People often ask me how I got my start in the music industry, and how can they get in for themselves. I got my start just shy of twenty years ago in the local scene around the Tampa Bay area. My first foray in the industry was as a music reporter, first for my high school newspaper, and then later for local and regional magazines. This allowed me to make many new connections and start building my professional network. About a year after I had been working for the magazines, I was at a local rock fest and met a husband and wife team that produced a local video show called Metal Masters. My journalist background gave me enough credibility to request an internship which later led to employment with them and I signed on as a Production Assistant, learning to handle everything from pre-production, lighting, camera operation, editing and other post production techniques. The five years that I spent with the show was invaluable for the amount of training, skills and contacts that I acquired. I later returned to school and got my audio degree, and that plus my experience is what has propelled me forward in the industry. While reporting or video might not be your thing, if you really want to get started in the industry, look around where you live. Start locally by finding an artist or someone already established in the industry and start pestering them. Read up on what you need to know to be a stage hand, a drum or guitar tech, and never be afraid of hard work.
I hear this often, “I went to school, why isn’t anyone hiring me?” What did you do in tech school? Did you only stick to the projects assigned or did you seek out other projects as a student to build your portfolio? Training from the pros is necessary, school is expensive, but the right program will give you many of the skills needed to get your foot in the door, however, alone it is not enough, especially when it comes to live sound. Check out what is available for audio engineering training, schools like Full Sail University, International Academy of Design andTechnology provide the environment and training needed to understand the basics. However, the people you are looking to work with often times have more practical experience than you, the newbie have in life years. Showing up on a production company’s doorstep with only a degree in hand will get you a chance to push a broom, if that, in most shops. What they are looking for today is knowledge, training and practical hands on experience. One person with no degree but five years on the job training will get hired before the person with a fancy degree but no practical knowledge. Volunteer while in school, take on projects that may not pay right now, but will give you an edge over the next person applying.
There are other mistakes that people make not realizing it can jeopardize their entire career before it ever has a chance to take off. According to Karl Winkler, a regular contributor to ProSound Web’s blog, there are seven mistakes that rookies make that get noticed, even if you don’t think they do. In his article, “What Can Go Wrong?Seven Habits That Can Ruin Your Audio Career”, one of the seven things he points out is being the “Know It All”. I have personally seen this one in action. When new to the scene, it is best to not approach a gig with a know-it-all attitude. The affects of this can range from simply being annoying to potentially damaging equipment, hearing or even injury to yourself or someone on the crew. Remember what you have learned and apply it, but always take into account the instructions of your crew chief or head engineer.
When you are dealing with a new crew, never assume anything. Just because the last company you worked for did things one way, doesn’t mean that this one will do it the same way. Certain things are universal and signal flow only happens one way, however, other things from mic positioning, monitor placing and cable laying and wrapping differ from company to company, engineer to engineer, and even show to show. Never hesitate to ask a question, the only dumb question is truly the one you didn’t ask, or as Winkler suggests, “Be humble and ask the right guys how to do those specific things. Then listen carefully and don’t ask them again – just do it right.” Asking questions is good, asking the same question over and over will only annoy your boss, and may guarantee they won’t be calling you back. Another suggestion that Winkler makes is to show initiative. Again, this is something that I highly recommend as well. Doing only your job, and then standing around will not endear you to those higher up in the chain; neither will other bad habits like taking too many breaks and pulling out your smart phone while on a job. When you have completed the tasks assigned to you, go and ask, seek out any other work, or if anyone else needs help, because in the business of live audio the mantra to remember is “time is money”. The more you show your interest in seeing the entire team succeed and meet their deadlines, the more you will boost your own image.