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“I just want to know WHAT you can do”: Soulsound’s Darryn on live sound training

As the industry grows ever-more competitive, a consensus is emerging on the need for more comprehensive pro-audio education

Darryn de la Soul also echoes American sound designer and engineer Nathan Lively’s comments in last month’s PSNEurope, in which he opined that a younger generation of prospective sound engineers “expect that the skills they have been developing [in education] should launch their career like a rocket,” finding themselves disappointed when a lack of real-world experience and failure to network means they don’t immediately land the audio job of their dreams. (This feature is continued from part one.) “Youngsters are, […] I feel, led to have unrealistic expectations of what their degree will mean in the real world,” she says. “As an agent looking after people’s careers, and placing them in work, I don’t really care how they learnt their craft, I just want to know what they can do.

“Just saying on your CV, ‘I have a degree,’ means nothing – the standards and subjects taught in degrees vary so widely that having a pretty certificate really is no guarantee to the employer that the person is able to actually do the job. I want to know what you know, not how you learnt it, and I still have a healthy respect for the self-taught.

“All courses in audio should also focus on producing employable humans, not just getting them through exams. CV writing, how to approach employers and the importance of attitude, timekeeping and being likeable (days are too long in our business to be spent with unlikeable characters) don’t seem to be taught. I get sent many CVs and the vast majority of them are poorly written. Work tends to go to the people who present themselves best.”

This emphasis on not being an “unlikeable character” is also touched upon by Tuomo Tolonen, manager of the pro audio group at Shure Distribution (pictured below right). “It’s not easy to get into or advance within the industry, as its a demanding career on many levels,” he comments, “but I believe that if you are hardworking, honest and fun to be around, and put your heart into what you enjoy, you will enjoy a successful career in pro audio.”

Although Paul Bauman, associate director, tour sound, at JBL Professional, believes that “it’s becoming easier in some ways [to break into live sound] since there are more educational programmes and […] training resources available,” he sees these as complementary to gaining experience and being willing to work one’s way up the ladder. “Pro audio is a relatively conservative industry, and the old career path model of working your way up through the warehouse and paying your dues while gaining real world experience still applies,” he says.

“In most cases, this means maintaining gear, loading trucks and gradually working your way onto shows […] in order to gain experience while learning from more experienced engineers along the way. It’s sort of how professional sports teams have a farm team system to develop up-and-coming talent.”

“Breaking into the audio industry is still very much about word of mouth,” agrees de la Soul (pictured right), before touching on that most controversial type of on-the-job training: the internship. “A newbie needs to impress an oldie enough to be taken along for the ride. I agree that the intern/working for free system is cruel, especially after spunking thousands on a degree, but that is still the best way to prove your worth and get the experience you need to progress. People need to trust you, and trust needs to be earned. Just choose wisely when working for free!”

“What I personally see is [that] relationships are most important in terms of career advancement,” Canaan adds, “but that is not new or unique to the pro audio industry. The Meyer Sound man also points to the increasing availability of a number of “significant and varied job opportunities that weren’t quite as available in the past,” including “touring, corporate work, amusement park resorts and numerous other avenues where high-quality audio is required”.

The industry is as competitive as ever – and that’s a good thing,” concludes Paul Bauman. “There are a lot of high-quality sound systems [on] the market, but at the end of the day it’s the people installing and operating these systems that make the difference… that’s where training […] comes in.”

Concluded tomorrow (with a look at who’s who in live/installed sound training in Europe).