There are basically three things you need in order to succeed in breaking into a career in audio:
Simply put, the closer the school can place you to having all three of these ingredients, the better of a program it is. A sad reality is that many recording school programs only focus on the first element (education), leaving you to figure out the other two for yourself. Some schools try to compensate for this by offering a limited number of unpaid internships in real recording studios. But the fact remains that without connections and a way to get real-world experience, the education is essentially worthless.
No, you don’t. In fact, you don’t need a diploma or certificate, either. There are successful producers and engineers in our industry who never even set foot in a recording school. They learned to do what they do by actually getting into recording studios and working their way up the ladder, learning as they went.
To be clear, you DO need some form of education, whether you learn in a recording studio or in a school classroom. It’s just that in the field of music recording, no one really cares where you got your education, as long as you can do the job right.
Time for a bit of honesty. Many industry professionals (ourselves included) believe it is actually better to learn audio inside a real recording studio, rather than an isolated classroom or simulated studio found in recording schools. The reason is simply that there are dynamics of a real-life studio that can’t be duplicated in any classroom or simulation. Also, it is nearly impossible to get a job in this business without industry connections, and you can’t make those connections in a college classroom. If you do go to a recording school, it’s absolutely critical that you also have a way to gain real-world experience and make some inside connections.
That said, one alternative approach is worth your consideration: the mentor-apprentice method. A school using this method will train you in a real recording studio, where you have the ability to gain experience and make connections while you learn. It effectively offers you the best of both options, and actually costs less than most recording schools charge.
Expect to start small. Audio engineers usually start as assistants making about $19,000 annually, with the opportunity to work their way up the ladder. With consistent work and dedication, you can grow your income to nearly 6 figures a year.
Being an audio engineer requires a high level of commitment, often involving long hours and late nights in the studio. The average studio engineer puts in between 40-60 hours per week.
Digital technology has certainly changed our industry, but it has not replaced analog completely. Industry trends are constantly changing, and analog has even seen a resurgence in recent years. Our advice: learn both analog and digital recording. That way, you’ll be able to provide what your client asks for, and you’ll be qualified for more projects.
In our view, it is absolutely essential at this time. Right now, Pro Tools is considered the industry standard, and you won’t be able to find your way around most recording studios without a working knowledge of this program. Some studios also use Reason, Logic, Ableton and other software programs, so it’s always helpful to learn as many of these as you can. But Pro Tools is a staple software in recording studios.