How to Get a Job in Live Sound

O.K.. Let’s say audio engineering has been your passion for years, and you know you want to take it to a professional level. The only issue is, the more and more you read and hear about getting a job in live sound, the more confused and often dismayed you become. Here’s the truth: getting a job in live sound isn’t easy — but it is far from out of reach. Our team has been working in the business and training audio engineers for over 20 years, and we’ve collectively come up with our best tactics for getting a job in live sound. Check it out:

night-vintage-music-bokeh-e1450044696132.jpg

Don't wait for the work to come to you 

Classic career advice, right? Look. The Live Sound genie doesn’t magically appear in your life and hand you that front-of-house mixing job for your favorite band. That will never, ever happen. You need to find people in the business. How? Step one for many people may be moving to a city that has strong live sound needs. It doesn’t have to be Nashville, L.A., New York, or Austin (although those are the biggest), but it should be a city that has an active culture and thus a need for events.   One important point to note here: working in live sound doesn’t necessarily mean going on tour with a band. Sure it can, but it can also mean running sound a church, the local event center or at a popular venue in town. Tour life isn’t for everyone, and don’t think it has to be an option for you. Think about where you want to be in live sound, research where these companies reside, and get involved with the community.

Get hands-on training.

Here’s the deal. Live sound expertise is all about direct experience. No matter how much you read or study the art of live sound, it doesn’t directly translate into actually getting behind the board. That’s what makes it fun, right? The downside is live sound is consequently not as “internship” friendly, and it is more difficult to study under someone experienced than it is in other fields. It’s up to you to get that training. If you don’t, people won’t have a reason to hire you, and you’ll never develop the skill set you need to succeed. 

So what can you do about it? Get behind the board any way you can. Volunteer to run sound at a friend’s rehearsal for their band, volunteer to run sound at a non-profit or church. If you hear about a local event coming up, reach out and see if they have their sound needs in place, or consider enrolling in an audio specialty school. Audio schools are an investment, but it’s one of the few avenues you can get that hands-on training from real professionals in the business. There’s no right way, but these are all ways to get closer to the business and increase your potential value to an employer, albeit these options will help you in varying degrees and have varying costs.  

 

Click here for live mixing tips from a The Blackbird Academy professor!

 

Don't hesitate to do another job in the business before stepping into your ideal role.

 Again, don’t think that someone who doesn’t know you is going to hand you your ideal job. I don’t care how good you are, you have to have experience. You must be able to show a track record of success, regardless of what job you were working. There are a lot of live sound companies that need people to do the tough work. Yes, it’s physical labor, but guess what — you’re working in live sound and making connections that will serve you the rest of your career.  

Learning should never stop. 

Learn something new about live sound every day. Read. Watch Youtube videos. Take apart a monitor. Check out a course on Lynda.com. There are so many ways you can learn more and improve your craft. Every day you choose to learn something new and consistently apply yourself to live sound, you are one step closer to landing that job.

 

It's about personality, people.

On the other end of the spectrum, no matter how adept you may be at live sound if you are hard to work with you will rarely get a job. And if you do, you won’t keep it long. Word travels fast too, and one jaded company can make it much more difficult for you to get a job. I guarantee almost all employers would rather hire someone less experienced that they like than someone more experienced that is frustrating working with. I mean, they’re going to be spending day-in and day-out with you for the foreseeable future — they’re going to have to like you. As I said before, it’s not easy, but you can work in live sound if you put your mind to it. Follow these tips and get to work!

 

live sound skills quiz

Kyle Welch

Written by Kyle Welch

Kyle is the Director Of Live Sound for The Blackbird Academy. He has worked as a professional musician for more than 22 years and as a live sound and recording engineer for over 17. Kyle has been teaching audio at the college level for 11 years. His education includes classical and jazz guitar studies at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and entertainment technology studies and Guilford Technical Community College in North Carolina.