Lend me your ears! Better yet, rent them to me...
Looking for a well-paying career in A Cappella? It might be waiting for you, and closer than you think!
Believe it or not, there are money-making opportunities right now in A Cappella, looking for the right people to fill them. One of the most common (and often urgent) requests we hear from the many producers out there is "Anyone available to edit this session for me sometime this week (or today)?" The good editors are usually booked weeks in advance, making up to $50 per hour or more. Working anywhere you want at flexible times for that kind of money sure beats the part-time job at the campus burrito bar, doesn't it?
Many a person's career plans end up being something not exactly - but still related to - what they were originally preparing for in life. I, for example, was going to be a Rock Star and Astronaut; I didn't become either, but still ended up making a good living in music from off the stage - and those who know me will agree that I'm a bit of a space-cadet, so I feel that I've satisfied my goals closely enough!
Now, I admit that editing can be tedious and unglamorous, but it also can be an art unto itself, and a good editor is GOLD to us mixers/producers. There are very few superstars in the editing field, and we producers fight each other for the privilege of throwing money at these special people. I am constantly telling my clients that if they get cut-rate or sub-par editing at a low hourly rate (or more likely give their $35-$60/hr editors such budget constraints that the editor is forced to cut corners and miss a lot of details), I'm going to have to end up finishing that work at $125/hr before I can even start mixing! Even some of the best editors'$75/hr rush rate is still a great deal compared to me having to fix a "cheap" editor's work, so people are just starting to catch on how valuable these good editors are!
The problem is, there are not enough of these high-quality people out there. Yes, there will always be someone available for "editing" of some kind, but the musicality of their work will directly effect the amout of effort it will take in the mix, given overtuned/undertuned notes, stiff vocal percussion editing, too tight or too loose when lining up rhythms/attacks/cutoffs, unclear (or clueless) in their organization of the session, etc. (See my other articles about that - such as this one on track management)
It's really the difference between a "janitorial" and "musical" edit. Most people can clean a toilet, but relatively few can also tweak that toilet to run as efficiently as possible, with the optimum amount of water usage, keeping the handle from jiggling, making sure the seat doesn't slip, etc. Yes, I just compared your recording session to a toilet, but hey - think about it - it can be a pleasant or terrible experience depending on how well it's been taken care of!
What we look for in a good editor is mostly non-technical. Can you feel when something is actually "in the pocket" rhythmically? Do you know when a degree of swing is needed, and how much? Able to spot wrong chords from a mile away? I'm not saying you need the most advanced music theory under your belt, but just a good sense of natural musicality - I've seen some painfully basic mistakes where majors are turned into minors, etc, that a good amount of musically-aware QC would have caught.
When an edit passes through a good set of ears, we can tell right away that it wasn't done strictly by putting things onto lines, automatically tuning by machine, etc. A musical edit makes our job as mixers easier, cheaper, and the final product better.
You might be saying: "Hey, the musicality aspect of that sounds like me, but I've never done anything in ProTools/Logic/Cubase/whatever - isn't there a lot of technical stuff I have to learn?"
As I said before, your ear and musical sensibilities are by far your most valuable commodity. Second to this is your ability to get things done on time - some very good editors are avoided by some of us for fear of having the project disappear into the abyss and set off a chain of events that effects many other schedules!
The technical part is actually fairly easy to learn - it's how you approach the art of it that separates the amateurs from the pros. Have I repeated myself enough in this article so far that my point is starting to get through? :-)
"OK, that all sounds well and good, so….how do I get started?"
That is a harder question to answer outside of "just do it!" Many editors got started by just doing it for their own group. Even if you aren't "officially" doing the edit, see if you can get the tracks to practice with. If you know you are working with a certain mixer, you can talk to them about the possibilities of getting a critique from them to refine your skills - we love discovering new potential talent, and the word will spread fast!
Do you have what it takes? There is constant, well-paying work waiting for you if so!