We asked three of Australia's most successful music industry veterans how they turned their passion into careers. They offered us a surprisingly clear path to follow.
The biggest surprise? The jobs are there for the taking – everyone we spoke to made that abundantly clear.
We spoke to three veterans at the very top of their respective industry positions and they said the only factor stopping young people from realising their passion is a lack of skills. The major lesson we learned is that skilling up is essential, regardless of where you see yourself.
The music industry is a mature, highly skilled and competitive market, so to forge a career, you’ll need to undertake higher education that taps into your passion and offers you significant hands-on experience and networking opportunities, with an established institution like Industri Education.
Industri offer courses in both Live Sound Production and Live Music Business, opening up a huge variety of careers within the music industry. Best of all, they design these courses with the companies that could actually be employing you at the end of your degree.
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Bruce Johnston is one of the biggest names in the game. He’s the founder and CEO of Australia’s largest sound audio production company, JPJ Audio, which are Industri Education’s Sound Partner.
He began as a long-haired suburban kid from Oakliegh who started mixing bands in the early 80s. He says the industry today has plenty of opportunities for eager newcomers, as long as you know where to start.
“I put my hand up to mix a band at a place called The Venue in St Kilda,” Johnston says. “INXS and The Reels were there and commented on my great sound. It all started there, I was mixing a band called Bear Garden with some members formally from The Ears. (the band from Dogs in Space!)
“The live industry was huge back then, sort of how it is now; I’ve seen it go full circle. My live mixing record back then was 14 bands in one week. I’d do three bands in a night and they would all ring me separately, so I’d charge them all the same money. It was great and I met a lot of people.
Johnston has worked in live sound production with the very best. He can uniquely speak to how rewarding a career it can be, with the right training.
His credits include the very best in Australian music; Kids in the Kitchen, Boom Crash Opera, Real Life, The Divinyls, Hoodoo Gurus, Diesel, Neil Finn, Crowded House, Midnight Oil, Noise Works and many more. A highlight? A decade mixing and touring the world with Oasis.
Johnston now owns and operates JPJ Audio, doing live sound production for stadiums, concerts, festivals and theatre shows in Australia, from The Foo Fighters to Splendour in The Grass to Harry Potter to The Voice.
“You can’t just walk in off the street these days,” he explains. “The industry is too big and sophisticated now. Systems, procedures, regulatory and compliance, project management, working with a team, communication skills, technical skills, and hard work and commitment.
“We need kids skilled up and ready to go.”
“That’s why we partnered with Industri Education. We co-designed the course with them, we’ll help deliver it too. I think it’s the best way into the industry. Do our live sound course, learn from the pros, benefit from real hands-on learning and use this as a path to a job in the live music industry.”
Industri Education’s two-year Live Sound Production program is designed by industry experts who know the importance of hands-on learning, it’s one of their key focuses. You’ll learn the technical skills, the aural training and the operational know-how needed to become employable within the industry.
Their Associate Degree of Music (Creative Technology) offers small class sizes at their Melbourne CBD campus, with FEE-HELP available. They offer flexible study arrangements and a plethora of real-world opportunities.
What’s more, the credits you earn from their two-year associate degree are fully transferable to the world-renowned Australian Institute of Music (the institution behind Industri Education), so you can then complete a Bachelor’s degree with just one more year of study, if you wish. You can download their course guide here.
Next, we spoke to Matt Hansen, owner of MPH Australia, which provides production lighting services for the very best – Post Malone, Dua Lipa, Spilt Milk, Beyond the Valley and Laneway Festival, just to name a few.
“I’ve been in the game since 1995,” Hansen says, “working as a tech and lighting designer with various artists and shows. I started MPH in 2005, providing lighting systems hire. Over the last 18 years, we’ve built the company to become an industry leader.”
Industri Education’s Live Music Business course is aimed at people who want to develop these overarching skillsets – the future business and management leaders in the performing arts industry. Put simply, they pride themselves on offering a contextual understanding of how everything in the music industry works.
Hansen explains that MPH is part of a rapidly expanding industry, that needs young people with the skills Industri Education offers.
“Our company is growing fast, and production lighting technology is becoming more specialised,” he continues. “Industri Education graduates help us say ‘yes’ to more jobs and deliver those jobs to our high standards.
“Our partnership with Industri Education has allowed us to develop a practical entertainment lighting production course. When graduates come to us with this baseline knowledge, they can take on more responsibility, sooner. The course is conducted as a mix of online, on campus, in the warehouse, at venues, and on gigs. Trainers are a diverse range of industry veterans and experts.”
“The course provides a well-rounded learning experience. It’s the first of its kind in Australia and encompasses the fundamentals of the production process, power and data distribution, lighting and control equipment, systems design and engineering, taking and interpreting design briefs, design and operation.”
Finally, we spoke to Tiny Good, the founder-CEO of Showtech Australia, Industri Education’s stage and rigging partner. Out of everyone we spoke to, Good was the clearest in his message to people considering a job in the music industry.
“Do the course, get the knowledge and we’ll give you a job,” he says.
Good is adamant that companies like his are eager to employ skilled young people. He’s clear that there is no better way to enter the job market then by completing a course that’s designed with your potential employer.
“Who do you think put Kiss on the MCG on Grand Final Day and then got them off again so quickly?” he asks. “Who do you think built the event spaces at Flemington Races and filled Marvel stadium with lights, sound, and vision for Paul McCartney, TWICE, Motley Crew?
“Who will make Foo Fighters, Taylor Swift and Pink a reality? What about the Sidney Myer Music Bowl this summer, including Carols By Candlelight? Ed Sheeran at the MCG? How does Melbourne Park do basketball, tennis, concerts, and ice hockey with only a few days’ gap?
“How do you think it all happens? We do it! We’re sound, lighting, staging, rigging, production, and labour businesses. We move the gear, set it up, and make it happen. We have jobs for hundreds of young people. We can start them in a career they already love and could take them all over the world.”
Good says the music industry offers respite for people who may feel directionless or uncertain of their career aspirations. One thing is for certain – if you love music but don’t see yourself as a professional artist, there are a massive array of career opportunities for you.
“Our industry is one of the most inclusive industries worldwide,” he explains. “People who thought they did not belong anywhere, thrive when they get to work in our industry because there are so many different opportunities.
“We need young people to begin training now to become the next generation of technical and production crew for our industry. If you love music, stage shows, or events but you don’t want to be a performer, there are still many places in the industry for you! That’s why we’ve partnered with Induistri Education, that’s why we are working with them.”
To take the next step towards your career in the music industry, head here.
This article was made in partnership with Industri Education.