How to become a successful audio engineer
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There’s a world of difference between being an audio engineer and being a successful audio engineer. If you are in the former, you want to be in the latter—life is a whole lot more fun when you are making a good living doing what you want. Success tends to breed success, which means the more successful you are as an audio engineer, the more you will attract great clients and music artists who want to work with you.
Know Your Way Around any Recording Studio.
Obviously, there’s more to being an audio engineer than just saying that’s what you are. You need to understand the role of the audio engineer—what they are responsible for; how they run their sessions; how they interact with clients and how they acquire new clients. This means you need to understand everything from signal flow to the latest plug in for ProTools. You need to keep your knowledge and skills up to date. Basically, you need to develop your skills and knowledge of gear and recording techniques to the point that you can walk into any studio and be ready to run a session five minutes later.
Work, Rinse, Repeat.
Like everything else in life, you won’t get their overnight. How you approach things will change as you develop a reputation and become more known. In the beginning, you should have the attitude of saying yes to just about any opportunity, even those you don’t get paid for. Not only will this give you valuable experience working with a wide range of artists, you never know who might have the next great hit and think how hard you’ll kick yourself if the next great hit comes from someone you said no to? Bear this in mind though: If you are working for free make sure you get credited as the audio engineer on the song AND have the rights (get this in writing) to post the song online as a sample of your work. You won’t be able to sell the song, but at least you can use it to highlight your work. Another avenue to try is to reach out to local groups whose music you enjoy and offer to record a song or two for them. They may not have any money, but at least you’ll be working on music you like. Again, make sure you have the rights to use the song to promote your audio engineering skills.
Build Your Portfolio.
As you start gaining new clients and taking advantage of opportunities that come your way, you should make sure you start building a portfolio of your work. This can take many forms—it could be your SoundCloud page, your social media page or, if you are industrious, it could be your own website. As time goes by, you’ll want to constantly update and edit what’s in your portfolio because, at least in theory, the artists you work with will get better and your skills will improve. A portfolio is not really about quantity, it’s about quality.
Go Pro in a Commercial Recording Studio.
At some point, you are going to want to move from your home studio to a full-on recording studio. While this can be in your home, it needs to be professional looking and you’ll need lots of equipment and software. Rather than make that kind of monetary investment before you can cover the expenses involved, you can take another approach. Once you are confident about your skills and knowledge of how to use the equipment and run an audio session, consider reaching out to recording studios that are in your area. What you are looking for is a recording studio that will offer you a great rate to use their studio to record any paying clients you have. That way you don’t need to make the major investment setting up your own recording studio entails. You’ll also impress your clients when they walk into a state-of-the-art recording studio. Who knows, that recording studio may need an audio engineer at some point which would be great for you—they will already know you and so you’ll be the logical person for them to contact first. It’s also a great way to begin networking with other audio engineers and music industry insiders.