Clean the Studio Baby!
By T. Perry Bowers
Do you want a job in the studio recording business? If so, this blog is for you.
It’s hard to find work in this business. There aren’t a lot of studios hiring in the Twin Cities area. In fact, there aren’t a lot of studios hiring, period. There is, however, a lot of music schools training people to work in studios. Do the math: there is a plethora of students and very few jobs.
However there is one job that every studio owner needs to fill: they need someone to clean the studio.
I come into contact with a lot of young folks who are trying to get a step-up in the recording business. Millennials often get a bad rap for acting entitled. Maybe they deserve that criticism, but for the most part, I think they have a lot to offer and I’m still withholding judgment. I have a feeling they might just show us a thing or two when they take over the reins.
But this blog isn’t just for millennials. It’s for anyone who has ever felt diminished or undervalued, cleaning a toilet or sweeping a floor. You’ve had god knows how many years of education and here you are cleaning up after musicians. It’s a hard pill to swallow.
Swallow it. If you want to ingratiate yourself to a studio owner clean exceptionally well. Get into the corners. Move things around and vacuum underneath. Get out a stepladder and dust the very tops of the reference monitors in the control room. Take the stains out of the toilet bowl and shine the front door handle. You want to make that studio sparkle, baby. Because the more it glistens, the faster you’ll be sitting in the engineer’s chair. Do you know why? Well, if you don’t do it, the studio owner has to do it. And if he has to clean the studio, especially after you, the intern, does a terrible job, do you think he wants to put you in the hot seat? Hell, you can’t even clean the damn studio!
Cleaning is just part of this gig. Have you ever been in a one man studio, which is sparkling clean? Guess who cleaned it? That one man. Picture him on a Sunday morning with his apron on and a duster in his hand. Oh yeah, that mastermind geek has no shame about getting his maid on. He doesn’t mind because it’s his studio. He owns his own business and is happy to clean it. But, you, the intern think it’s below you to sweep and mop? Well, remember Jimmy Iovine, Don Henley, Tom Mark, Gary Kellgren and countless other master studio rats started out cleaning the facilities.
If you’re a student in music school right now, you’re being taught the glamorous part of the music business. You think you’ll be sitting in a chair pushing buttons? Nothing could be further from the truth. To be successful in this business, you need to run your own studio. That means marketing, taxes, schmoozing, running live gigs and yes, cleaning your own facility! It’s as far from glamorous as you can get. But the only “job” that exists in the music business is the job you create for yourself. There is no such thing as a full-time studio engineering job with benefits. Your income will be created through your own creative spirit and your willingness to do jobs that are “beneath” you.
When you put down your pride and clean the toilet bowl till it gleams, your “boss” will take notice. He will look into that toilet and feel a swell in his heart. “Oh my, I’ve found my little padawan. Look at how the bowl sparkles. And, I didn’t even have to ask”. Trust me, make the bowl shine; sit in the big chair. That really is how it works. It goes the other way, too. The dirtier the studio is, the fewer times you will be given an opportunity to engineer a session. If Christina Aguilera wouldn’t be comfortable sitting on your studio’s commode, you are not going to be getting comfortable in the big chair anytime soon.
Cleaning is a metaphor for doing whatever is necessary to help keep the studio going. If that means getting the band coffee or running to Guitar Center for a set of strings, just do it. Show your boss you’re there for him. Learn how to play a supportive role because if the boss feels supported you’ll be seen in a better light.
In the studio business, when it works well, there is no usual boss/employee relationship. So don’t think of your boss as a boss. It’s more like a partnership — and you need to do what it takes to keep that partnership strong. There needs to be loyalty and camaraderie. It’s a battle to stay afloat — the clients aren’t always lining up at the door. It’s a constant pro-active thing.
Do you want a job in the studio business? Start sweeping.