Places to Look for a Job in Audio Production
Before you decide to look for work as an audio engineer in audio production, you may want to learn a bit more about the career and the many job possibilities in an array of industries.
What is an Audio Engineer?
If you’re even slightly confused about the various kinds of audio engineering careers and what, exactly, audio engineers do, don’t blame yourself. The term can be used interchangeably with a number of other terms such as “recording engineer” “mixing engineer” “sound engineer” “studio engineer” “live music engineer” and more. Audio engineers are professionals who work in the production and/or recording of sound. They could be the person recording an actor reading a book for an audio book project, the person recording a live concert at a venue, the individual who’s sitting at the console in the control room of a recording studio who’s recording the vocal takes a singer is singing or the rhythms a drummer is playing. The long and short of it is this: a skilled and experienced audio engineer with solid training can work in practically any industry and on any project which requires the production and oftentimes enhancement of sound.
To grasp just how wide-ranging the fields for audio engineering can be, try this thought experiment. Think of any form media which includes sound. From podcasts, to audio books, to the audio tours you take at museums, to the video games you or your friends play, to movies, television shows, and radio shows, all of them require the expertise of an audio engineer.
In the world of music production i.e. “making music,” audio engineers are often described as being on the “technical side” of the work while music producers, artists, and musicians are on the “creative side.” While that statement has some truth to it, it is probably more accurate to see the role of the audio engineer as a conduit for the capture and perfection of a sound, the quality of which is decided upon by the artist or music producer. In other words, the artist or music producer decides what quality they want to sound to be and the audio engineer enacts the appropriate functions and technologies to realize that sound. Therefore, being able to understand what is being sought and then knowing how to achieve that particular sound or sound quality is a large facet of the work. Because music is by definition a subjective art form, the terminology used to represent particular sounds and sound qualities can oftentimes be inexact. “Grainy,” “booming,” “textured,” “layered,” and “rich,” are just a few. It might therefore be more helpful to describe audio engineers as having technical skills as well as a creative sensibilities or a creative aptitude. Additionally, they need to be competent enough in music theory to know the difference between dissonance and consonance. Basic song structures should also be included in their wheelhouse since artists and producers will often refer to the “bridge” “intro” “chorus” “outro” “drop” and other key parts of a song while working in session.
Many music producers are also working audio engineers who may choose to assume both roles when working with artists. Furthermore, many future music producers start out their careers as audio engineers in order to build their knowledgebase, experience, and industry connections before marketing themselves as music producers.
Wherever an audio engineer is at work, they will generally be dealing with perfecting, balancing, and adjusting sound through the use of equalization and audio technologies and effects. They will also often be mixing, reinforcing, or reproducing sound and altering the quality of specific sounds through the usage of analog (hardware) technologies or digital (software) technologies such as plugins and effects. Understanding signal flow, microphones, acoustics, signal processors, tape machines, digital audio workstations, sequencing software and speaker systems are all requirements for those who choose this career.
In the world of audio engineering it is most often the case that those who are deeply interested in this career must first get a certain amount of experience and exposure to various jobs and facets of the industry to then know which path or paths they want to pursue. It is not uncommon for one audio engineer to have numerous specializations or niches. With a wide range of audio engineering careers out there to choose from, you may want to start thinking about what excites you about audio, sound, or music. Do your research. Read articles and interviews with professionals who actively work in one of the subfields, niches, or specializations.
Common Audio Engineering Specializations and Niches
- Recording engineer
- Tracking engineer
- Studio engineer
- Audio broadcast engineer
- Forensic audio specialist
- Game and audio design engineer
- Mix engineer or Mixing engineer
- Live Music aka Live Sound engineer
- Mastering engineer
- Monitor engineer
- Post Audio engineer
- Systems engineer
Discovery and Agility
Being open to learning and having a sense of discovery are two signature character traits of a successful audio engineer. Careers in audio can change quickly to in response to the development of new technologies, new forms of media, and fluctuations in market demand. It behooves individuals in the field to stay current with the latest technologies and trends in music, broadcasting, live sound, and various other fields. Agility and responsiveness are characteristics of audio engineers who can endure and even thrive during times of change.
If You’re Gearing up to Hit the Job Market
If you’re currently studying audio engineering and music production, your search for a job in audio production shouldn’t wait until after graduation. You can start networking and researching now—and the sooner the better. The paradox here is that while your training in audio production will actually qualify you for a wide range of positions, the reality is that the industry is competitive and relationship-driven. cold-calls and emailed resumes rarely work, no matter how qualified you are. While you’re studying, you need to be making the connections now that you’ll need in order to get hired later.
The Most Common Jobs our Audio Engineering & Music Production grads look for
Your news audio production skills will qualify you for a broad range of jobs and career positions, and you can narrow the search based on your interests and passions. Here are just a few examples of jobs and careers you might look for:
- Audio engineer/audio engineering assistant. You can either try to land a job in a recording studio, or if you’re the entrepreneurial type, start a studio of your own.
- Live audio engineer. You can look for an audio production job in one of many live music venues, or if you like to travel, try to get hired with a touring act.
- Music producer. You may want to dive into the creative and/or administrative side of recording, and start producing recordings for musical artists you believe in.
- Video production-audio department. Films, videos, TV commercials and web series almost always need audio production help.
- Post-production expert. Post-production houses handle a lot of interesting projects, including voiceover, audio FX, foley and ADR for film/TV.
- Mastering engineer. You might choose to specialize in mastering, which is the all-important final step in preparing recorded audio for CD and vinyl duplication, as well as making music and other audio “broadcast ready.”
Strategies For Landing a Job In Audio Production
As we said earlier, finding a good audio production job is probably going to take more than just mailing out a bunch of resumes to companies that don’t know anything about you. Here are a few things you can do be a bit more strategic in your search for a job.
Leverage your connections.
Getting “inside” the industry is a huge step in being considered for any audio production job, so look for ways to connect wherever you can. If you’re a Recording Connection student externing in a recording studio, you’re already halfway there. Your mentor and the Student Services Department will be huge resources to help make introductions and recommend you to potential employers (you might even get hired by your mentor if you prove yourself). If you need more inroads, try to get in the door of a recording studio through an internship, or even offering to volunteer to gain work experience.
Establish an online presence.
Having an online presence helps to make you look legitimate and desirable in the eyes of employers and potential clients. It also helps extend your base of connections beyond the people you meet in person. Setting up a website and a presence on social media (e.g. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) will make it easy for prospective employers to find useful information about you and your accomplishments when they “Google” you (and trust us, they will “Google” you).
Target your job search.
To save time and energy, focus your job search on the type of work you want to be doing (see the list above), as well as the locations where those jobs are most likely to be. If you want to work in country music, for example, you should be searching for companies in Nashville; if you want to work in film-related audio, look up companies in film hotspots like Los Angeles, New York, Orlando and even Shreveport. Research potential companies where you’d like to work, and learn as much as you can about them. By targeting your job search to the places and types of work that interest you, you’re more likely to land a job in audio production that you’ll love for many years to come.