How to be Successful in the Audio Industry – Part 2

Being a good intern is today’s subject. Part 2 of how to be successful in the audio industry is submitted by David Torres.

David is an intern coordinator here at CRAS.  He was also a former studio owner and has worked with numerous interns prior to becoming a coordinator.  His tips are some that we share with our students while on campus, mixed with some of the knowledge he shared with interns he had at his facility.  Here is his top ten:

Top 10 Traits of a Successful Intern

  1. Keep the big picture in mind. You are not trying to be an intern, you are an intern learning how to be an engineer in the music industry. A big component of our job happens outside of a studio session when closing the deal. This is a business and that starts with people. You should work on your people skills if this is news to you. Pay attention to how studio managers and engineers are speaking to their clients when talking about their project’s needs. If you can, learn how to pitch the studio. I’m not saying you will be able to bring clients in as an intern and run sessions before you demonstrate a certain level of competency, but learning how to network and communicate with potential clients will keep you around well after your internship if even at a freelance capacity. So ask to shadow the studio manager. Go out to shows. Meet and speak with musicians. They are your future clients after all.
  2. Be on time. Something as simple as showing up to the session on time (read this as Being Early) can be difficult for certain people. Are you prone to car issues? Fix it. Hitting the snooze button twice too many times? Stop it. No one in ANY industry wants an employee with excuses aplenty when it comes to tardiness. Things happen, I know, but give ample notice if you will miss time.
  3. Be consistent with your schedule. You may have a full-time job along with your internship and maybe only available 3 days a week. Most studios understand this as you are an unpaid intern, but if your schedule constantly changes then they may not feel as they can depend on you. If you are there Friday for the start of a session but not around on the weekend for the end of it, or there for 2.5 hours one day and 4 the day after next, then you will not be the first person requested to help with sessions – if it all. Your schedule may seem to be too chaotic. You will not be around the engineers or the clients enough for them to feel comfortable with you in the control room. Sure, there is plenty to do around a studio with that amount of time, like cleaning and answering phones, but your goal is to get into the sessions to learn and contribute. Be there often and as regularly as possible or be stuck waiting outside of the control room to get food orders from the clients, engineers, producers and quite possibly the other intern that was invited to be the 2nd for that session.
  4. Remove the phrase “Quitting Time” from your vocabulary. Sure, the client is done when the session is done. But as an intern, that’s when teardown and your closing duties start, so plan your schedule accordingly. You are done when there’s no more work to do. I understand stand that this sounds cliché but having the “first to arrive and last to leave” mentality should keep you from being perceived as the first to leave when a session is slow, or worse, no longer interesting to you.
  5. Keep the workplace a Drama-Free Zone. Do not bring your bad start to your day/week or your whole life in with you and complain. Is your significant other complaining that you are at the studio too much? Welcome to the club! But consider it to be like Fight Club. You are not to speak about it. Money issues? Same advice here. They understand that you are an intern. They were once an entry level audio engineer too and they know it’s not easy but worth the payoff. It’s called paying your dues for a reason. They did it and will expect you to do the same. Stay positive!
  6. Be a good hang. See #5 and align yourself to be relatable. The crew has a fantasy football league and invited you in? Join it. “But I don’t follow football.” Then start. It’s important to try new things and it helps to have various things in common with people you do not know very well to break the ice. Who knows, you may just enjoy it! If you are invited to go out after work with the studio crew, do it. Be smart however; do not attempt to drink them under the table. In fact, offer to be the Designated Driver. You will earn some respect there and you will also learn a lot about what makes them tick, so stay sharp! Remember, this industry is about people and maintaining those relationships. Be mindful though, do not try and befriend the clientele. Be friendly, but I would keep those relationships professional and in the studio. Your intentions can be misconstrued and perception is reality.
  7. Learn to be quiet and humble, out of the way but attentive. In a session, your goal is to observe, take notes, write down questions you have to be asked at the proper time, and anticipate the needs of others. Do not hover over the engineer, where your breath is causing the hair on the back of his neck to stand. That’s just creepy. Do not assume the nice chair in the sweet spot. That is for the engineer, producer, or clients to critically listen to their music. Sit off to the side if possible. Do not speak up to share your opinion unless asked. Be honest, but also consider that your frame of reference of what ‘sounds good’ will be off from others who have experience making the decisions. So be tactful and positive and refrain from needless critique. Stay off of your phone, be sure it’s off or muted. Vibrate can be a distraction too so limit your need for outside contact during your time in the control rooms. It looks like you are uninterested when you do so. 
  8. Your job as an intern is also to make others look good. Do not correct the engineer in front of clients, even if he is wrong or is hung up on an overlooked and incorrect patch. If you notice it and recognize the fix, write it down and slide a note to your engineer discretely. Being right isn’t worth causing a client to doubt the skills of those you are assisting. Be a team player and when the engineer succeeds, you do too. When the engineer gets his shot to move up and tackle bigger projects, who do you think he will ask to assist him with the session? The know-it-all show-off intern or the person that anticipated his needs at every step and helped him look great even during missteps? I know you want to prove yourself as an engineer, but don’t be so eager to ruin the client’s faith in others. Who do you think will be sent quickly out the door for lack of respect? The intern.
  9. Own up to mistakes but make them only once. Messing something up in a session can be very bad, like ruining gear by hot swapping a ribbon mic or costing client’s time and money and maybe both depending on the situation. Earn your lumps if you fail at something but be sure to learn from your mistakes. As an intern, you will make them but mistakes can be great lessons. Making them twice however, can cost you opportunities. Write down everything requested of you. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to try something new. If you are asked to do something a little out of your experience, take the opportunity and say something to the effect of “I would gladly do it, however, I have never done this before and would love to learn how.” That may prompt them to show you the first time, with you repeating the procedure and now you have a new trick to add to your bag.
  10. #1 Part 2: or Freelance! To many fledgling engineers, this is a scary word. But what if you do not get hired full-time at your internship site? Ask if they would allow you to freelance there. I get it, not everyone is up to being their own boss. Getting a full schedule of billable hours is a full time job itself and it can be daunting. While you are looking for that full-time audio gig, remember that you can throttle your own career by bringing in business into a facility, negotiating a great no-engineer rate (which means the facility gets paid for the use of the gear/room but does not provide an engineer because that role is being filled by YOU), charging your clients accordingly and doing great work. Not all studios let freelancers just casually walk in and touch faders. This is, again, an industry made up of relationships and for the most part I’m talking post-internship, after you have earned the trust of the facility’s studio manager and engineers and have shown competency with the equipment. However, this does not mean that you finish your internship THEN become freelance-minded. You start right away by networking. Promote yourself by introducing yourself to musicians at shows, continuously meeting your peers and learning from people with success at industry events and conferences such as PotLuckCon, AES, NAB and other trade shows for the facet of the industry you are working in. Stay in touch with people and do not ever be the person that does not respond in a timely fashion. Keep at it and often the studio will throw work to the freelancers they trust.

These are great tips! Being a former intern coordinator myself, I find that students sometimes don’t understand how important networking and freelancing are for their budding careers in the industry. They can really use these tips to put into practice in the real world.  Also, check out this article on networking and building contacts, you might find something that will help you expand your network.

 7 Ways to Build Music Business Contacts