4 Things To Avoid as An Audio Engineer

Welcome back to the blog, or if this is your first time here, welcome! As I’m sure you’re all aware, our focus this month is situated around the idea of Growth. Now, there’s a lot of information on the internet about what to do to be successful and how to go about mixing, or similar; however, there’s not a lot on what not to do if you’d like to have a career in this industry. 

So today, we’re going to address some of the top things you shouldn’t be doing if you hope to have an audio career with longevity and success.

Let’s dive in!

Fail To Find Clients

This is a bitter pill to swallow if you learn this lesson after a short stint of clientele wanting to access your recording services. It’s also one of the main career killers I've personally come across over the years as it leads to self doubt, resentment for those around you doing well in the same career choice, and a total breakdown of motivation. 

To put it simply, you need to go out there and network to find clientele; to rely on people just stumbling upon you or being loyal to only your studio after maybe once working with you is folly. Bands will always look to keep costs down, while trying to get the best sound they can, and in a very over saturated market there’s bound to be a large competition of other producers and engineers that want to bring new clients over to their studio. So knowing this is the case, you need to go out there and talk to new bands, go to the shows of the bands that are in with you at the moment, network and try and build yourself to be known as a supporter of your music scene. 


This is a photo taken last weekend by Este from Piston Dreams; one of the bands currently in the studio with me. Supporting them and the other bands, networking and being a part of the local and wider music scene will only bode great results the more you do it. 

Expecting new clients to find you via your website or similar is never a good business practice for those in music. Think about it in the context of a band; if a band wants to get known they will pay thousands to not just get the music recorded to a good standard, but also produce a video, host that video, market that release and do it all again. But the best tried and tested way of fans finding your band is through playing shows; the same goes for engineers finding their new clients, however the money is being spent on upping our quality or improving the sound of your productions. The principle is still the same: unless you put yourself out there and go into the world to meet new people and make friends with bands you want to work with, it’s unlikely that it will just happen by pure chance alone. 

An Over-Inflated Ego

I think this one almost goes without saying for the most part but unfortunately it’s still far too common - especially on forums or groups on social media. Your ego is like a knife edge is what I've found over the years and, to be totally honest, I found this out the hard way after falling from a very great height. 

On one hand, without self belief, passion, or a little arrogance, you’ll struggle to bring clients working with someone else or by themselves, over to your studio - a lot of the selling prior to that is basically how you can convince bands that you can elevate their music or their sound to a higher realm. 

However, on the other hand, your ego can lead you to argue needlessly over what you think is right or wrong (for example, the real amps vs software) and it can damage your reputation if you’re willing to believe that your future is more important than that of the people you’re working with. Worst of all your ego can lead you to become complacent, demotivated to improve actively expecting it to happen passively, ending up in a semi-narcissistic loop where you don’t try to improve, pass up going to shows and networking, and then blame others for your misgivings. 

Flying too close to the sun will always get your wings burnt and although my experiences were a little different to those above, I definitely fell into the loop of complacency a while back, and it’s so, so easy to do if you’re not constantly trying to improve yourself as well as your recordings. 

Be Afraid of Learning

This kind of goes hand-in-hand with your ego, but it can also tie into a lack of self esteem all the same; contradictory, I know, but let me explain further. Where your ego can limit you is believing as I stated above that you already know all the answers, and that your views are set in stone. 

In my eyes, the only thing set in stone personally, is that if you’re not learning, then you might just be failing to improve in general. Even this blog for example, is something I’m constantly trying to learn more about, from how to write it through to what topics you guys actually want to read about. It’s so important to reflect upon where you’ve been so you can better know how to move forward. If you simply believe you already have all the answers, you’ll likely stay in one place until you learn otherwise. 

A lack of self-esteem on the other hand, can limit your ability to improve or seek out avenues to learn through the notion that you’re not good enough to succeed. I remember being knocked down a lot by bands I was in that I desperately wanted to put my name to the production credits of our next releases, but they weren’t confident in my ability. So I became much more introverted and less active in networking, as well as unmotivated to learn more so I could ultimately change their minds once the time came for our next release. 

If you always think you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’ll never learn anything; and at the same time if you don’t actively seek to learn, then it’s rare that you’ll improve at the rate you want to. So with that in mind, if you’re ready to improve, then groups such as Produce Like A Pro, Nail the Mix from URM, and Control Room are wonderful resources to be a part of to learn and improve day in, day out, filled with like minded and talented community members that will help you on your path to much better recordings, people skills, and much more. 

Nail The Mix is a part of URM where you can access professional engineers' full sessions so practice your mixing on, and at the end of the month, that engineer shows you exactly what they did to get the mix in the first place.

Invest Poorly

This seems obvious to say, but it’s much harder to do than say, especially if you don’t have much experience in where to invest your money and why, and how to invest your money as you build your career. So, I want to break it down into a couple of points in time, and what to focus on depending on where you are within your journey. 

If you’re new to the game, I’ll simply state that hardware and mixing gear is not the answer to better recordings and mixes. If you’re in your first few years of audio engineering, then focus on a few key elements: 

  • Treating your room 
  • Learning from places where you can work with already get recording (Nail the Mix is a great place to start)
  • Save for at least one great microphone, and start to build your mic locker to give you more options
  • Learn to use your DAW and the plugins provided to practice the fundamentals of mixing before investing in specific tools

Without the basics learnt first, it’ll be a long road where it’s easy to think that a piece of new gear, or a new plugin that looks great is going to drastically change your mixes. It won’t. Especially if you’re recording or mixing in a poorly treated room, with limited knowledge in how the basics of EQ and compression work. 

If you’ve been doing this a little longer, then you'll know these things already more likely than not, but it is good to remember from time to time. I know that I’ve been roped into buying a new drum sample library from time to time, or a new plugin here and there that now sits idly in my collection collecting digital dust! A rule of thumb I work by is that if I'm investing money into a new piece of hardware or software, then will it make me a return on my investment, or cut my time spent mixing or recording? If so, it’s worth a shot, but If I can’t answer that honestly then I’ll wait until the time is right. 

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