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Who here is a "staff" engineer? DAW Software
Old 25th November 2009
  #1
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PLAbass's Avatar
 

Who here is a "staff" engineer?

Just curious! And by this I mean someone that works every day at a facility that they do not own.

I am in such a position and have been for a couple years. We're an audio trade school as well as a recording studio so my time is split fairly evenly between teaching and running sessions. Though the recording side is busy, the facility is very large (5 rooms with SSL, Neve, API desks, etc.) and is supported predominately by the school. We're also in a tertiary market, located in the DC area. It ain't LA or NY.

I tell students every day that a position like this is pretty darn unusual these days. I'm just wondering to what extent. How many staff engineers are there out there? I assume most larger studios employ more assistants to help the freelance engineers that come in and bring the majority of work?

Who works at a facility with a staff of recording engineers?
Old 25th November 2009
  #2
Quote:
Originally Posted by PLAbass View Post
Just curious! And by this I mean someone that works every day at a facility that they do not own.

I am in such a position and have been for a couple years. We're an audio trade school as well as a recording studio so my time is split fairly evenly between teaching and running sessions. Though the recording side is busy, the facility is very large (5 rooms with SSL, Neve, API desks, etc.) and is supported predominately by the school. We're also in a tertiary market, located in the DC area. It ain't LA or NY.

I tell students every day that a position like this is pretty darn unusual these days. I'm just wondering to what extent. How many staff engineers are there out there? I assume most larger studios employ more assistants to help the freelance engineers that come in and bring the majority of work?

Who works at a facility with a staff of recording engineers?
well, for the last 13 or so years, i was chief engineer (on staff) at a studio/production
company type thing...but i got laid off in October. yes, it's really rare to the point
of "it doesn't happen" down here in Austin. most people throw out their own shingle and go it alone...or have some partners and the odd intern. Austin isn't probably all
that typical of a bigger city market though. oh, and we don't really have free-lancers work at our studio because, as i said, we're more of a production company than a commercial studio.

marty.
Old 25th November 2009
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by PLAbass View Post
Who works at a facility with a staff of recording engineers?
"I"
Old 25th November 2009
  #4
I am...and have been for the last 8 and 1/2 years.
Old 25th November 2009
  #5
Gear Nut
 

Me; two years. Judging from the way my boss runs the company though, may not be much longer...
Old 25th November 2009
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by PLAbass View Post
I tell students every day that a position like this is pretty darn unusual these days. I'm just wondering to what extent. How many staff engineers are there out there? I assume most larger studios employ more assistants to help the freelance engineers that come in and bring the majority of work?

Who works at a facility with a staff of recording engineers?
Actually, if anything it's becoming MORE commonplace, but at the same time it's harder to find/locate the jobs.

As commercial studios go belly-up, they are being bought or leased by production companies, composers and artists to use as a private facility.

The place I've been at for the last 8+ years is a perfect example of that. The studio used to be called 'King Sound' and was one of the more widely used studios in LA back in the 80's. Bruce Hornsby recorded portions of both of his albums here, don henley, the police, etc. have all been in here. It's a 3 studio, 25,000 sq ft complex. We can fit 40 musicians in studio A and regularly do 22 piece string sections and 20 piece big bands...

So who's all the music for?? US! We make music for TV and film licensing. We don't rent out the studio to the public. In fact it's tough even for friends of the owners to book time with us. As the music industry changes you are going to see this business model more and more... It's almost going back to the way things were... where the label or company making the music owned its own studio and all of it's artists/composers recorded in there.

Case in point, look at East West. They make sample libraries. They bought the old "Cello/United/Western" studios. While they are still booking out the studios commercially, the main purpose for them buying the space was so that they can create their own products there... studio rentals is a form of secondary income to them.

Also, film composers are now starting to have their own studios. Most 'big name' composers you can think of own their own studios that they do most of their work out of except for the 80 piece orchestral sessions. So as an assistant you might end up working at James Newton Howard's studio or Bear McCreary's studio instead of the Record plant or Capitol.

The tough thing in the future is going to be finding these places. Most places don't advertise that they have studios since they don't rent them out to the general public. So even knowing they exist so you can apply for a job there is going to be somewhat of a guessing game and word of mouth.
Old 25th November 2009
  #7
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I was for the last 3 years but just officially split off because I'm starting a production partnership with a producer Ive done about 75% of my work with in the last year. Mainly left so I don't feel bad booking other studios if I need to. I'm also on staff at a local club if that counts.

Even though I got some work thrown at me it was still up to me to book most of my sessions.
Old 25th November 2009
  #8
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The production company thing is interesting. Sorta the same thing as the studio/school model as the recording studio portion is supported by the production side (I'm guessing in most cases).

I'd love to hear from some assistant engineers as I'm under the impression that there are still houses that employ "staff" assistants. Perhaps this is more common? If anyone is employed by a recording studio as an assistant engineer, how is that working for ya?

It's tough to get a feel for the state of the industry as we're sortof isolated in this area and, like I said, my situation seems less and less common.
Old 25th November 2009
  #9
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ambiguity's Avatar
I am. 5.5 years here, mostly doing post.
Old 25th November 2009
  #10
I'm technically freelance, but my main client is the studio I do most of my work at, and they also act as my management when dealing with other clients.
Old 26th November 2009
  #11
Gear Addict
 

I am, almost 20 years. Video production house, location and studio recording and mixing for video. The last 2-3 years I've been shifting across to camera and video editing. I was getting pretty bored with audio after that long.

Have a home music studio for my audio kicks.
Old 22nd February 2010
  #12
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chai t's Avatar
 

i am and have been for the last 5 years
Old 22nd February 2010
  #13
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Sigma's Avatar
over 25 years then stopped in 2002 when the bottom fell out of the already crippled industry
Old 22nd February 2010
  #14
I've been a staff engineer at a privately owned studio by a big selling artist for 10 years now.
Old 22nd February 2010
  #15
Gear Guru
 

I am the staff engineer at a studio I don't own, but I don't fit your definition in the "works every day" category.

I work every day they are booked, but that is not every day, sad to say.

I also have my own place, do remotes, and teach in a nearby college. Only the combination of all of those (plus drumming gigs) keeps me working full time.
Old 22nd February 2010
  #16
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andsonic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
I am the staff engineer at a studio I don't own, but I don't fit your definition in the "works every day" category.

I work every day they are booked, but that is not every day, sad to say.

I also have my own place, do remotes, and teach in a nearby college. Only the combination of all of those (plus drumming gigs) keeps me working full time.
same here...

I've been a "staff" engineer at 3 different facilities over the past 18 years. The first 2 places are pretty much owner-operated now. The first place had a pretty nifty collection of engineering talent when I first started, but has evolved into an "O&O" over the past decade. He opened with a Studer & a Neotek and now runs ITB with DP and a controller.

The place I work at now. should be O&O, but the owner doesn't have enough chops to be a full time engineer. He handles production (which he's actually pretty good at) and I handle the large and/or complex sessions. We can also operate as a venue, so we get some revenue from the private, fan club style of show.

I've personally come to the conclusion that the stand alone commercial studio is dead. Those that are still open will need to diversify quickly.
Old 22nd February 2010
  #17
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Staff engineer for 5 years or so here... and if I ever lose this job or decide to quit, I doubt I would pursue another job as a staff engineer for various reasons... one of which being that the jobs don't exist.

Last edited by Makinithappen; 22nd February 2010 at 09:54 PM.. Reason: adding stuff
Old 22nd February 2010
  #18
Gear Addict
 

This is a great discussion.

I am a staff engineer of sorts. I work in a christian organization where my primary role is to master current church sermons and do restoration work on the old ones. It's full time, great benefits and close to home. It's just not glamorous like what some of you get to do.

My primary role is only a portion of what I do. There are dozens of other things I do to fill each day such-a Maintain equipment, spec out equipment for various projects, work on in-house projects and pretty much anything I know how to do.

What do other full time guys do all day? Do you do actual mixing for 8 hours a day? Does it get tedious? Is the job everything you dreamed it would or is it just work?

thanks,
~Jay
Old 22nd February 2010
  #19
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Anna's Avatar
 

I am. part time, but still.
Old 23rd February 2010
  #20
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studiostuff's Avatar
 

I'm teaching an engineering class at a local college... Those little f'ers are sick most of the time.

Sometimes that makes me a Staph Engineer
Old 23rd February 2010
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay M View Post
What do other full time guys do all day? Do you do actual mixing for 8 hours a day?
Your gig actually sounds great.

Yeah... Sometimes mixing for 8-10 hours..... (and yes, the mixes later in the day suffer)
Sometimes 4 separate 2-hour hip hop sessions.
Sometimes video game work all day.
Sometimes blues harmonica for a whole day....
Sometimes death metal vocals for 5 hours followed by 4 hours of singer/songwriter acoustic stuff.
Sometimes sounds/soundalikes for products or radio jingles
Occasionally "name" people come in but they usually bring their own engineer and I turn into a runner.

One of the (few) nice things about being a staff engineer is the variety of projects you get to work on and the experience that comes with that...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay M View Post
Does it get tedious? Is the job everything you dreamed it would or is it just work?
It really depends on the project... If the people are nice and excited about the project, it's a lot of fun. Clients that are demanding and tiresome make those days quite a chore. The music is almost secondary to the people you have to be around all day... but I suppose the same could be said for almost any job... especially in a service industry.
Old 23rd February 2010
  #22
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Interesting points! Thanks Chai T for kicking this thread back into action!

Makinithappen: Cool perspective. You're right, the variety of work is awesome. I really like going from a gospel vocal session to an alt-country mix session (one day last week, for example). It really makes you adapt your work style and general demeanor for whomever comes through the door. Very cool for the engineer. Amazing learning experience.
Old 23rd February 2010
  #23
Gear Head
 

I'm currently on staff, doing primarily VO recording.

Great job, decent pay/benefits.

I like everybody I work with. Really easy-going, no dress code, pretty flexible scheduling.

Regular hours (9-5) and minimal overtime.

Not super challenging, but not really boring either, and I rarely go home so exhausted/stressed out that I can't do anything else.

I also have a project studio and a great relationship w/the previous music studio I was head engineer at for 8 years. It's really nice to be able to pick up a project I enjoy here and there, instead of having to take anything which walked thru the door.
Old 23rd February 2010
  #24
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CaptainHook's Avatar
 

I'm the Head Engineer and started here 6 months ago. Generally the head engineer
has started as an unpaid intern, worked up to assistant, then eventually replaced
the previous head engineer when they move on. If i'm not the engineer, mixer, or
producer for a session, i work 10-5 otherwise it's 10-10pm or until we finish. (can be +/-)
Old 23rd February 2010
  #25
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MacroMike's Avatar
 

I was working at one of the bigger places here in LA for a while. It was awesome but tough... The hours are long and the pay sucks. I had to get out to make more money and buy my own gear, but it was lots of fun while it lasted.

I'm not working with 'big name clients' anymore, but I like owning my own gear, not placing food orders, and not dealing with some of the ****** bag kids clawing their way through the ranks - who know dick about work ethic, customer service, or team work. Though I must say there is nothing like tracking/mixing in a large room with all the best modern and vintage gear.

All in all it was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I love that studio!
Old 23rd February 2010
  #26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay M View Post
This is a great discussion.

I am a staff engineer of sorts. I work in a christian organization where my primary role is to master current church sermons and do restoration work on the old ones. It's full time, great benefits and close to home. It's just not glamorous like what some of you get to do.

My primary role is only a portion of what I do. There are dozens of other things I do to fill each day such-a Maintain equipment, spec out equipment for various projects, work on in-house projects and pretty much anything I know how to do.

What do other full time guys do all day? Do you do actual mixing for 8 hours a day? Does it get tedious? Is the job everything you dreamed it would or is it just work?

thanks,
~Jay
I have my own studio and freelance at others but some studios employ me frequently enoguh for me to be considered the staff engineer. For a few years I worked at an ahsram (an indian yoga retreat) They had 20 years of backlogged ADAT tapes and stuff that was originally tape that had been transfered to them. It's chanting over sitar and tamboura drones mostly and it's all in Sanskrit.

My job was to turn these recordings into proper sellable cds for people to meditate to. I spent most of my day fantasizing about Pro Tools bouncing faster than realtime. lol the standard chant is about 15 minutes and has um well very little variation. Fortunately the studio was in the master yogi's personal library so I used the time to learn about hinduism and indian culture. The chanting is designed to put you in a trance, imagine working on it 8 hours at a time without understanding a word. Once in awhile I got to record a indian style band though, with harmonium, sitar, tablas and the like. Very talented people and the music is like it's from a different planet than western stuff.
Old 23rd February 2010
  #27
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Steve G's Avatar
I've been a staff engineer at Capitol for almost 15 years and going strong.

Steve
Old 24th February 2010
  #28
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fhames's Avatar
 

I am a musician/composer/producer and I guess engineer now. I started recording in the 60's and began home recording in the 70's. I have invested a great deal in gear in the last five years in my home room. It has been a lot of fun.





Bryant - Hames Music
Old 24th February 2010
  #29
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Storyville's Avatar
I'm a staff engineer. I also free-lance from time to time. Basically, I don't get paid if there's no work, so it's not like a 9-5 style job.
Old 24th February 2010
  #30
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I worked for eight years as a staff engineer at a large (20 employee) radio/TV production facility for most of the '90s.

I was lucky that I also was given an un-used studio (medium sized studio and control room) to do production music out of.

Ultimately, in 2000 I had to leave the industry to make a decent salary.
I still do install, maintenance and occasional sessions for the owner who has down-scaled considerably.

I now work in corporate audio and make more money in four days than I did as a staff engineer in MONTH!
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