For fun today, I decided to speak to a friend who is a Grammy-award winning sound engineer and producer. He’s freelancing working with some incredible talents including an artist who boasts more than 300 million records sold. Given he works in Atlanta, he’s now taking on sound engineering work for the many film and television series. Needless to say, he’s quite successful. I’ll keep his name hidden for now, but wanted to share with you a few of his insights as to why he enjoys freelancing vs. working with a record label and the like.
Love the freedom, hate the insecurity.
Any lessons or advice for others who are looking to freelance, too?
“Weather the storm: think long-term.”
He continues, “Think in-terms of years, not months. You can’t look at the financial status on a year-to-year basis. There will be months that go real well, but there will be months with no money.”
“In some industries, you don’t know what your good months or bad months are. It can go year-to-year.”
Reflecting on the unpredictable nature of freelancing (and perhaps very much associated with the music industry), “No way to predict it”. He points out how even this August, he can’t definitely say he’ll be able to take a vacation.
“Even though you work for yourself, you’re at the whim of your client.” This is an important note a lot of people forget about when they toy with the idea of going solo. Being a freelancer or a CEO of your company does not mean you are truly your own boss. The people who pay you is ultimately who you must be accountable to.
“You have to make yourself available to them, or else they’ll go to the next person.” He laments how competition is always there ready to fill a position should he not be able to do the work. For his clients, they still need to produce music to be relevant. Thus, they’ll go to someone who can/ will do it.
“In some ways, you have more freedom and less freedom. Does give more flexibility on a day-to-day basis. But this also depends on the non-9-5 job.”
What’s more specialized for you in the music industry [versus a “normal”, non-entertainment industry]?
He continues highlighting the importance of servicing his clients – “Always there to serve the artist.”
In fact, he cites how professionals in the industry are “really only as good as your recent work.” This dictates your relationships and reputation.
As such, he points out the importance of network and having uncompromising work quality – “Letting other people know what you do, and you’re available to work with them. When you accept a job, you put in 100% effort to make sure the end-product is the best it can be.”
“Some people, work towards the budget – ‘small budget, small amount of work’.” However, when his name is attached to it, it’s his reputation.
“Compromises affect reputation.”
Any recommendations for people to do when they listen to music? Anything you want to point out so listeners know what or how else to appreciate music?
“Listen to music for enjoyment.”
He reflects how it’s his job to listen to the “snare for 10 minutes”. He’s putting a puzzle of rhythms, acoustics, instruments, and the like into a “cohesive, single” song. It’s a lot of hard work that he pores over, and hopes everyone listens and enjoy the artistry.