I was recently chatting with my old friend Shane Smith, the audio manager at LMG in Orlando, and he used the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it” to describe a philosophy he’s noticed with a lot of the new audio techs starting their careers fresh out of one audio school or another.
Specifically, Shane noted that a lot of them seem very cocky and self-assured in their skillsets and experience when in fact they really didn’t have much of either, and he wishes (as do I) these new recruits would embrace a more humble posture in the company of more experienced and tenured engineers.
It’s fine to feel like you “crushed” an audio school education and came out the shining star of the class, but we should all remember that each and every time we work with people they often know more, have accomplished more, and have at least once been the captain of a ship that was sinking yet still found a way safely home. We should not look at those encounters as opportunities to show off but as chances to take a refresher course without having to pay tuition.
So, if you’re an audio tech on your first tour, find some spare time every day to watch how the front of house engineer goes about his/her processes. Ask the monitor engineer about his/her approach and “hard-knock lessons” when mixing in-ear monitors, and things such as the approach when working with a particularly quiet singer where there’s so much bleed in the vocal microphone that everything else sounds messy. Ask about RF, ask about power, ask why they use a certain mic on a certain instrument. Ask a lot of questions… followed by a lot of listening.
And while you’re out there getting a free education, pay it back by being helpful and kind to other people who might be even newer to the game. You’ll work with many colleagues who know way more than you do, but there are many who know much less. It may seem like stage hands are there just to lift heavy things and run heavy cable, but many of them are doing that job because they’re looking for a way into the awesome job you already have, so be nice and be patient if they’re not quite getting it.
And finally, don’t worry that you may appear to be the “new guy” if you don’t carry yourself in a manner that convinces everyone that you’ve been at this for years. Everyone knows you’re the newbie, and that’s OK! We’ve all been there at one point in our career.
The best way to stop faking it and start making it is to soak in all the knowledge while being a contributing member of the team. The folks you’re currently working with will sing your praises – or conversely ask that you’re not invited on their next tour – based more on your attitude than your experience, so work hard, listen, speak sparingly, and most of all enjoy this awesome audio profession we’re all blessed to be a part of!