I get asked pretty frequently how to break into the audio industry once out of school. This question comes up enough that I’ve decided to put a post together than I can just reference people to – so here is the best advice I can give:
1) Skip the protools certification.
No one asks, no one cares. IMO that’s just a way for Avid to make money on the side. It also doesn’t necessarily make you good at protools. A better path is just to get really good at protools.
2) Realize that live sound work and audio post work and video game work and music composition work are all very different disciplines.
Also realize that each main discipline has multiple disciplines within it, each having its own skill set and tool set (eg audio post has dialogue editing, adr, fx editing, sound design, foley, and mixing). Its ok to start out as a generalist in one field, but its difficult to be a purely audio across all fields because of how different the skill sets are.
I’m personally a studio guy. I’d have a very hard time doing anything at a high level in a live environment if I jumped in tomorrow, and I don’t have enough musical chops to compose anything worthy of charging clients for.
3) In my experience the best path into the industry is a combination of experience and credits.
Acquiring experience and credits takes time and focus, so you have to make a decision in the near future as to which broad path you want to begin putting all your time towards (live events, audio post, games or music composition) Each path has its own plusses and minuses, so take some time and picture what working successfully in each would require of you and would pay you before making your decision.
Choose carefully, and choose once.
Once you’ve picked your preferred area, jump on craigslist and mandy.com and start picking up gigs. Most of the ones offered to those with little or no experience won’t pay much (or anything), but that’s ok for starting out.
Keep your day job during this phase.
Only choose projects that actually interest you, and do your best to seek out passionate, professional people to work with.
Find people that value sound and what it does for their projects aesthetically and emotionally and work with them. Find people that know how to finish things and work with them. Learn to spot flakes and wannabees and to avoid them.
Over the course of a year you’ll gain several credits and you’ll work with a lot of people. Some of them will flame out, but some will continue on into good careers, and they’ll remember who they worked with as they advance. You’ll also make mistakes and get better at your craft in the real world. This is also the best networking you can do. emailing people like me and asking to pass your name around is not going to get you very far. What you have to understand is that if I don’t know much about you, I have a hard time just attaching my name to you and forwarding you along. I can’t vouch for you if we haven’t worked together. Work on a project with people however, and you’ll be discussed in a professional context whether you want it to happen or not.
After a year or two you may start to become self-sustainable in the industry just doing freelance work.
If you find a staff job during this phase, jump on it. Staff jobs are rare and are golden. Even if you don’t love it, you can build tons of skills and contacts and also pay your rent/mortgage in a staff job. Then if you decide to go freelance or to a different staff job later on, its no big deal. But don’t pass up staff jobs early in your career.
Be prepared to take advantage of any staff opportunities by having two things well polished and up to date at all times: a résumé (with credits list), and a showreel. Over time your résumé will look more and more impressive as you add credits to it. Over time your showreel should become very refined and show only very high quality work. These two items alone should can get you hired when the right opportunity arises.
If you don’t find a staff job during this time, don’t stress about it. Some people stay freelance their whole careers.
There is often not a moment when things “break” and you are suddenly a bonafide audio person (certain staff jobs excepted). For many people they just start gradually spending more time in it and gradually making more money at it.
Keep your head down, keep your ears open, keep working on your skillset and eventually you’ll get there. Its hard to defeat people who don’t ever give up.
Also here is a post from Timothy’s blog with more advice on getting into the game