Study Hall
Sponsored by
Audio Technica

Choosing The Pro Audio Career Path

What does the journey from newbie to seasoned engineer really look like?

By M. Erik Matlock July 27, 2016

Image courtesy of Steve Knight

Anyone who has survived more than a few hours behind a console has already accumulated a few amusing tales of the pro audio life.

It doesn’t take long before they start sounding like war stories, sitcoms or detective novels.

From my experience, the primary talent that identifies a true industry pro is their ability to manage pressure and make things happen without excuses.

The ones who can be dropped into any situation and run it like it was rehearsed. Becoming that shining beacon of hope as the show seems to be circling the drain. The legendary soul who can salvage a production, organize the chaos, take it to the end zone and never have the audience realize there was a problem.

What, you ask in a somber and hopeful tone, does it take to become one of these mythical creatures?

The wise old graybeard running a stage like it was choreographed for Broadway was once a dumb kid who didn’t know which end of the mic to address. He became an expert by spending years learning and experiencing the business.

There is no shortcut for the time investment. Anything you choose to master requires substantial amounts of your life.

The guy who already knows everything, has nothing left to learn. The guy who is always talking is rarely listening. Admitting you don’t know it all and allowing someone to teach you new things is where you grow and improve.

I have personally been trained by icons of the industry. But I have also learned from roadies, promoters and even my own kids. You never know where good ideas will come from, but if you aren’t willing to listen, it doesn’t matter anyway. Arrogance is a poor student.

Don’t give up because you are spending one more year rolling someone else’s cables or shlepping someone else’s gear. Proving yourself faithful at managing what isn’t yours is a magical step towards understanding how to care for what finally becomes yours.

Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t allow one nightmare of a show, your nasty-sounding early demo recordings, or even preconceived ideas of how it will all play out keep you from moving forward.

This is a unique industry that fits certain individuals like a glove. Most of us wouldn’t know how to survive a mainstream career, or want to. We have to make this work. We can’t give up. Pro audio is our only fit and we must survive and thrive.

Those magical mixing moments where the euphoria kicks in and sonic perfection raises the hairs on the back of your neck don’t happen during your first week on the job. Those happen after the deal is made, the truck is packed, the load-in and setup is done, the system is tuned, the sound check and the mix are dialed in with critical accuracy. Making all the details right first is how you arrive at that place.


If you can keep your cool when the pressure is on…
If you are willing to listen and learn at every opportunity…
If you can choose results over excuses…
And, if you are willing to put in the time and work for it..

Maybe. Just maybe. You are already on your way to becoming one of these mythical creatures.

Senior editor .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) has worked in professional audio for more than 20 years in live, install, and recording. Read more of his random rants and tirades here.

About M. Erik

M. Erik Matlock
M. Erik Matlock

Senior Editor, ProSoundWeb
Erik worked in a wide range of roles in pro audio for more than 20 years in a dynamic career that encompasses system design and engineering in the live, install and recording markets. He also spent several years as a production staff member and team leader for the largest non-denominational church in central Georgia, and served as an author for several leading industry publications before joining the PSW team.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tagged with:

Subscribe to Live Sound International

Subscribe to Live Sound International magazine. Stay up-to-date, get the latest pro audio news, products and resources each month with Live Sound.

Latest in Live Sound