Getting in to the music industry!

As a female becoming a sound engineer or lighting engineer can be hard work. There are more starting to filter through now, thanks to University courses teaching the basics. Years ago the only way women would get in is if a company gave them an opportunity to learn. Women in this industry have a lot to prove to gain the respect of the guys. They also have a lot more to do to protect their reputations.

I started out working on local crew, Loading and unloading trucks with the guys. Paid my dues and gained the respect of all the local crew. Working my way through until a PA companygave me the opportunity to be stage tech, my career exploded from there. I was lucky enough to be taken under the wing of some fantastic pro engineers and learned from them.

I set myself some rules and practices through the advice they gave. Some of which are both for guys and girls wanting to get in to the industry.

. Be one of the guys, Dress like one of the guys! Show blacks…. crew Tshirt. As a chick your viewed as a pro and not a piece of meat!
As a woman its easy to fall in to the “shes only here because she is cute or has big tits” category.

. Pay your dues. Getting hands dirty and chucking boxes about gains the crews respect meaning when you move up to the next level they will do as you ask.

. Be better than the guys. learn to excel at what you do. Be the best engineer you can. Insanely tidy and organised stages. Learn to be consistently good.
You will have to work harder than the guys to get opportunities. Give 110% every time and always be one step ahead.

. Know your limits when lifting gear. By all means prove you can lift gear but once the gear is too heavy for you don’t be afraid to ask for help.
The guys will respect you more. If your hurt the crew is then one man down giving them more work if your hurt.

. Your their to work not “party with the band” Protect your reputation. If you are seen leaving with the band members you will instantly
be put in to the category of Groupie. (Unless you are friends with the band.) Get your job done…… then go hang out when all your tasks are completed.
On the same token don’t date band members. Think of them as totally off limits. People will think your only there to sleep with the bands.

Those rules are for the chicks. The next few are for anyone wanting to get into the industry, they are in order that came out of my head.
Not in order of importance.

. LEARN TO COIL and uncoil cables properly. (over the arm is not acceptable. Nether is fold in half, fold in half and tie it in a knot)
Use ether electrical tape, laces or Velcro ties to secure them when done.

. NEVER ask for Autographs or photos with band members.

. DON’T take photos backstage if you must only do it during the show

. NEVER ask for tshirts or cds (people will write you off for harassing them)

. NEVER drink or do drugs on the job. Sometimes you will see people around you drinking from the moment they walk in the door.
Don’t follow their example.

. Be enthusiastic. Don’t stand around watching other people unloading the truck. Get your hands dirty.

. NEVER stand still. If the rest of the crew sits down for a break …… by all means go get a drink but once you have sorted yourself out or eaten….
go talk to the stage guys and ask if they want help. This way you get to know them and learn the basics of setting PA up.

. DON’T expect to be on the desk on your first day.

. Learn to “watch and learn.” And how to stay out of the way. As you learn you will know more what is “out of the way”

. If you are asked to do something and you don’t know how to ASK.

. If you don’t know how to make or break a multi pin…..DON’T DO IT. They are worth more than a month’s wages!

. Things can get stressful during shows. So this is where watch and learn comes in. Engineers will not have time to teach you on shows
where they are stressed out. So once loaded in…. if there is time ask them to teach you something….. plug a mic in to the desk and
learn how the monitor rig is set up etc.

. Research Research Reserch. There is a VAST amount of information in books and online. You can learn all the basics and answers to
all of your questions by looking online. So Learn something on the show….. go read all about it. Teach yourself.

. Get a Leartherman / Gerber and a Maglite and have them on your belt ALL THE TIME.
They save you asking people for tools 99.9% of the time.

. If you have taken a gig and are offered a better one. Don’t drop the gig you have accepted. UNLESS the new gig is ether 10 times better pay.
OR its a tour and the one you are dropping is a one off. Talk to them and explain the situation . if its a tour they won’t mind.
FIND someone who is as capable or better than you and pass their number on as your replacement.

There are a huge amount of training courses out there, some for free. You will find some people don’t want you to learn and won’t teach you. They have the attitude why should they train someone to do their job cheaper. They will then loose work. But you will find the vast majority of engineers learned on the job and are willing to teach you, because they learned from someone else. You will also find if you offer to “help out” go along to shows and work for the PA company or lighting company for free (well not for free. You are learning so they are paying you in knowledge) you are going to learn a lot faster. They will in the end need someone and because of all your hard work they’ll ring you first once they trust you
are capable of the job.

Good Luck out there. See you at the Load out.

Kim Watson , a female sound engineer based in Newcastle.