Getting a Job as a Live Sound Engineer

If you are passionate about music but do not want to be in a band then you may of thought about becoming a sound engineer, however you may also be wandering about what employment opportunities actually exist. Essentially there are two types of sound engineer those that work in recording studios making recordings for commercial release and those that engineer the sound when performing musicians, bands and theatre artists perform live to an audience.

This information is to help provide some guidance for live sound engineers on how they can find work.

Firstly there are many options available to you but depending on where about in the country you live will depend on how far you will have to travel to find them. With regards to finding employment then it is worth looking at all the places where sound engineers are needed. Firstly look at the local pub scene in your area and find out which ones have live music and see if any have their own in house PA system and need a sound engineer to mix once a week. Very often you won't get paid much or if you do it might simply be a couple of free beers but it is a great way to start out and get some practice in. That said most pubs having live music will very often expect the band to bring their own PA but there is nothing to stop you from getting the band's number and seeing if you can still engineer although before they agree they will no doubt want to meet up with you first and probably suggest you familiarize yourself with their equipment at a rehearsal or two. Talking of rehearsing, try also looking up rehearsal rooms in your local press and see if you can put a business card on the notice board as these places will often have many different bands practicing every week and there are bound to be some looking for an engineer. It is also worth checking out local venues in your area such as town halls and nightclubs that have live bands playing and seeing if you can help out but if there are no immediate opportunities try and meet up with the engineer that works there or who works for the band and see if you can help. Sound engineering isn't just about live bands as also theatres and amateur dramatic groups need sound engineers as well as some churches so again check out these areas. You will find there is a newspaper that can be bought at many main newsagents called the stage that lists all sorts of theatre and venue employment opportunities including sound engineers. The website is www.thestage.co.uk.

There are many companies out there that hire out sound and lighting equipment to all sorts of live music clients ranging from village fetes to major rock concerts and they can be found in two main directories. These are The white Book, www.thewhitebook.co.uk and showcase, www.showcase-music.com. Both of these directories are worth owning as they list a huge range of companies involved in the live music industry. They will be listed under headings such as sound equipment rental or Audio Equipment rental/hire. A lot of these companies are looking for people to work in the warehouse and assist with gigs and in time will give you the opportunity to engineer. As a sound engineer the best way to get on is to be flexible and accept you are not always going to find work at exciting rock and roll festivals but also be prepared to offer your services to engineer at conferences, public speeches etc. This is known more as corporate sound engineering and often there is a lot more work especially during the weekdays in this area. Many sound equipment and Audio Visual rental companies work in this field and look for sound engineers that are technically competent to operate the mixing desk for a conference, exhibition, presentation etc where a sound system has been hired in for speeches and for play back of backing tracks. Although this type of work may not be as exciting or challenging as a 7 piece rock band it is good day time work and there is plenty of it. However you might need to to learn to set up some basic projection or lighting equipment but very often they will provide training in this.

From Easter through to October holiday parks up and down the country become very busy and are often providing live entertainment every night so it is well worth enquiring into these places about sound engineering work. The same goes for Cruise liners operators such as P&O, Royal Caribbean which operate many live venues on their ships and are looking for competent sound engineers to based on the ship whilst cruising. Whilst this will often require long spells away from home it can be a great way to get to know working bands and performers and really develop your sound engineering skills.

Of course many sound engineers decide that they want to purchase their own equipment and start offering both their equipment and engineering services for hire. Whilst to begin with it may take a while to get going once you have built up a good database of clients the work can really take off. Owning your own equipment can allow you to then provide high quality equipment and engineering to a variety of clients such as function bands doing corporate gigs and playing at weddings. Also you can then offer your services to Marquee companies and event organizers that are especially busy during the summer months. You can also get in touch with your local county council and see what local music festivals and events are taking place and if you have your own equipment provide a quote to supply and engineer it or if another company is providing it, get their details and see if you can engineer or just help out.

This business is all about networking with equipment rental companies, events organizers, venue operators and constantly putting feelers out. There are always opportunities out there and very often once you are known and deemed to be a likable person as well as an excellent sound engineer, word will soon travel and more opportunities will start to present themselves.

Written by Howard Williams owner and trainer for Base Sound, a company specializing in 1,2 and 4 day live sound engineering courses. www.basesound.co.uk