Skip to main content

Where AIR’s Headed: 2020 Community Survey

At AIR, we deeply value the perspectives of our growing community of audio makers. We also recognize the extraordinary impact and ongoing challenges raised by the pandemic and long-overdue reckonings unfolding across our industry on how we learn, collaborate, create change and share the stories we want and need to hear in the world. 

We have long championed an independent journalistic spirit. Yet we are also acutely aware that many of you, our members and peers, experienced unanticipated layoffs and an unpredictable job market in 2020 that required many to pivot their career focus, pick up new skills and explore going freelance for the first time. 

That’s why we reached out to the AIR community last spring to learn more about your path into audio; gauge what you were struggling with in your work; and pinpoint how we could best support you with expanded programs and resources. We heard from more than 300 current and prospective AIR members, and many of the insights from our 2020 survey* conducted last spring/summer are actively guiding our programming and investment in 2021. We’ve highlighted some key takeaways below.

1. We wanted to know how AIR could better support our community and invest in their range of needs. Here’s a sample of your frequently recurring asks: 

  • Promoting members’ shows, projects and work 
  • Finding collaborators or open pitch calls for projects 
  • Nuts and bolts of managing a small business 
  • Engineering and technical skills 
  • Grant writing advice 
  • Developing legal resources to help members understand and negotiate contracts
  • Raising pay rates for feature commissions at local stations

2. As the pandemic continues to limit our ability to travel and gather in person, our community wants expanded online training offerings. That’s why we’re excited to share SoundPath, our newly launched digital training platform for the audio community, aspiring and professional alike. Programming is now open for registration, and includes pre-recorded and real-time video classes in producing, editing, reporting, engineering, podcasting and narrative audio storytelling for media makers, plus 1:1 coaching sessions with successful audio, business and legal professionals available to book on an hourly basis.

3. We asked what kind of audio our community produces. Survey participants told us that they work across a few different formats, ranging from podcasts to news spots to experimental sound art.

4. How did you learn to do what you do? Our survey shows that AIR members are slightly more likely to have gone through a radio training program, but not by much. The majority of survey participants learned audio skills on the job with little to no prior experience, via college radio, through peer mentorship or a mix. Most of our community learned at least some of their skills through trial and error.

5. More than half of respondents (58%) told us they’ve been in the industry for 10 years or less. That said, we also have a few (14%) current members who have been doing audio work for decades.

6. Many survey respondents want to get more involved in AIR’s community. We’re expanding ways to do just that, from paid training and mentorship opportunities to connecting our members working in similar roles through affinity groups, plus inviting members to weigh in on evolving resources like AIR’s Code of Fair Practice. 

Does that sound like you? We’ve already reached out to some of you, and invite all members to keep an eye out for new opportunities via our weekly newsletter and member Forums. Tran Vu runs our mentorship program—you can reach her at [email protected]. And if there’s an affinity group you’d like to be part of, let [email protected] know!

*2020 AIR community survey results based on a poll of more than 300 members and non-members representing a range of audio projects, demographics and career experiences, conducted between April 19 and July 13, 2020.