Audio Engineer…love the sound, hate the sexism

Hi, I’m Amy, and I’m an Audio Engineer… kindof a pitty that I feel the need for a 12 step introduction, but then again, it’s not much different!

I set up sound systems and mix sound for live events of all kinds. This is basically all I’ve ever done unless you count the retail job in high school.

I got into audio by going to school for it. Which isn’t an easy task. There are a lot of schools that offer broadcasting, recording, radio production, etc. But not many of them actually teach you anything. I went through 2 schools before finding the perfect program for becoming a well educated Audio Engineer. Then only to find that 90% of those in the male dominated field never went to school for it to begin with.

After graduating school and interning at a nightclub, my first work was freelancing in Los Angeles. After a slew of short term employment and gigs across the nation, and a bankruptcy to boot, 9 years later, I remain an audio engineer.

I can relate the field of audio engineering to having an addiction you can’t quite kick. It’s full of ups and downs both financially and emotionally. Think rollercoaster. There are days I feel quite content, but for the most part, I’m not. Maybe it’s LA? Maybe it’s the work. The best part, is when you pull off a really challenging show flawlessly. The worst part is when the big guy who’s hiring won’t take you seriously because you’re a woman. I have been discriminated against more times than worth mention. My favorite remark however,was “women aren’t meant to do sound on the road, if she wants to tour, tell her to get into catering or wardrobe”. This is an ongoing attitude in the industry. It’s hard enough to make it out there if you’re “one of the guys”, but if you’re not, double the hardship.

I think about doing something else with my life every day. It’s hard when you have a resume that says, sound, sound, sound all over it. Don’t get me wrong, I truly love sound, I just don’t like the emotional impact it can have on you. When you are a female in this field, most guys would rather just see you go away.

As for things I’d rather do, I think that streaming media has an exciting future that incorporates strong audio skills. And then there’s the dream of doing something with nature, like being a marine biologist or a forest ranger.

I think the sense of accomplishment is too short lived when you do live sound. You’re working with something completely intangible that really has no impact on anything in the future. If you’re running sound for a band, everyone wants your job and thinks you’re “cool”. If you’re doing sound for any other live event, no one really pays attention to you unless you screw up. And unfortunately, in this field, the money is in corporate productions… not rock n’ roll.

I have a lot of bosses. Being a freelance engineer, you can never come unglued, otherwise it could be your last gig. It really is a small industry. Basically, everyone is your boss. At least you don’t have to see them every day from 8-5!

In five years, I hope I’m well beyond this delimma. I would like to look back at being a live sound engineer as the wild nonconformist career of my twenties. Whatever I’m doing, I hope I have a lot more inner peace and feel like I’m making a difference in the world.

In 30 years… yikes…. I really don’t want to jump that far ahead. In the audio industry, you book by the month!

In conclusion, I have to say that it is a challenging career full of twists and turns. You better love it or you’ll get squashed! Well… sometimes you’ll get squashed regardless. I guess it’s the perfect career if you’re one of the guys. But after nine years of knowing what I’m doing, working hard, keeping up the good attitude, and still seeing guys with a lot less knowledge land my dream gigs…. while I drive around LA rush hour looking for hotel parking so I can run sound at Joe Bob CEO’s big shin dig. I’m pretty much spent.

Thank you for reading my never-ending blurb about the life of a female sound engineer.