Written By: Tony Williamette
Too often we get caught up in gear. In snare sounds. In mic shootouts. By far the greatest thing we can bring to the table is artists with whom we work - from here on out referred to as “clients.” It goes without saying that this whole industry doesn’t exist without clientele. They make the songs, they keep our lights on, and they give us the opportunity to build our careers by trusting us with their songs.
We have an internship program and received 1-2 applications each week. This means I get to meet a great deal of talented young engineers, and I enjoy talking to young people and hearing about their path to the audio world. One thing I always ask about is: are you currently making records?
Really, I don’t even care about the quality or the style of music. I just want to know that you’re actively starting to do the thing you want to do the rest of your life.
If you’re working on a record that isn’t your own music, it means someone trusts you. That’s no small thing.
Having any sort of existing client tells me the following:
1. At some point you (engineer/producer) showed enough initiative to say “hey, let me make your record.” Even if the artist is your friend and you’re doing it for free, it shows action.
2. You (engineer/producer) are able to take an idea and help foster it through the demo, recording, mixing, or mastering phase. You’ve now touched the song(s) during at least one part of this process, leaving your fingerprints behind and therein gaining experience.
3. Someone can stand being around you for 4+ hours at a time. This is an underrated quality in life and only amplified in the studio environment.
4. You’ve gained experience working without a safety net. If you capture sounds that the artist doesn’t like, it’s on you. If you mismanage and lose the audio files, it’s on you. These are underappreciated muscles to build.
Novels could be written about our appreciation for artists, the songs they write, and how our existence as studio folk is meaningless without them. As long as people keep writing songs, we’ll be here to help them.
My advice to young engineers/producers is get started early and often. Find the people making the music and help them capture it. Be assertive, but humble and open-minded. Learn to make mistakes, learn to build trust, and learn to communicate with others. This stuff is infinitely more important than choosing the right microphone.