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Why some people will simply never make it into the music recording industry

Some people go to music technology or recording school but haven't a hope in hell of making into the industry. Could it be something to do with their attitude?


Being involved in Audio Education, I also inevitably become involved in some of the negative aspects of what has become a major 'bums on seats' (or is that 'butts on seats'?) money generator for schools and colleges. And far and away the worst aspect is often having to teach people who plainly have no chance of keeping a job in music recording or sound engineering.

'Why would they be on such a course in the first place?' would be a question that springs to mind.

Well I have met many such people over the years and I still don't know the answer. And it's not for want of telling them what industry requires. I know that because I keep close touch with industry and I have asked and continue to ask employers what they want.

I have a feeling that these people somehow think they have 'it', whatever 'it' may be, and they are sitting waiting to be 'discovered'. Dream on...!

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The interesting thing though is the things these people do and say in class that if they did them in a studio would get them fired pretty much instantly, or at least on a second occurrence.

In class, when I do one of my occasional lectures, I am effectively in the position of studio manager, and if a student doesn't behave appropriately, then I will patiently explain what they are doing wrong. Like a real life studio manager, I don't see myself as any kind of god, I neither expect nor desire people to bow and scrape before me, I require only the normal degree of respect that any human being needs and do not appreciate undue displays of deference.

However, a studio manager does hire and fire. They can only keep people on who are going to be an asset to their business, and they have to fire people who can't be trusted to act appropriately around artists.

So here are a few examples of inappropriate behavior..

  • Turning up late. Worse still, turning up late with a cup of coffee in hand (they had time to buy the coffee, but not to turn up as soon as they were able)
  • Turning up late and not seeming to care. If an assistant engineer arrives after the engineer, it's a problem. If he or she arrives after the producer, it's a major problem. After the artist...
  • Getting the artist's name wrong. For instance, my name is David. It doesn't bother me if people call me Dave, but it shows that they think they have a right to be familiar before I have granted it. Don't do it to an artist. And notice that some artists have special ways to spell their name - 'kd lang' for instance, not 'KD Lang'.
  • Getting the song title wrong. Artists live and die by the quality of the material they work with. A three minute song might just be one out of millions of similar three minute songs, but it could represent the next stage in an artist's successful career, or the first stage in a downward spiral to oblivion. Get the song title right to the letter, and every tiny little detail of capital letters and punctuation marks.
  • Saying to an artist, having just heard their new song, "That sounds a bit like..." How soon do you want to be dead?

One of the things I find most irritating in class is a student who behaves inappropriately to the simulated studio setting, and then when I point this out says, "It's only college. It doesn't matter".

What a mistake, and what sheer arrogance. Through years (decades) of showing an interest, I have made contact with many people in the industry who now recognize my name. I can write a reference for a student that will help them shine through in the job interview process.

But I'm not going to do that for someone who says, "It's only college", am I?

Of course I'm preaching to the converted here, and if you have stuck with Audio Masterclass for any length of time you will already see these things as second nature. On the other hand, you could be a student yourself and in a class with other students who do these things, and worse. If that is so, you are entitled to have a laugh at their expense. They may try to come across as 'cool' and make smart ass remarks to their teacher. But if they ever get the chance of a job in a studio, they are going to have to start learning pretty fast, and chances are that they are not going to make it.

By David Mellor Thursday December 15, 2005