Recording Studio Internships: How NOT to Get One – And How to Get 10 Offers

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Op-Ed by Andrew Koss – Owner/Producer, Terminus Recording Studios, New York City

Andrew Koss of Terminus Recording Studios in NYC has some advice for aspiring audio interns.

Andrew Koss of Terminus Recording Studios in NYC has some advice for aspiring audio interns.

For commercial recording studios operating in today’s recording industry, the need for a strong intern and assistant team has never been higher.

At Terminus Recording Studios in New York City, our interns are expected to develop not only the technical skills to operate the equipment, but the awareness to maintain the space, and the social skills to work with a wide range of clients. The studio business is very much a service-oriented business, and our interns and assistants are often the main point of contact between the studio and the client.

I receive a lot of emails from prospective applicants looking for opportunities at the studio.  Some emails instantly grab my attention, while others do the applicant a grave disservice and never receive further consideration.

These emails are usually my first look into an applicant, and I am forming opinions about the sender right from the time I read the subject.  If you are considering applying for an internship with a studio, I hope with this insight into what a studio like Terminus is looking for, you can better position yourself to be considered for an interview.

What are we looking for?        

Our interns have come to us from big and small educational programs. Some have had no formal training but developed their skills at other facilities, while others had minimal experience but showed they had passion and a strong desire to learn.

We’ve seeing varying degrees of technical knowledge, but the clear common thread that binds all our successful interns has been the quality of their character:  They are dependable and trustworthy, reliable and punctual.

When there’s a client in the space, they handle themselves with utmost professionalism.  Being aware of a client’s needs and keeping them comfortable is paramount to ensuring a positive experience.  They are sociable when it is appropriate to be so, yet they know when it’s best to give the client space.

As they begin to assist in sessions, they are meticulous in their actions, checking and rechecking that any setup was done correctly.   During downtime at the studio, they continue to be engaged, asking questions, and studying the equipment.   They use free time at the studio to put new techniques to practice, pushing outside their comfort zone, and becoming more confident in their skills.

What NOT to do?

Unfortunately, for every promising application we receive, there are many more that fall short.  Here are a few examples of things that are almost certainly going to get your application passed up.  While it may seem like common sense, all of these examples have happened numerous times.

All quotes are from actual emails, copied exactly as they appeared.

CCing other facilities on the email: Sending an email that shows me all the other studios you’re applying to is a great way to not get a response.

Sending a blank email: Don’t just attach a resume and leave the email completely blank. I rarely even open the attachment in these cases.

• Being too casual: I know it’s the music industry, but being too casual doesn’t read well when seeking employment:

Hi I am a 22 year old musician here in NYC and was wondering if you had any internships open. I’m just your average cool guy looking for some new excitement in my life/

Don't write your introductory email without reading these tips!

Don’t write your introductory email without reading these tips!

Copy and pasting: The most common problem I see.  I don’t blame someone for using a pre-written message to make up the bulk of an email.  However, when an email is so obviously generic, and lacks any connection to my facility, it feels disingenuous.  There’s a huge difference in my reaction when I read, “your facility” and when I read “Terminus”:

Dear Sir, My name Is (removed) And I’m a recent (removed) Graduate.I’m also looking For an Internship position At your establishment,with in this email You will find my Cover letter and resume attached 

Using another studio’s name: Yes, this has happened more than once.  I’ll receive an email telling me how excited they would be to work at the facility up the road.

I’m wondering if you are looking to hire any interns this quarter to

help you at Electric Lady.

I am looking for a possible internship not even necessary for credits at Avatar Studios.

Poor grammar and typos:  I try to overlook this to a point, but an email with too many errors portrays a lack of effort. There is really no excuse for not proof-reading.  If English isn’t your first language, I would suggest asking someone to read through your application first to help.

What does help?

The little things really do go a long way, and taking the time to put in a little extra effort speaks volumes about an applicant.  If I feel like you honestly want to be a part of our team, I’m far more inclined to give you that opportunity.   Here are a few things that I would encourage you to do when composing your email.

Use my name: An email that starts off using my name or the name of the studio manager engages me much faster. Most facilities will list the name of their studio manager or owner online and tracking that information down shouldn’t be difficult. You could even call the studio and ask.

In addition, use the studio’s name.  Make it clear that you’re applying for a position with us, not just any studio.   Make us feel special!

Why Us?:  Tell me why you want to work specifically at our studio.  What makes our facility interesting to you?

• Why You?: Don’t sell yourself short!  Tell me why we need you.  Intrigue us!  Here is an an email I recently received from an applicant looking for a position with us:

No nonsense, just a sensitive trained ear seeking employment as an audio engineer, and/or other capacity with Terminus.

I have good judgement, a strong work ethic, and have a great understanding of recording session etiquette. I am capable of working long hours and willing to perform all the tasks necessary to make a session run smooth and give the clients exactly what they need. The numerous sessions I have assisted on have given me the opportunity to show how dynamic, discrete, and capable I am in any studio situation.

Do some homework: This can pertain to the interview process as well, but do a bit of research on the studio, and reference that in your email.  You can reference the studios philosophy, design, or specific gear.   Here are some examples I’ve pulled from various applications. 

“I’m interested in how you’ve integrated analog gear with the digital system.”

“I have experience on SSL and Neve consoles, but would love to learn my way around the System 5.” 

“I have always wanted to work with real Pultec’s and not just the plugins!”  

Attach a clean resume and cover letter: It might be the music business and things might appear more casual but a well-formatted document still speaks to your professionalism and dedication. There’s plenty of Websites that can help with this.  Keep it relevant and concise.

Lastly, I realize you may be sending out lots of these emails, so having a template that you paste into an email makes sense, but take the time to add a few lines that relate directly to the studio you’re emailing.  Taking those extra few minutes will certainly pay off.

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  • Dave

    Great article! I would have loved to have had this advice when I was looking for an internship. I think anyone seeking an internship would benefit from the tips you discussed. My biggest problem was that after working in other fields, I had no idea how to dress for an interview at a studio. Oh, and it’s DJ Khaled. With an ‘E’ (sorry I couldn’t help myself).

  • HappyEmployee

    This is awesome, very helpful! What are your thoughts on an online internship? Something like http://www.myrecordinginternship.com ?

  • Camila Catriman

    You don’t find this type of advice just in any article,very helpfull, interesting and great advice!

    Thanks

  • Mallory

    This was so useful. This article may be a few years old, but I recently came across this and used every piece of advice to a T. I’ve received replies from many of the studios I’ve emailed and they all were appreciative of my well written letter and a lot of good opportunities have been presented. 🙂