatly influence ones decision to either specialize or do all.
Clearing The Myths
Before we start talking about specialization, we have to look at what people can actually specialize in from a realistic stand point. I’m not saying you cannot go into sound design for games or movies or even be an audio software engineer in Nigeria, all I’m saying is have a spare car for Uber, you’ll be needing it to make ends meet.
My point is, from a lucrative point of view and assuming all your clients are going to be from Nigeria; music production, audio engineering , mixing and mastering are the most realistic areas of specialization as long as audio production is concerned. Sound design, film scoring, audio software engineering, musical instrumentation are all viable areas of specialization globally, but our audio industry is yet to reach this level of diversification.
Fear not, theres hope and you will see why as you read along.
Factors To Consider
Gala and LaCasera Syndrome (GLS) : After buying a Gala sausage roll, there’s a good chance you’ll get a carbonated soft drink to go with it, preferably chilled too; though Snoop Dogg’s version might be gin and juice.
The fact is, indie artistes sponsoring themselves want to work with a producer who can give them a complete song; not just a beat, not just Gala. This is more economical for them and if you’re not a known producer, such artistes will make up bulk of your client base. If you can't do all, they’ll probably find someone who can.
Mental Superiority : Speaking from experience, I know producers who on their own make mad beats, clean mixes and radio-ready masters . Yes, these ‘over-sabi’ titans have over time developed the necessary skills needed to produce above-average records all by themselves.
Sometimes they falter, but trust me, only a trained ear will notice as the average music consumer will have no clue. These are the producers our Gala and LaCasera (GLS) artistes run to.
Professionalism : As cliché as the ‘jack of all trades’ quote is, there’s still a great level of truth to that old saying. Sometimes above average isn’t good enough especially when the clients are willing to pay the premium for excellence, knowing fully well it can be achieved. Specialization greatly reduces the chances of failure and makes an already good job sound even more impressive.
Record labels with money will pay the heavy price for this and not without reason, the final dividends are usually worth it. Mix engineers like Foster Zeeno, Suka Sounds and Swaps to mention a few have distinguished themselves in this regard, so have our beloved hit producers.
As far as audio production is concerned, each area of specialization is related to the other; the beat maker mixes sound too, the mix engineer will change a kick or the song arrangement if he has to and the mastering engineer can alter the mix and dynamics of a song to a reasonable degree.
A co-pilot will fly a plane if push comes to shove, I believe a little knowledge of everything will help one become a better craftsman in his or her chosen field of expertise.
A Ray of Hope
They say technology has turned the world into a global village; while this has not reduced our currency exchange rate or repaired our bad roads, some good has and can still come out of it. You don’t have to be a victim of circumstance of our one-sided audio industry, you want to be a sound designer? Go ahead! There are so many freelance websites out there like Fiverr, People Per Hour, Gig Hours, UpWork and so on.
Find a gig that suits what you want to do and get paid by foreign clients in need of your services. Initially, it might not be so rosy, but if your profile on these networks can be half as interesting as your facebook and Instagram pages, you stand a shot at landing a decent pay slip (as long as you can deliver of course).
Yes o, the brain-drain doesn’t need a visa now, work remotely doing what youre passionate about and earn a living while at it.
P.S. – Don’t sell the car for Uber, just incase :D
Chidi ‘Yung Tite' Nnadi