How to Get Work as a Producer, Mixer, or Recording Engineer
I didn’t really have any ideas going for a screencast, but I wanted to talk about things you could do to sort of start getting work as a recording engineer, producer, mixer, how to contact bands, how to get ahold of bands and artists that may need — they may need your skill set.
At this point, I get a lot of e-mails from people. A lot of guys that are either leaving high school or just leaving college and they’re trying to decide if this is something they really want to tackle, and how to sort of go about getting work, and I’ll tell you, get to a point where you feel like you’re good.
Your work is consistent, it’s not bad, it’s listenable, and people — it would be something you yourself would pay for if you were an artist, right? And I’m not going to go into what that is, but just take that in and think about that for yourself.
So once we’re at a point where we feel like we can charge for work, how do we get clients? And I’ll tell you that it’s better to be an average, okay producer/engineer/mixer, because at this point, you’re probably wearing all three hats, it’s better to be an average producer/engineer/mixer with a ton of friends than it is to be really awesome and the new guy in town, and not know anybody, because that guy is not working.
So it really comes down to relationships, and this entire music business is built on relationships and how close you are to people, and how long those relationships have been around. Most bands have a mastering guy, they have a mixing guy, they have a producer they trust to work on their tunes, and so you have to start building these relationships with your clients.
The first thing that you can do is go to shows every night of the week that you possibly can and watch bands, meet people, and drop business cards, and shake hands, and just be the guy there that people are like, “Oh yeah, that’s John, or Steve, or whoever, and he’s got a studio and he does really great work.” Be seen.
I’m in Nashville and I’m really fortunate that I can go out any night of the week pretty much and throw a rock and hit a great show any night of the week. So you know, when I do have a night off, I’m able to go out and meet new artists. There’s thousands of song writers here, thousands of bands, everyone is hustling, everyone wants to make it, everybody understands the value of great production, the value of a great mixer, the value of a great mastering guy, and they’re willing to pay for it.
So wherever you are, go to shows a lot in your home town and just be that guy and be everybody’s friend, and that’s going to — you’re going to start getting a lot of work that way, because the best reference — the best advertising is word of mouth. It’ll be anything. Social or whatever, because the sale is mostly done. When band A is talking to band B, and band B is like, “Oh, we need someone to help us make our record,” band A is like, “Oh, you’ve got to use my guy, he did a killer job on mine.” The sale is already done, you just got to get ahold of them and not screw it up. So go to lots of shows.
The other way — you can use social media to really change — like, build your career. Facebook, Twitter, all of that stuff obviously, be active, converse with people, artists, musicians in your town, friend people.
Don’t be creepy, but you know, have a presence out there, create a website if you can that you can send people to, or a Facebook page or something. Even if it’s a Tumblr, it’s something, right? Get something up.
You can use Reverb Nation, which I personally hate Reverb Nation. I think it’s clunky, I hate the UI of it, I feel like they just throw tons of crap in your face, and it’s just not laid out very well, but it’s definitely something a lot of bands use and there’s a lot of great opportunities out there, because you can search through the charts.
If you click on the charts section of Reverb Nation, you can search by zip code. So your home town, you can search by genre. So if you’re a metal guy, if you’re really into acoustic/indie rock, or if you’re into I don’t know, whatever, find your genre, and then you can go through.
They have a charting system, like one to ten, whoever is popular. I’m not really sure the algorithm in that, but nonetheless, it’s a really great way to research people, because the guy in the number one spot might not be the dude you’re going to get to work with, because the whole key to this, really to building a great career is finding the most talented band in your town and attaching yourself to them with your work, because when one person succeeds, everyone succeeds in this business.
So again, it comes back to relationships. So if you can’t get that number one guy who’s got a deal and he’s playing shows and he’s making cash, go run down and probably when you’re starting out, you’re going to be at the bottom of the ladder, but you can find talented people.
Put your producer ear on and find great songs that you think are actually going to do well by these people on Reverb Nation, and maybe they’re recording — and take an honest look at the recording and be like, “I can do better than that,” or “I don’t know if I can really offer this person anything.” If you feel like you can, e-mail them. Be like, “Hey,” hopefully you have a portfolio put together. I’m not going to get into that, but you need to have some stuff people can hear, and be like, “Yo, this is what I do. I’d love to work with you, I think I can help you out.” Then see if there’s a budget. If there is a budget, you know, try to make something fair. Obviously, you want to charge what your work is legitimately worth. If you’re trying to get three grand a tune, you’re probably shit out of luck.
But just — I usually ask what their budget is and I try to work with them. Yeah, and just start doing that. You know, setup a coffee meet, gauge their personality, maybe it’s a client that the personalities just aren’t going to click, because you know, you’re going to end up spending a lot of time with these people, so you really need to be a good judge of character and feel out, like is this someone that you want to be friends with for a long time, or are they going to drive you crazy? Because I’ve been in situations like that.
I’m usually very careful with who I take on as a client, so yeah, you know, have a lot of friends, go to a lot of shows, get on Reverb Nation, start e-mailing some people that you think would be cool to work with, and you know, start climbing that ladder. You know, work with this guy, and then you can go to the next writer up and be like, “Well this artist has a lot more going on, look what I did for this dude, let me work on your stuff.”
Sometimes, I found people that have a killer song, and I’m just like, “Dude, you’ve got to let me cut that song. Even if you don’t want to release it, you get a free demo, I think I can produce the crap out of it. Come on.”
That’ll work out too a lot, so keep that in mind. When you’re starting out, there’s not a lot of money. You’re probably going to need to supplement what you’re not making with music with a part-time job or something. Everybody has to have a check, everybody’s got bills to pay.
Yeah. So that’s all I’ve got. Like, subscribe, go check out the website, and we’ll see you next time.