By Samantha Potter
So, you’ve discovered your love of music, technology, and production. That’s the first step! Being passionate about this work is an absolute must, or, frankly, it’ll suck you dry.
There are some cold, harsh realities of this business that aren’t pictured in that SSL Ad, or that photo someone posted on an audio FaceBook page. Don’t get me wrong, the rewards outweigh the negative, but we can’t just ignore the negative aspects either.
As much as I get asked about how to break through in the industry, the steps are the same no matter where you go:
To School or Not to School
If you’re thinking about going to school, then read this:
This is a profession where schooling will not guarantee you a job. That’s not to say you can’t benefit from going to school, but don’t feel like you need to to get started. My basic rule is if you’ve got the money on hand, want to explore the different areas, and are young enough to devote the time to it, go to school. Don’t go into debt if you don’t have to.
The years you spend getting your degree could be spent learning signal flow, how to set up a board from scratch, how to wrap cables, how to act in certain professional settings, getting your hands dirty, and getting REAL life experience. Those things add up on a resume. Employers almost always accept experience over schooling. I want to reiterate, school can be great! It can offer fantastic networking possibilities with a lot of information. But, again, do NOT feel obligated. I have never been turned down for a job because of my schooling (or lack of a degree). I hardly even get asked about it.
So Now What
If you’ve decided to go to school, look around. Community Colleges are a great place to start. They save you a ton of money and often have much smaller class sizes. More and more schools are offering beginning Audio Engineering and Production certifications and degrees. Places like Full Sail are quite pricey but offer some great opportunities.
If you’ve decided to dive straight into work, congrats. It may be difficult for a little bit. But it will be well worth it. If you live in a medium to a large metro area, finding places that have live music or music studios won’t be too difficult. Here in Kansas City, we have a huge live music scene. It’s hard to throw a rock out the front door without hitting a place that needs an engineer.
Get out there. Network. Get business cards and leave them at clubs and venues. Talk to people. You’re going to need to be personable and friendly and outgoing. Until you are established, you have to put yourself out there and work hard. Ask if anyone needs help, find internships and mentorships. Don’t be afraid to ask. There will be gigs where you won’t earn much. I’ve done gigs in the past for free because I REALLY wanted to do them. I did a Jazz Festival one year for free because I got to work in a historical theatre with festival patching (which I’d never done). Every year since then they’ve hired me, paid me, and fed me.
Joining SoundGirls.Org is a fantastic step. There are so many amazing women and men with so much wisdom and experience to share. Priceless. Every job you do, adds to your experience, confidence and resume. You won’t always have every single gig listed, but when you’re starting out it will beef things up. Also, keep a list of what boards and equipment you have experience with, take to learn equipment you are not familiar with.
It takes sacrifice at the beginning. If you aren’t willing to make certain sacrifices, you won’t make it in this industry. There are months where you will not have a single day off. It happens. If you play it right, and you are passionate about this field, you won’t work a day in your life – because every gig brings new and exciting experiences.
You Will Get There
No matter which path you take, into whatever division of Audio Engineering you choose, get ready for a ride. Feel free to explore anything and everything. The more work you do, the more jobs will come. It may be difficult to get that very first job, but it’s a domino effect.
Keep trying, have patience, don’t give up.