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When did you start to consider yourself "pro"

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by kmetal, Jun 2, 2014.

  1. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Hey all, I was just wondering at what point you considered yourself a pro sound person? This field seems to have the largest grey area as far as what actually defines a pro. It's pretty cut and dry in athletics, and most other things that use this distinction.

    Fwiw I'll start by saying I just barely myself an "entry level professional", as in one step above tea boy. It took me a long time to even consider myself a real "engineer" even tho I still hate name for the job. I like sound guy, but that implies mostly live work. Anyway I started around 98 w a 4 track, and became more and more serious as a hobbiest, as a gained experience recording as many bands and practices I could, while reading as much as possible. After about ten years, I started to get paid more than beer and gas money for live stuff and system repair, doing a couple of commercial sound system jobs. Still I didn't consider myself a pro. The I got a job at a local commercial studio, which I had the pleasure of building for the guy ( hey it wasn't my good looks, or amazing skill set, but I got in). After about a year of doing eps and assisting, I finally felt that I was approaching a professional skill set and knowledge.
    I just keep learning and learning from people more experienced than I and hope one day I will be a seasoned pro turning out better work than most people I know, that is my goal.

    I'm really interested in how you guys came up, and when you really felt you truly were a pro, not just "in pro audio".

    Also in what you think professional engineer really means, and what defines it. And What are the different levels of pro in your eyes?


    Kyle "gettin there" gushue ;)
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Well, typically, "professional" is a description that separates those who do it for fun and those who do it for a living. If you dig ditches for fun, then you're a hobbyist. But if you dig ditches for money, then you are a professional ditch digger.. LOL

    36 years (give or take a year) in this business ...and having dug my fair share of ditches ;) .... there are plenty of days that I still doubt myself as being a true "pro" at this.

    I suppose I started considering myself to be kinda pro when I started doing sessions on a constant schedule, but, I'm not sure that this is really sufficient criteria to categorize myself in that regard either, because there are plenty of working audio recordists out there who get constant work simply because they are cheap enough to attract enough clientele, but who in fact actually know very little about the craft.

    I guess I started considering myself to be serious about it when other pro audio cats and musicians started asking for me.

    Don Dixon (Smithereens, REM) requested me as his engineer on several occasions, as did Alfons Kettner (Bobby Caldwell, Walter Becker, Go West). My instructor, Steve Hebrock - whom I did sessions with in later years, was an engineer at Caribou Ranch ( who had albums and artists under his belt from people like Amy Grant, Dan Fogelberg, Kris Kristofferson) - requested me several times... ( For the love of Gawd, Donny, just stop with the name dropping now...as if it even matters, jeez)...

    So, having these professional people ask for me certainly put a few feathers in my cap, and made me feel more confident... but "pro"? Man, I dunno. Probably. Maybe. I guess. Or not. LOL
    ClarkJaman and kmetal like this.
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Well said, Donny

    To add a bit, I use pro gear because I want to sound as good as I can.

    I'm pro enough to know

    "One day you are a hero next day you are zero"

    Pro to me is really about being able to earn a living at what you do.

    It certainly doesn't define how great we are.
    I think it more defines how humble and grateful we are.

    I think
    A pro has the ability to recognize talent
    The ability to execute the tasks people hire you for with smiles at the end of an agreement.

    It's a tough job trying to convince others you are a pro, that's for sure.

    Sent from my iPhone
    kmetal likes this.
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Yeah.... I guess I never really did that, or at least not consciously, anyway.

    If pressed, I suppose I could name drop, or show my resume - which does include some major work - from sound design for Little Tikes toys to engineering audio for Billy Blanks TaeBo workout videos, and many other big jobs in between - and, I was paid well for those projects... but truthfully? I'm much more proud of the many unsung artists whom I've helped along the way.

    I get far more artistic fulfillment and satisfaction from working with REAL artists on those smaller projects, than I ever did working on those "big" commercial projects I mentioned.
    (You'd be amazed at the level of talent hidden in the world's basements and bedrooms - songwriters and musicians who are simply incredible).

    Okay, I'll admit that if I had a Grammy or Gold Records, no doubt I'd hang them up for people to see LOL but, I don't - and probably very few of us here do, so all we can really do is to let our work - and work ethic - speak for us in that regard.

    I guess I believe that it's much more effective to have your clients or peers consider you to be a professional, and to pass that description along to other people for you, as opposed to attempting to fly your own
    "I'm a bad-ass" flag. ;)

    I always figured that if my clients continually returned to me over the years, and always finished their projects being satisfied and happy with the results, and through word of mouth, sent me other clients...
    then well... I guess that's probably the only criteria that really matters, no?



  5. thatjeffguy

    thatjeffguy Active Member

    I don't know if I am a 'Pro' or not, I don't know any clear definition for that in this field. I do know that about 12 or 13 years ago there was a shift in my confidence and satisfaction with my own work that assured me that I could give clients results that I could be proud of. I was no longer afraid that I might do a bad job. That was an important milestone which drew me deeper into this field and more focused.
    bigtree and kmetal like this.
  6. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Thanks to you guys, I feel like I'm in good company.

    If I had gold record to hang on a wall , I would!!!
    Man would that be cool.

    Nothing wrong with being proud of who we are and our accomplishments .

    We work hard for every dime we get

    Donny, again nicely put, I think if I could ever make a difference for anyone, that would make me so happy

    One of my goals in life it to discover someone and give them the opportunities I never had

    I think this is what pros hope for so I am definitely trying to be in that position.

    Sent from my iPhone
  7. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I'm currently sitting in at the BC Provincials

    The talent is astonishing
    . They are all prepairing to become professionals
    The level of performance warrants it but they will have to earn the respect and wisdom to become pros eh?
    What do you think?

    These musicians are better than I ever was.
    It's fun being here right now. Humbling experience.

    My daughter is waiting to perform shorty

    Sent from my iPhone
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    i would say a "pro" is someone who has left some tracks in the snow. i felt like i had made a mark when a projects i produced went to "real" record labels and distributed to international record stores (like Tower or Virgin Records) and sold on Amazon .....
    kmetal likes this.
  9. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Interesting thoughts fellas, what a strange world music is. I've set personal goals for myself. I've never heard one of my mixes on the radio, even local radio show is good enough. I've also never had a project go to a real label, tho I'm finishing my first recording that is going to a small distributor. I have no gold records, or Grammys, obvious goals. I want to be known around my area as "the guy" for the bands around here. I would also like to be able to afford my own living space. I'd like to record someone who was is or will be famous. Those are milestones I'd like to achieve.

    But no matter what, the most rewarding thing to me, is when someone says to me "dude that's exactly what I was hearing in my head" once it a awhile it happens, and never gets old.

    Chris what are the BC Privincals? How did your daughter end up doing?

    D- dude, i gotta say, while you have some pretty impressive credentials, I gotta give ya a " you da man" for the billy blanks stuff, I can't count how many times I'd been up late in my high school years "expanding my mind" and seen those infomercials. Too cool man
  10. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I'm still here Kyle
    It's the best classical pianist in British Columbia
    You have to be picked in your local area , then they all gather and compete

    Sent from my iPhone
  11. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Thanks for asking btw
    It's also based on age and level,

    Both my daughters made it this year. :)

    Sent from my iPhone
    kmetal likes this.
  12. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I don't think anyone who plays classical takes it's lightly, sounds like a tought comp. Best of luck!
  13. audiokid

    audiokid Staff


    We find out in the next hour
    It's 9:28 PM
    We arrived at 9am took breaks and back again.

    Sent from my iPhone
  14. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    For Remy
    The music director is heading to Austin. I chatted with him and he said its a great place for music right now!
    Some of the best opportunities in the business.
    Good luck Remy :)

    Sent from my iPhone
  15. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I don't mind saying, Donny is an amazing talent and engineer.

    Definitely a pro in my books.

    Sent from my iPhone
  16. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    I became a Pro the minute I realized that I would never learn everything there is to learn about this business and didn't shy from giving it a go.
    thatjeffguy and kmetal like this.
  17. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Thanks Chris. That's very nice of you. Ya made my day.

    In answer to the question when did I realize that I was a pro? I think that's what's the problem with me LOL? I started way too young. Announcing my first auto dealer commercial at age 8. But that was for dad and grandpa's, advertising agency. I started cutting commercials for them, with a professional announcer, when I was 12 in my real radio production studio with the Western Electric 23 C, my Magnacord, yada yada.

    At 14, I was recommended as the " performance audio guy ", for the Miss Detroit Beauty Pageant. I had to take all the girl singers and dancers, pre-recorded music on reel to reel tape. Songs had to be shortened, rearranged and the musical edits using grease pencil, razor blade and splicing tape, had to all be exactly musically accurate. And no one, not no one, could ever hear my edits. No one showed me how to do this. I had my tools. I listened. I did it. And after the dress rehearsal was over Friday night in the small Masonic Auditorium... I walked into the big Masonic Auditorium to watch and listen to Buddy Rich. What a thrill! The instrument my parents wouldn't let me play, dammit.

    At 15 I went to work for the Community College of Baltimore's, 50,000 W FM station. I had an Opera show on Thursday evenings. Jazz show on Saturday afternoons. The youngest person to ever work at the college. Unfortunately that was a volunteer position. So at 16, I was then offered the chief maintenance engineers position, for FLITE THREE Recordings Inc., in Baltimore. Home of George Massenburg and the studio that he first worked for until he left to form ITI. But I was too smart to accept that offer and told them that was too much responsibility for any 16-year-old regardless of how good they were, to maintain a three studio/control room and duplication plant, bigger than anything else south of New York City. So I got my mentor the job since he gotten laid off from Johns Hopkins University, medical electronics division, after 23 years. And they knew him because the vice president worked under him as a kid at a high five store when he was a consultant for this high-end stereo shop. Then I got the job I wanted the following year as a full-blown production engineer at 17. I'm still doing it, 44 years later. And as you can tell... my math is still bad LOL. That also didn't make any difference. So that's the way it goes. It's still going. I'm still riding the ride... going down to Austin where I'm going to kick up some dust. And you're going to hear more of what this crazy bitch is going to do. Yes I'm a knot. Yes I'm weird. Yes I'm eccentric. Yes I'm a genius. Yes I have severe brain damage. So how can I do this? I have no idea and neither do the neurologists and neurosurgeons, psychiatrists and psychologists. So what arose wrong with me? I obviously come by honestly as I am the product of two world-class musicians. I just took to this stuff like a duck takes to marijuana in Colorado.

    You wanted to know what a real professional started. I'm one of those like you read about of others. I'm just not famous. Not everybody wins the lottery. And that's all we're playing. It's just dumb luck 99% of the time. And even then... it doesn't mean you'll be able to afford to keep your studio open unless you keep solidly booked at $13 per square foot or more. That's why I have a truck. My studio is anywhere I want it to be or not to be. That is the question! Did somebody ask that question?

    Quack! Quack quack quack. I'm off my bloomin' quack. Now don't be making any quacks about what I just wrote.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  18. ClarkJaman

    ClarkJaman Active Member

    True, but nowadays any competent hobbyist who has been at it a while and has built up some gear can make a living recording. The first full length album I recorded paid enough for me to live off for 4 months, and I didn't even know what the word "phase" meant. Then again, my only expenses were $350/month for rent and some grocery and beer money. I've come a long ways since that first album and now 99% of people wouldn't notice a difference in quality between my mixes and truly professional ones (not that that's saying much...). I can make a decent living at this now, at least for a single dude. But I still wouldn't consider myself a professional by a long shot.

    A decade ago that definition of a professional was probably the best. But now, ambitious young guns like myself begin as hobbyists and start making a living at it without even planning on it!

    Pax Caritas et lol,
  19. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member


    Welcome to hell.

    There used to be a clear cut and defined path to being able to actually call yourself a professional in this industry. That portion of this industry still exists.

    However, there are people who failed to be technically proficient in the electronics technology aspect, and as "creatives" have muscled their way into legit credentialing through sales tracking, publishing rights and licensing. NTAWWT... but suffice it to say that once creatives were "recognized" professionals, the industry has become fragmented. To wit, AES, The Grammys, SAG, all the unions... It gets pretty fragmented, and pretty quickly the lines blur to not recognizing any professional status.

    When you get right down to the nitty gritty, as far as songs go, the creatives have a very professional definition, as do the technology craftsmen who follow tradition trades like masonry, welding, and to an even greater extent, law, rocket surgery and psychology.

    This is a LEARNED skill. There is a real technology involved... There's electrical, electronics, physics, chemistry... most of the earth sciences in whole, or in part. But because of the delicate nature of the creative process and the effect of reproduction systems, there is actual science that exists in our industry... Everything from the military's search for the allusive "brown note", to radar, analog to digital conversion, information technology, human perception and the various medical sciences as people search to understand how the brain actually processes sound.

    THIS is the realm of the true professional in the audio industry. The rest of us are noize boyz.

    Don't get me wrong. Even in the land of music recording, there is very sincere professionalism.

    That professional status is actually recognized as the acceptance as a member of the AES. I'm not schillin' for em' because I thing the fact that you can send in dues and become a member... I'm schillin' for AES because I actually give a damn about preservation of music of (and for) all cultures.

    To honestly call oneself a professional audio engineer, you must actually be well versed in all the major disciplines involved with a recording. Part of that includes delivering an end product that you are fairly compensated to execute.

    My personal opinion is that one should also either be actively seeking to add to and improve the knowledge of the craft of recording, editing and mixing, or one should be actively assisting in some sort of non profit assistance directly proportional to one's skill level.

    Traditionally, this has been a journeyman's trade. In that you were taken on as an apprentice and as you learned, you earned. The more and better you learned, the more you earned. Eventually, you would be able to step out on your own, or you were able to negotiate a means to an acceptable wage.

    Now days, every swingin' dick with a computer and app store bed tracks gets a USB mic and calls himself a producer, artist, whatever... but they might have made a bazillion bucks in sales... So, they too are professionals. I think it's great that anyone with real creativity can now at least express themselves as easily as I check my email. It's an amazingly "equal" playing field.

    Maybe this'll make it easier to digest...
    From wiki:

    "A professional is a member of a profession. The term also describes the standards of education and training that prepare members of the profession with the particular knowledge and skills necessary to perform the role of that profession. In addition, most professionals are subject to strict codes of conduct enshrining rigorous ethical and moral obligations. Professional standards of practice and ethics for a particular field are typically agreed upon and maintained through widely recognized professional associations. Some definitions of "professional" limit this term to those professions that serve some important aspect of public interest [1] and the general good of society.[2][3]

    In some cultures, the term is used as shorthand to describe a particular social stratum of well-educated workers who enjoy considerable work autonomy and who are commonly engaged in creative and intellectually challenging work."


    "A profession is a vocation founded upon specialized educational training, the purpose of which is to supply objective counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain.[1] The term is a truncation of the term "liberal profession", which is, in turn, an anglicisation of the French term "profession libérale". Originally borrowed by English users in the nineteenth century, it has been re-borrowed by international users from the late twentieth, though the (upper-middle) class overtones of the term do not seem to survive retranslation: “liberal professions” are, according to the Directive on Recognition of Professional Qualifications (2005/36/EC) “those practised on the basis of relevant professional qualifications in a personal, responsible and professionally independent capacity by those providing intellectual and conceptual services in the interest of the client and the public”"
    kmetal likes this.
  20. doubleJ

    doubleJ Active Member

    I don't consider myself a "pro" at anything audio/sound oriented.
    I do live FOH mixing and post-production audio editing (mixing is volunteer and editing is paid).
    I definitely don't consider my skill-set to be "engineer" class.
    I feel more in the "sound tech" level (for live sound).
    I've been editing audio for around 15 years (all computer-based) and I'm still learning various tricks and techniques.

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