How to Get an Internship at a Recording Studio

How to Get an Internship at a Recording Studio

 Warning - The following will not be what you want to hear. I'm not currently looking for any interns or assistance. Maybe I can help you find one though... What I hope you take away from this article is to provide you with some perspective on what type of messaging would be of interest to me if I was looking for an intern (which again, I am not).

Why would you listen to me?

Obviously, I can only base my perspective on my own experiences. Earlier in my audio journey I applied for and got a couple of internships at recording studios. Now, I am running a small operation myself and I'm getting inquiries from recent graduates and high schoolers looking to get a job at a recording studio. That's all to say that, I've been the kid emailing, and had some emails that worked, and I have also been the guy getting emails from kids. I've been on both sides of the opportunity at hand.

The first photo of me engineering, Crazze House in Lynn, Ma
Vally at Crazze House in Lynn, MA. 2011/12

What is the mindset of the studio in regards to interns?

In any outreach where you're applying for a job, it's important to understand the "why"s. Why does this job exist? Why would the employer choose one prospect over another? Why would they even take the time to read an email from you? Why would they read past the first line of your email? Understand while these studios are lauded as magical treehouses for the audio-inclined, they are actually businesses that have to have some kind of profit-margin after covering their rent, loans, payroll for their trusted in-house engineers, and re-investment in order to keep their doors open... Let alone, teach you anything or pay interns. Furthermore, a recording studio has more in common with a barber shop or a hotel than it does with an audio gear retailer like Sweetwater. Shift your thinking to this mindset, and your messaging/conversations with them will shift in tone and you're more likely to be speaking their language.

That said, studios take interns because they need help with menial tasks that help the business run in a respectable way and have nothing to do with the technical aspects of recording. Do you think the head engineer has time to show up for their session, set-up, AND ensure the bathroom is clean? So, between an intern and the head engineer... Who's cleaning the bathroom? You might be asking yourself at this point, "Well, why don't they hire a janitor?". Please see the prior paragraph - Margins. There are enough people in this world who would put aside their pride and clean toilets just for the shot to be in and around these facilities.

At the same time, studios put their reputations at risk by letting interns in-and-around the client work that is occurring on the premises. Unfortunately, there are just a lot of unreliable candidates at the entry level in the world of audio. Before a studio would ever trust you in the room with a client, they need to see first-hand that you are reliable, hard working, on time, know when to keep your mouth shut (which is most of the time). Studios are more afraid of you walking into the control room to pitch your sh*tty demo to the clients in there than they are then just about anything, and that ALSO happens to be the number one reason some interns want to be in the studio. See the disconnect?

So, how do you stand-out?

Say less about how much you love music and the creative process, and say more about your reliability, professionalism, humility, and willingness to learn. Use your own voice, but here are some areas of focus you might want to speak into instead of "how much you love producing"...

turbz music
  • You believe bring early is being on-time.
  • Show your understanding of how all roles, no. matter how small, are important for the team to win... How everyone in the chain of command must operate with high-levels of integrity for the team to function.
  • Share an anecdote about how you directly resolved a dispute with an unruly customer.
  • References/quotes from prior employers or managers that speak to your reliability.
  • Mention that trust is important to you, and that you're willing to do whatever it takes to win trust.

Everyone loves music - You'll sound inexperienced and naive if you sell that too hard in your email. However, an email that contains some or all of the above is more likely to get attention.

You did that already and you didn't hear back. Why?

You NEED to be patient. There are plenty of reasons why you have not hear back from any of the studios you have emailed, even if you sent emails like the one I outlined above.

  • Timing. Simply put, there were no openings. Please understand, timing is a huge factor in if you will get an internship at any given studio. If there is no room or need for an intern, the studio will simply not take one on. That has nothing to do with how good your email was. Try again in a couple of months.
  • You weren't the best candidate. Sorry, but the studio liked another candidate better. Again, this might have had nothing to do with you. You might have been the second best candidate (a great candidate, actually), but the studio thought someone else was a better fit. Maybe, one of the other applicants has an uncle in the business, and they are connected. Maybe, their interview was right after yours and recency bias played a role. None of this means you are a bad candidate - It means you need to keep trying.
  • You think your email is great but it actually sucks. Leverage someone in your network or family that has experience hiring people and reading emails from prospective employees. Hiring and managing people is a universal experience with universal problems, and their insight might be invaluable in re-factoring your email to be appealing to studio managers.

So, what do you need to do to get the internship?

You might not hear back on your first round of outreach... don't get discouraged. Instead, assume this is normal and that this is actually your moment to stand-out from the rest of the pack. Effective follow-up is likely to improve your response rate. This is how you can effectively follow-up:

  • Reply to your own email. Open your "sent" messages and hit "reply". This will create a thread and add a "RE:" to the front of the email subject. Ensure the response is going to the studio email and not to you. This will make your email show up in their inbox like a thread and not like a new email. It will instantly stand out in the studios inbox for this reason and make it look like a real email instead of a mass email.
  • Make your followup direct and relevant. Just add a quick message that leads with your call to action: "Hi ______, Hope you are well. Are you looking for interns at ______ studios right now?". After something like this, include a relevant UPDATE on your journey. Maybe a song you just released, maybe an accolade from work recognizing your reliability, maybe some news you have seen about the studio or a competitor, maybe a song that came out that was recently recorded there and say it sounds great.
  • Do this until you get a response. I'm talking like, up to 8 times. You will not be annoying to them - In all honesty you are not even on their radar they have a lot of stuff going on. While it does suck, it takes less time for them to just not reply to you instead of them respecting your time and offering a response. Be patient, and be understanding that they are busy.

You heard back, and it's a "no" - Now what?

Congratulations - Your patient has a pulse! A "no" offers you a few positives:

  • The dialogue has now begun! In sales, there's a saying that a "no" is just a "not yet". Be respectful that they don't need you right now, but don't assume it's a bust forever. It might be a bust forever, but you don't know for sure. The key is to respond thanking them for their reply and critically...
  • Ask why it's a "no". This is where you will get important feedback from the studio. You will hopefully find out if it's something you said that turned them off or if it's just a timing thing for them. If it's something you said, hopefully they let you know (if you followed this guide, highly unlikely). If it's a timing thing, then you can find out when to ask again! You now have a leg up on the rest of the interested interns because you know when to reach back out, and you've already established contact with the studio.
  • You can spend your time reaching out to other studios instead. Simply put, you can give it a rest and focus your time where you can get a "yes". You're going to get more "no"s than "yes"s. Deal with it.
  • Have confidence that your emails and communication are effective. Some people emailing aren't even getting responses because their communication skills are garbage. If you followed this guide, your skills are on point. Getting responses means you are communicating in a compelling, respectful, and effective manor.

You heard back, and it's a "yes" - Now what?

Congratulations you beautiful idiot - You got the gig! Be prepared to do the hard work and earn the trust of the studio - Prove you are every bit as reliable as you said you are. Early is on-time. Only speak when spoken to. Don't f*ck up the vibe. Be invisible. Add value. You'll get your shot at the desk soon enough! Don't forget about me though - Share this article and say it worked so I can improve my SEO 😉

As for what's up like, 'RIGHT NOW' right now?

The Barnstorm America's Party Band

Again... I'm not hiring or looking for interns. Also, wanted to plug my good friends over at The Barnstorm. Check them out if you need a live band for your corporate event or wedding. It only felt right to mention them in a blog post about reliability, timeliness, professionalism, and maintaining the vibe. I've known them for years, played gigs with them AND hired them so I know what I'm talking about. Thank me later. Please see the in-line image to get a sense of what it MIGHT be like going to one of their events (only if you're into that kind of thing, of course).

If you want to work with us or just shoot the sh*t, hit our socials, send us an email, use our contact us form, whatever works for you!

Ciao ciao.