Want To Work in Live Sound?
Time and time again we get asked at Rat Sound the best way to get started in Live Sound so we decided to come up with an list of anecdotes from those who have made it in the business.
By no means are these the only ways and are just the opinions and anecdotes of those who work here but hopefully they will offer some insight into what we look for when recruiting new Rats or how those who are already Rats came to be where they are....
Dave Rat - FOH for the Red Hot Chili Peppers
"We mainly hire people that we meet and work with, that have a great attitude and show a strong work ethic. Sound companies, in general, get quite a few inquiries from people looking to get into the field, so finding a way to show that you can be a valuable asset to a company is key. There are drastic variations in the amount of crew people we require at any given time. From our stand point, it is of the utmost importance to have every show go as close to perfect as possible, so we are very cautious about hiring new people without one of the following:
1) A strong recommendation from a trusted source.
2) Someone we are familiar with and meet while they are working for someone else (Freelance, local crew, band tech or engineer).
3) Someone who comes out to meet us and makes themselves available for work. (Timing is key, a well timed call when we are stretched thin on people can get a "come in right now" response).
Your actual skill level is not as important as some may think. Yet, those with less experience can expect shop type work until they are knowledgeable enough to be an asset on tour. We try and focus on people who enjoy all aspects of sound, be it the technical stuff, mixing or building systems to pull off an excellent show. Many people have aspirations to be solely an "engineer" and we kinda shy away from that. With those goals, pursuing working directly for bands would most likely be a more direct route. Eventually, the opportunity does come up where we offer our techs, engineer positions for bands as they arise. We match their experience level with the band and in a perfect scenario, the band would take them on and as the band grows. When that happens, we often end up being the touring sound company supporting the band and engineer.
As far as apprenticeship, there is no organized apprenticeship program that I am aware of though it would make sense in the field of live sound engineering. The closest thing I see happen to apprenticeship is when you get a job at a sound company and work your way up. Typically this could be starting in the shop and learning the gear and company. Followed by touring as a systems tech. As a systems tech you would have the opportunity to work with engineers and learn the methods they use to tune, mix etc... I must say that I learned some of the most valuable mixing info that I use today when I was a system tech for engineers over the years.
I full heartedly urge any and all people to pursue their respective 'dreams' at all costs. Their seems nothing more fulfilling and challenging than doing what you love to do for the rest of your life and having people enjoy paying you for it. I can say that the my experience has been that 'it is not whether you will succeed at whatever you choose, it is just a matter of how much effort and time it will take you."Jon Monson - Client Relations for Rat
"Get an education in a reputable or specialised sound school like Full Sail, make sure you can do even the basic things like solder and treat it like a proper profession not just a hobby and throughout your career never stop learning your craft... Then you'll have a good chance of having valuable assets to be hired... "
George Squiers - Monitor Engineer for REM
"Surround yourself with the business. Put youself right in the middle of it even if it means moving your life and residence. I am a great example of this. I grew up in Millbury MA. We are talking small town America. My highschool graduating class had 95 people in it. I knew if I wanted to be involved in the music industry at a world class level I wouldn't be able to do it in Millbury. I decided to move to Hollywood. I surrounded myself with people involved in music. This made it almost impossible to avoid it. My advice is simple. If you want to plow snow for a living don't live in the desert.
Then don't be greedy and focus on the immediate gain. Basically I didn't get this job because I knew what I was doing. I wasn't proud of making $5.00 for 12 hours worth of work. Well actually I'm lying, I got a burger and fries also. The experience was my payoff. The knowledge and experience is paying off big time now.
Be motivated. If you aren't qualified yet then motivation is a great tool to win people over. Its a very important and desired quality that any employer looks for. I worked for next to nothing and reminded my self that the paycheck wasn't as important as the experience and knowledge I was getting. I didn't pretend to know more than I did and verbally assault people to gain respect. I just kept my mouth shut and became a sponge. The more you talk the more people figure out what you don't know. Shut up and keep them guessing. Basically fake it till you make it. If you don't know the answer just figure out how to get it.
It takes a long time to get paid more to do less. Suck it up and go above and beyond the call of duty for a while. Step outside your "so called" job requirements untill your dues are paid.
Another important piece of advice is don't be a dick. Have fun and give people reasons to like you. We all like hanging out with cool people. Don't forget to always remember the people who helped you make it happen. "
Karrie Keyes - Monitors for Pearl Jam
"I don't think Rat even questions if a woman should or should not be touring. Rat looks at each person and staffs each tour with people that are qualified,experienced, and personality fit in with each tour. If that person is a female, fine. I myself have toured for 11-12 years as a monitor engineer. I had to work harder than men too prove myself in the beginning, but I have not had any problems working in a male dominated field recently. As more and more woman start working in the audio field the more acceptable it becomes. It may be harder to become a touring monitor engineer than finding local work. It took me many years to obtain the skills needed to be trusted and hired by the bands as their monitor engineer."
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