Have you ever wondered how to get a job in a recording studio? Though it is a dream job for some, getting started in that direction, like anything else, may be a bit of a challenge at the outside.
Even if you have had a lifelong passion for recording and audio engineering, unless you’re lucky, there’s always the occasional obstacle to getting your foot in the door.
For instance, one thing you might realize is that many of the skills, knowledge, and experience you have gained will have little to no bearing when you hand in your application. You could have a stack of recordings under your belt, but that won’t amount to much in a real-world studio scenario.
Even so, you can increase your chances of getting a job in a professional recording facility with some prep work and planning.
This post endeavours to provide a guiding line for you to know what sort of prep work you’d need, the mindset to have, and finally to give you some important words of advice from one of the world’s foremost recording engineer and producer.
So make sure to sit back, read, and take in all that you can from this post.
Types of Music Studio Jobs
At this point, you might have little more than a vague idea that you want to work in a studio. But have you given thought to what specific job you wish to get? There are several areas of specialization within the studio hierarchy. It might help to figure out the type of work you want to do so you could work toward a specific goal. Here are some roles and positions to which you could aspire.
This role places you in the position of managing and overseeing the recording and production process. You may be called upon to manage the production of a single song, a full album, or anything in between. Tasks generally include putting together musical ideas, developing original material or choosing cover songs, hiring musicians, and working with artists and musicians on lyrics, song construction, and arrangements.
Your role will mainly revolve around ensuring the quality of the production from a technical standpoint. As an audio technician, you could expect to work closely with artists and producers to create the finished recording. This position requires considerable technical knowledge of modern studio equipment such as DAWs, mixing boards, hardware recording equipment, and more.
Recording Studio Manager
In contrast to record producers that manage the recording process, studio managers oversee the day-to-day operations of the studio itself. In most studios, the owner or co-owner of the studio works as the studio manager. In some facilities, hired personnel take on the job. The position itself doesn’t require technical knowledge or musical aptitude as much as business acumen and management skills.
As a sound designer, you will be called upon to perform a varied array of audio-related tasks. You may be required to create audio effects from hardware and software devices, program synthesizers and digital instruments, and devise custom effects chains. The could create sounds for video productions or musical projects.
Instrument techs work primarily with musical instruments. Some techs focus solely on one instrument, while others may specialize in two or more instruments. Depending on the facility, you may even be responsible for the entire stable of instruments in the studio. As you may have guessed, this position requires extensive knowledge in setting up and maintaining instruments, effects units, and other related equipment.
Sound mixers essentially operate the mixing console. They ensure optimum audio levels and deal with issues that affect audio quality. The role of a sound mixer can be quite complex, especially when multiple mics and audio sources are involved. In many ways, the role of a sound mixer overlaps with that of an audio technician. In larger facilities or more complex projects, there are usually dedicated professionals for each role.
Digital Audio Editor
Digital audio editors handle the wide range of audio editing systems, whether software or hardware. The role itself involves cutting, copying, and cleaning up recorded audio material. There can be considerable overlap between the roles of audio editors and audio technicians, although larger recording facilities typically employ dedicated editors to handle post-production tasks.
How to Get the Job You Want
There is no single set of rules that will guarantee your eligibility for a job at a recording facility. Circumstances vary from studio to studio; a strategy that gets in the door of one studio might get you turned away at another. Even so, there are certain things you can do that will increase your chances of getting considered in many studios.
1. Before you send in your application, research the types of projects the studio handles and the composition of its clientele. Although most studios handle most any type of project, knowing its focus will help you determine whether or not you are a good fit. You could then work on enhancing your knowledge in areas in which you are lacking and highlight the qualities that will make you more likely to get the job.
2. Don’t come into an interview empty-handed. Put together a list of your strengths and weaknesses and don’t be shy about communicating your best qualities. It could be helpful to highlight the skills and knowledge that you came about through your own experience and self-education. In some cases, these skills could be what will set you apart from other applicants.
3. Try to broaden your scope in terms of the work you are willing to do. Although focusing your energies into one specific area of the recording industry is a good thing, you can greatly increase your chances of fitting in by being a bit flexible. If you have your sights set on becoming a sound mixer, for example, be open to the idea of working as an audio technician or even an audio editor. You could always maneuver yourself toward your desired position over time. Being flexible about your role at the start could result in more opportunities in the long run.
4. If you are fortunate enough to land an interview, communicate your willingness to perform tasks that no one else has time for or is willing to do. Although you probably want to get involved in the production side of things as soon as possible, offering to take on ‘support’ roles will be more likely to get you an ‘in’. After you have proven yourself at the more ‘menial’ tasks, you will be more likely to get an offer to lend a hand in the more technical aspects of the job.
5. Talk about your experience and knowledge by all means, but don’t exaggerate. Established studio managers know fully well that a “production” credit on your resume probably means that you recorded a buddy’s band for beer money. There is no shame in coming across as “green” and inexperienced. A willingness to learn will likely get you farther than overinflated “credentials” that ultimately won’t mean much in a real-world scenario.
6. Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions. One of the worse things you can do in a recording or production scenario is pretending to know more than you do. The result could be disastrous if you are assigned an important task that you are unable to handle. You don’t necessarily want to be a bother and ask about every little thing. But if you are in over your head, asking questions could save the session and your career.
7. Always maintain a professional demeanor. When dealing with clients and handling high pressure situations, always conduct yourself in a manner appropriate to your role. It can be challenging to deal with creative people, particularly those with abrasive attitudes and prima donna complexes. Often, you could be on the receiving end of unprofessional behavior, but you have to develop a thick skin. Build a reputation as someone who doesn’t take things personally and carries on like a trooper, and you will go a long way.
Final Words of Advice
At this point, you should have a good idea of what it takes to get a job in a professional recording facility. But we’d like to leave you with these words of advice from George Apsion, a London based record producer and sound engineer of Kore Studios in London:
“In my view, more than anything else, the biggest question everybody interested in the industry is asking me is ‘how do I get a job in a studio?’ There’s no lack of applicants for every studio job, but it’s hard to break into it. People need to lower their expectations, a lot of people think they’re going to be Rick Rubin right off the bat, but that’s just not the case. To succeed in the studio, you need to be willing to start from the bottom and be moldable (and know when you’re opinions are welcome/relevant).
My top tip for anyone looking to break into the business is this: Be willing to forget what you think you know and understand that your previous achievements may not be relevant at all. Work in a studio that specializes in a genre you’re passionate about, but be aware that you’ll spend the beginning being effectively invisible, but always indispensable.” (Emphasis added).
That last point is crucial, in terms of the sort of mindset you’d need, especially when just starting out. Humility, but being the best at what you can do, is what will open the door, and several other doors, for you moving forward.