Getting a Job as a 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 wondering 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, adverts, games etc. Then there are live sound engineers that mix the sound for performing musicians, bands, theatre artists and also those doing presentations, conferences etc, all to a live 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’s 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 & club 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. That said many pubs having live music will 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 them. If they agree it would be a good idea to meet up beforehand at a rehearsal and familiarise yourself with their equipment just so you know what you are working with. 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 always need sound engineers. Today a lot of churches also have PA systems and will welcome an engineer to help them mix.
In terms of searching the web there are various sites that offer in house jobs in venues and theatres and also Conference and AV companies advertise for freelance engineers to work on up and coming events. There are magazines such as: The Stage www.thestage.co.uk, Light & Sound International www.lsionline.com, Pro Sound News www.prosoundnetwork.com, TPI Magazine www.tpimagazine.com/ all of which have links to job opportunities
There are organisations that also have links to jobs such as PLASA www.plasa.org, ABTT www.abtt.org.uk that can also help.
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 various directories such as 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 be 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 organisers 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. 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 organisers, 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 likeable person as well as an excellent sound engineer, word will soon travel and more opportunities will start to present themselves.
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Written by Howard Williams owner and trainer for Base Sound, a company specialising in 1,2 and 4 day live sound engineering courses and One to One sound engineering training - www.basesound.co.uk