Monday, October 22, 2012

How to Become a Producer/Engineer

First, there are studios closing down daily because the market is just not there any more to support many of them. Your potential number of employers is dwindling all the time, and those people who had jobs at those studios (and therefore experience) will be competing with you looking for work at the handful that are still standing.

Second, most real-world studios don't care that much if you have qualifications on paper. They look at what your track record is. What have you done? Can I hear your work? That sort of thing. Someone whose work speaks for itself without training will get the job pretty much every time over someone whose work is okay who has training.

By extension of both of those, most studios don't put out ads "wanted: studio engineer." They take advantage of their existing set of contacts and connections and fish from that pond. It is very much a business of who you know.

So.... given all that, the best way of getting a job at a major studio is:

  1. Show up at their door and introduce yourself. Do this many times if necessary. Be a polite, cordial, eager and pleasant pain in the ass. You're not there for a job yet. You're volunteering to make coffee, vacuum carpets, be a gopher when someone in a band needs smokes, water plants, whatever. In return, all you ask is for the chance to watch a few sessions so you can start learning some stuff.
  2. Once your foot is in the door, be the best coffee maker, carpet vacuumer, corner-store runner you can. It shows you're worth the effort for them to have you around. They'll start to like you and be more willing to let you watch. They'll even teach you the proper way to wind cables.
  3. Eventually, you'll be given jobs like setting up mics and moving them around the room as the engineer tells you what to do - "closer... closer.... back it off a bit... now left... "

Little jobs at a time, and you'll be trained on site by the people who know what they are doing. It won't cost you anything but time.

As they get confidence in your knowledge, reliability, etc., there will come a time when the studio makes some concession to band where they'll give them a cut rate if they're willing to come in at 6:00am and work with one of their interns. That would be you. Maybe it will come up as one of the regular studio assistants is sick, or quits, or whatever, and you'll get called up to help out. Sure, you're last picked, but at least you're picked.

You'll start noticing that other people with genuine credentials are sending in their resumees. The studio, already with a full complement of staff, including interns, assistants, lackeys, etc. does not typically call those applicants back.

PS. Just in case you're thinking that I'm one of those "anti-education.... school is no good for anything" kind of people, I have a degree in music and teach in a school... so no. I'm *very* pro-education. I'm also very practical, and that means taking the steps you *really* need to get there rather than assuming that a piece of paper will be your ticket.

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