It is so important to stay open to new opportunities while building a career in audio. Saying yes will often lead to one of two realizations: this opportunity is right for me; I want to continue to do more of this work! Or, this is wrong for me; I now know what to avoid. Both are valuable lessons for shaping an ideal career. Working in music is a lifelong journey – undoubtedly it will be full of unexpected and unpredictable twists and turns, so finding joy in both outcomes has to become an important practice.
Landing a dream job does not happen overnight, and if it did, my guess is that it probably would not be that rewarding. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received after I graduated college was that during your early career it is often more important to learn about what you do not want to be doing rather than worrying about doing precisely what you want. As someone who recently transitioned into full-time freelance, I am always trying to strike a balance between doing what I am passionate and excited about, and doing what makes practical sense, which sometimes means taking on gigs that are less than ideal.
I have accepted a lot of gigs that have turned out to be not quite right for me. It can be an unfortunate part of the process of figuring things out but is also highly valuable. I can say with certainty that the reason I am now doing what I am doing is due to a series of saying yes to opportunities that have come my way. This has allowed me to narrow my scope and better understand the type of work I do not want to do, behaviors I will not accept, and how to be most efficient when dealing with new clients and projects.
Occasionally I will get asked to help out running FOH on a show or festival around town, and even though live sound is not a career path I want to explore, I always say yes. It would be really easy to peg myself as only a studio engineer and say no, but something positive always comes out of it. For one, I get to listen to music and likely see some friends. It is also a really easy and genuine way to meet people and talk about what I enjoy doing in the audio realm. From picking up a few gigs like this around town, I have been able to join bands and start recording projects, just because I was present and doing my job.
When I worked at Welcome to 1979 all of the opportunities that arose for me came from me being open to new challenges and saying yes to things. When I was hired as an intern, I was asked to work in the office part-time, which was not something I was interested in pursuing long-term. I was clear that I wanted to be an engineer, but I said yes because I wanted to learn something new, diversify my skillset, and become a valuable member of the team. Later on, I became an assistant, and after about a year of doing that I was asked to learn how to do vinyl mastering, and then, be the studio manager. I said yes to every opportunity because I was trusting in the process of figuring out my path. I was also trusting in the fact that my bosses probably saw something in me that I did not see in myself at the time. Through this process, I grew tremendously as an individual, gained critical technical skills, and walked away with a better understanding of what I wanted to pursue.
I would love to get to the point where I can be extremely selective about which gigs to take on and only work with my favorite artists. I hope I am on my way to that point, but I think it’s a long process of saying yes and staying open to opportunities, even ones I don’t feel ready for. My imposter syndrome can be extreme, but I have found that trusting in the timing of life helps me value myself and understand my worth. Either way, I know I will learn something in the process regardless of the outcome. The fun part is not knowing where one “yes” might lead!
Connect with Kate:
Kate Haldrup is a Nashville-based freelance recording engineer and drummer. She graduated from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music in 2014 and has spent most of her professional career in a studio recording environment. She enjoys the hands-on process of analog recording and gained a lot of experience on tape machines and maintenance while working at Welcome to 1979 in Nashville. Kate also absorbed an extensive knowledge of vinyl mastering and the vinyl industry while at ’79. Most recently she has been freelancing in Nashville both as an engineer and drummer and loves participating in full band live-tracking sessions.