There are a few ways to get internships in a recording studio but there is one way that is pretty well guaranteed. Home recording engineers and audio engineering graduates face a major uphill battle in this expensive and HIGHLY competitive industry.
Before we get into the guaranteed way to get an internship it is important for a prospective intern to understand what is happening from the recording studio owner's perspective so that you are in a better position to negotiate with a local studio. As a studio owner of twenty years, I get applications from interns weekly. I have a staff of four and take on approximately one or two interns per year out of the fifty or so applicants. In my twenty years, I’ve never taken on an intern that came in cold off the street with a resume.
In general, studios are not looking for interns and they certainly don’t need to advertise to find them. Studios are generally family-owned small businesses. They are not huge corporations with massive budgets in desperate need of employees. Studio owners are worried about keeping the lights on and investing in the talent and gear they need to get the projects they are after. Studio owners know that when they train an intern it will take a significant amount of my money-earning time and the intern will slow projects down, they will pose a security risk and provide the vast majority of the wear and tear on studio gear. Those are the typical biases of the studio owner that you will face when you walk in off the street with your resume.
Here Are The Ways Prospective Interns Typically Approach Me Looking For Work.
The first is the person that may or may not have any experience in a studio and they come in off the street with a resume. I do read the resume and give them a little time to give me their pitch. I am always hoping to be impressed. In twenty years I have not been impressed with this method. Some of the worst examples are, one applicant parked in my handicapped parking stall with no tag and then proceed into the studio asking for a job. I’ve also had more than one prospective intern pound on the main door of the studio despite the sign that says “recording session in progress, please do not knock. For assistance please call ___”
The next type of “pitch” that I get from a prospective intern is the person that offers to “work” for free. This might sound like a great deal for the studio but it is not. As I stated before interns cost time, slow projects down, pose a security risk and provide more than their fair share of wear and tear on gear. More importantly, once an intern is properly trained they are most likely going out on their own to become my competition. So why would a studio owner train an intern for free? This is what I explain to everyone that requests an internship at the studio. I also explain the guaranteed way to get an internship to see if they have the fortitude to actually succeed in the music business.
The Guaranteed Way To Get A Studio Internship
The first way is to find a band (it could be your own) or a solo project that wants to record and is willing to pay for it. Bring them to the studio on the condition that you get to train for studio work as that project is happening. This will show the studio owner that you have the one skill that is needed to actually make it in the music business. The ability to sell and bring in projects that pay. If you can’t do this you are not ready to produce music. There are very few studios that would not take this deal. It may not work at the biggest studios in the world but it will work for the majority of the mom and pop studios that make up 99% of the recording industry. You will need to make a good impression, be respectful and be looking to bring true value to the studio that you want to become your future employer. Your biggest assets will be staying out of the way taking notes on questions that you have for an appropriate time and being quiet when clients are around.
But Wait….There Is Another Way To Get An Internship!
Most studios have some down time between projects. You can ask if there is an engineer you can pay to spend one on one time with, training you with the necessary skills to work in a studio. You may not get a job but you will get real everyday practical skills that you can use. I have had great success with this method and so have my students. Once a person has gone through my course I get to know them. They have earned my trust and I know they can handle themselves appropriately during a recording session. They often get invited into recording sessions to observe and help out and then when I am in actual need of an assistant one of the people who have been through my course will be the first people on my list to call.
When you approach anyone in the music industry that has achieved more than you, you must approach them from the perspective of what value you can bring to them. If you reach any level of success in the music business you will be under a constant barrage of people asking you for “their big break”. The reality is this; Anyone that deserves a “big break” is already taking the necessary steps to get their big break. They will achieve their “break” with or without help from any particular person in the industry. Successful people in the music industry look for people above them they can give value to and “below" them they can help, they work hard even when they can’t guarantee an outcome, they are humble and strategic in their career decisions.