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Four Suggestions For Surviving In The Pro Audio Business

A few things I should have learned in the early days...

One of the first things I think I need to get into is money. They aren’t going to teach you the real money side of the production world in tech school.

The conservatory, Full Sail or wherever…They aren’t going to get into the survival side of it. I spent most of my career broke. It creates a strain on your mind, your wallet and your family.

Just want to share a few things I should have learned in the early days.

Figure out what you want to do. Why are you in this business anyway? Whether you are a road warrior, veteran tech who has sold his soul to a large manufacturer, or teenage church sound volunteer—why? What provoked you to take on an insane career choice like this?

If the first thing that falls out of your mouth is money, this conversation is over now. Just get up from where you are and go find something else to do. Seriously. Right now. For every guy who has a six-figure income with a studio, touring company, label or theme park, there’s probably a thousand who still qualify for food stamps.

The people out there who make that big money usually have one of two scenarios. They got a big break after years of proving themselves, learning their trade, maintaining their good attitude and doing whatever it took to pull off their gig—or—they started off rich and lie about where the money comes from.

Very few people get rich by just working their butt off as a tech. Getting really, really, really good at it won’t do it either. It’s called a business for a reason. Learn business. Learn to negotiate effectively. Learn to make deals. Be a great steward of the business you work with. Take great care of their stuff. Don’t plan to be someone’s second engineer as the ultimate career move.

If you do this because you love it, then do it. If the gear and shows and people in this world appeal to you. If your heart races when you create something or pull off a flawless event. If anything about this works is pushes your buttons and makes you feel like you just have to be in it. Then give it all you have. But, learn the business side if you like to eat and sleep indoors.

Know your industry and the seasons. It took me over eight years to figure this one out. I worked in various parts of the pro audio production world for about 18 years. Twelve of those years included traveling as a hired gun sound tech. I made pretty good money doing it. Not crazy good, but impressive to most people. I was doing local work at the same time. When I wasn’t out of town, I had other projects I worked on.

About eight years in, I had to deal with the fact that I was constantly broke or behind on the bills. How the heck was that happening? We weren’t extravagant. Lived pretty cheap. My normal check for a long weekend run was enough to pay almost all the bills each month. Day rate looks really impressive until you average it out. Once I realized this, it was revelation.

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