Where the Jobs Are

Oct 1, 2012 9:00 AM, Mix, By Barbara Schultz

New Opportunities in Live Sound Show Production


Education Guide

Mix is gearing up to present its longstanding annual Audio Education Guide in its November 2014 issue. Want to have your school listed in the directory, or do you need to update your current directory listing? Add an image, program description, or a logo to your listing! Get your school in the Mix Education Guide 2014.

Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences instructor Keith Morris working with a student on the Avid D-Show during a live band clinic.

Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences instructor Keith Morris working with a student on the Avid D-Show during a live band clinic.

By the time this issue of Mix reaches subscribers, the election-year rhetoric about unemployment will have reached a fever pitch. But anyone coming out of audio school knows that job scarcity isn’t news. For the scores of new engineers who enter the market every year, it’s a fact of life to be faced and conquered.

Which begs the question: What do students need to succeed at school and beyond? Where are the jobs for all those grads? Well, with many in the music industry saying the old financial model has turned upside-down—that touring is the new revenue source and physical product is now largely a marketing tool—it seems high time to talk about career and educational opportunities in live sound.

We talked at length with representatives of four of the top U.S. audio education programs that offer a live sound curriculum, asking how they prepare students for careers in show production. Our panel of experts includes Greg Stefus, director of student services and internship coordinator at the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences (cras.edu); Dana Roun (director of audio arts) and Mark Johnson (live sound program manager) from Full Sail University (fullsail.edu); John Scanlon, program director, sound arts and interactive audio, at Ex’pression College for Digital Arts (expression.edu); and John Krogh, chair of music production and contemporary writing at McNally Smith College of Music (mcnallysmith.edu). They offer future live sound engineers an idea of the skills they’ll need in the field, the likelihood of finding gainful employment, and insights into whether or not they’re really cut out for a career on the road.


How likely is a student entering your program to find employment in his or her field upon graduation?

Stefus: Live sound is one of the more stable areas where there are jobs available for our interns and graduates. In a recording studio, you start as an unpaid intern. You have to serve a lot of coffee before you start any kind of paying career in studio work. In live sound, the economic infrastructure is such that you can go straight from school into a paying job, whether you’re doing corporate audio-visual, working on a sports broadcast or for a club.

Roun: At Full Sail, we take a large amount of job leads for live production. That’s a very broad term—that’s everything from houses of worship to cruise lines to large-scale touring or theaters—but it’s been a growth area for us. Over the past five years, our Show Production graduates have maintained a strong initial employment percentage, ranging from 81 to 90 percent, depending on the year. That’s in part because the live sound industry has a good way of responding to economic challenges. A couple of years ago when things began to flatten out, a lot of major audio providers got more into areas like corporate or boardroom installs or the house-of-worship market. This is an industry that’s been really flexible.

Scanlon: I think there’s so much opportunity in live sound because the live production element has branched out so much. You’ve got presentations with laptops, Bluetoothing iPads, PowerPoint presentations that have audio elements. Not to mention, I’ve never seen as many bands on tour as I do right now. We teach our students to be technically capable of handling almost anything in terms of live audio and visual content so they’ll be sharp when they get out there.

Krogh: In recording studios, there is a culture of apprenticeship where you learn the ropes and come up through the ranks, usually starting with an unpaid internship. But with live sound, there are opportunities to find paid work right out of school. It’s essential that students have a broad view of what those opportunities look like: You might go into mixing front-of-house for bands playing in clubs, but you might also find work in AV installation, on a cruise ship, in corporate boardrooms.

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