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The shocking truth about working in pro recording studios

An RP reader successfully lands an internship in a major recording studio. But the kind of work he is asked to do isn't quite what he expected...

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Here is a message received from a Audio Masterclass (now Auralize) reader who landed an internship (work experience) in a major recording studio in London. I won't name the studio, but it has Neve and SSL consoles, so clearly it is way outside of bedroom-studio land...

"I had an extremely disappointing time at the studio, I was made to be a gofer for 3 days - fetching tea and coffee, and food for the staff. On the 4th day, Thursday morning, I was told by the studio manager (after the studio engineer childishly spoke directly to her instead of myself), 'You're not allowed to sit in sessions anymore, and we wish for you not to come back tomorrow (Friday).'

The reason for this was I had spoken in the session when they were not recording, saying, 'I wish I had brought my laptop with me as I've loads of synth plug-ins you could have used on the track.' Thus, I was extremely upset about this as I had done nothing wrong but try to help. They expected me to sit there for 9 hours, not speak or ask questions, fetch them food, etc...

This wasn't what I would call work experience at all. It was a complete waste."

Now the first thing I'll say is that the person who said this isn't whinging. He genuinely feels as though he has been treated badly. However, if he had known in advance what life in the studio is like, he would have been ready for this entirely normal treatment. The first thing to remember is that the pro recording studio is a special place, and only special people get to work there. These are people with the immense dedication needed to produce and record to the highest standards. And they set certain rules...

  • Newcomers have to prove themselves over a significant period of time. Some studios won't even let a new starter into the control room for several months.
  • Anyone who is in the room has to be helpful. A new starter who doesn't know anything about professional recording can do little more than fetch coffee and empty the ash trays.
  • Just to be in the room is an extraordinary privilege, available to very few indeed. There is an immense amount that can be learned simply by observation.
  • The most junior person in the room must NEVER SPEAK! He or she doesn't have anything useful to say to professionals who have worked in studios 14 hours a day, 7 days a week for years or decades.

There are other rules too. But what do you think? Let us know your opinions on this, whether you already work in a pro studio, or whether you aspire to. Was this person's treatment fair?

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By David Mellor Monday March 29, 2010
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