I probably get 5-10 emails every month from people asking for internships at my studio, The Closet Studios, and I can safely say that 90% of these people have no idea how to ask for an internship. I'm here to help you avoid making the same mistakes and show you how to apply for studio internships without making a fool of yourself!
If you're a fan of the podcast, maybe you've heard me talk about this a little bit. In fact, I did a whole episode about this, EPISODE 108 "Studio Internships." Go check it out on your favorite podcast player website or app.
Perhaps the best way for me to show you how not to ask for internships is to show you some examples of emails I have received and explain why they are poorly written, and then later explain how to apply for an internship correctly! I have blocked out any personal information for anonymity. Take a look at this first one.
This email starts out fine, but quickly makes me grimace with statements like "I would love to intern at your studio." I know you would love to intern at my studio, but that's not the point. This person also goes on to say "I think it would be a great learning experience for me." Of COURSE it would. But that's not the point. So what is the point?
LESSON #1 - STUDIOS DON'T HIRE YOU SO THEY CAN TEACH YOU THINGS. They hire you because they need help. Yes, you will learn. Yes, I'm sure it will be fun and be a great learning experience. But I'm not here to be your teacher. I'm here to make records, and you're here to help me.
Note: This email is also a bit too casual, saying things like "I don't know if you're looking for anybody to hang around and help out" as well as the "Anyway, let me know" statement. I do, however, applaud this person for feeling confident enough to send me a link to their work - more on that later.
This one is a bit confusing to me. "I am a guitarist and aspiring to be a musician"? I'm confused here. Are you not a musician? You just said you're a guitarist. Do you mean, you want to have a career as a musician? Then why are you applying for an internship at a studio? I digress. Let's move on. "I am looking to learn as much as I can, and do whatever I need to do in order to get into the music industry." Okay, not bad. Fair statement. "I am also looking to get hired somewhere that I can get my foot in the door of the music industry so to speak." Well, not a bad statement, but it's essentially the same thing you already said...no problem, I can deal with that. "I don't know a whole lot about recording right now, but it would be amazing to get hired and work alongside someone with a lot of experience." HOLD UP.
Alright, so here we experience the same problem as Lesson 1. Of course you'd like to get hired. But saying "I don't know a whole lot about recording right now," coupled with "aspiring to be a musician," just tells me you're not exactly sure why you're emailing me.
LESSON #2 - STUDIO INTERNSHIPS ARE FOR PEOPLE ASPIRING TO BE ENGINEERS, WHO ALREADY KNOW THINGS ABOUT RECORDING. Why would I hire someone that admits to me "I don't know a whole lot about recording" and who is aspiring to "be a musician"? Sure, I'm a musician, and sure, I don't expect you to be an expert engineer by any means, but come on, don't just say it outright. For example, why would an accounting firm hire someone that says "Hi, my name is XYZ, I am aspiring to be a stock broker. I don't know a lot about accounting right now, but I'd love to work alongside someone with a lot of experience." That is how this email reads to me. Stock brokers and accountants both work with money...but they're very different jobs, just like being a musician and being an engineer are very different jobs. Again, I'm not hiring people out of the goodness of my heart to help them "break into the industry." I'm hiring someone because I need help.
Do I really need to explain this one? How can you possibly expect to get a job sending emails like this? In my opinion, the way you speak, email, text, etc., shows a lot about your character. If you can't take an extra sixty seconds to capitalize letters, use proper punctuation, and make coherent sentences, why would I trust you to handle a $4000 microphone? Oh yeah, I wouldn't. I don't even respond to emails like this.
LESSON #3 - BE PROFESSIONAL WHEN YOU ASK FOR A JOB. This goes for any job, and the music industry is no exception. I know musicians and engineers are generally laid back, but come on, this is ridiculous.
Alright, this email is formatted well, there are no grammatical errors, and the sender also attached a nice-looking resume. Bonus points for that. It does, however, read a little bit like a stock email template. No points deducted...just seems a little lifeless. This email is so close to being good, but there's one problem: the sender gives me no real reason why I should hire them.
LESSON #4 - STUDIOS NEED A REASON TO HIRE YOU. I'm not here to "prepare you for a potentially life-long career in the music business." I'm here to make records. I'm not here to teach you. I'm not here to advance your skills. I'm here to run a studio, make records, and you're here to help. Deja vu, right? Tell me about your skills. Tell me what you can do for me. Don't tell me what you want me to do for you.
Email #5 - Close but no cigar
So, this email isn't terrible, but it's not great. They give me no reason why I should hire them. Instead, they name drop a bunch of gear (and spell Neumann incorrectly) and name drop their fancy college and degree, both of which I care nothing about. I'm a bit perplexed by this statement - "I haven't recorded a ton on my own, but I am interested in learning more about the process." What in God's name did you (or your parents) just pay $40,000 per year for? You're telling me you have a 4-year-degree from a well known "recording school" and you "haven't recorded a ton on your own" and you're "interested in learning more about the process?" This reads like a first year student, not someone with a degree. It's also baffling to me that, after $160,000 of schooling, the college never taught you how to apply for an internship. Seriously, the Recording Lounge Podcast is totally free and I'm teaching it to you now. It's not that hard!
LESSON #5 - NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOUR "RECORDING DEGREE," THEY CARE ABOUT YOUR SKILLS. In fact, I'm potentially less likely to hire someone that went to school for recording, at least based on my experience. I share my opinions on this at the end of the article in the "post script" section.
Email #6 - AT LAST! THE PERFECT EMAIL!
This is quite possibly the best internship proposal email I've ever received. In fact, I hired this guy as an intern for a year. There's basically nothing wrong with it! No grammatical errors, no missing parts, no "I JUST WANT TO LEARN" statements, no begging or desperation, and no ridiculous rambling or nonsense. I know it seems simple, but it has all the elements that I'm looking for. Let's go over what makes a good email.
HOW TO ASK FOR STUDIO INTERNSHIPS CORRECTLY:
So that's it! It's really not that hard. I hope this blog has given you some things to consider about asking for studio internships. Trust me, I know it's hard out there. I have had five or six interns in the last 17 years of running a studio, fired one or two of them, and currently have an assistant. I know every studio owner has slightly different opinions and standards of what an intern actually does and what skills they need to possess, but I say it's always better to be the most skilled applicant.
With these guidelines, I wish you success in getting that studio internship you so desire! You really can "learn a lot," and I genuinely like having interns. I just hate getting poorly worded emails. :)
- Kendal Osborne
POST SCRIPT: OPINIONS ON "RECORDING DEGREES"
Disclaimer: This is my opinion, based on the last decade of experience speaking to and working with interns, students, podcast listeners, and fellow engineers. My goal is not to offend, it is simply a cautionary tale about the realities of the recording industry. The decision is yours to make.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of colleges out there trying to capitalize on talented young people and convincing them that A) a recording degree actually means something (it doesn't) and B) that you'll increase your chances of getting a job if you have a degree in "recording arts" or similar (it generally won't). In almost every other industry, this would be true; that's what college is for: teaching you things, preparing you for the workforce, giving you a certification that says you know and understand the subject material, and making you appealing to employers. Accounting firms want to see you have a degree in accounting, and that you have passed all of the necessary tests, but recording studios do. not. care.
Let me repeat that. It does not matter if you have a degree in "recording," that does not make you an audio engineer, nor does it entitle you to a job or internship, nor does it make you more appealing to studios. This is why I think recording school is a joke. Don't waste your money. Start recording on your own now and learn as much as you can. When it comes down to applying for a job, I'm going to pick the most skilled worker, not the one with a University's stamp of approval.
You don't need a degree to record music. If you went to school already, or are currently in school, I'm sorry. The hard truth is, you might have just wasted multiple years of your life learning what you could have learned in books and on the internet and just doing it yourself. The difference is that you have a fancy piece of paper and a lot of debt. If you're not paying for it yourself, don't make your parents pay for a useless degree, because a "recording arts" degree is literally just as useless as a Philosophy degree. Just because you have a philosophy degree doesn't make you a philosopher, and similarly, an audio degree doesn't make you an audio engineer. You could have taken that money went to a modest school and gotten a degree in business, accounting, electrical engineering, law, or ANYTHING useful and interesting, while recording on the side for extra cash and experience, and then have way less debt, and a backup plan in case your music industry plans fail.
Not to mention the fact that colleges around the world are spitting out thousands of graduates with useless "recording degrees" into an industry that can't support that many people wanting to become engineers. You do realize that the music industry is incredibly unstable, right? Did they not teach you that audio engineers don't make a lot of money? Did they not teach you that a huge portion of this job is about working with clients and dealing with money and time management? In fact, most "recording schools" romanticize the job as if to say you're just going to push around some faders on your SSL and get paid tons of money. That's simply not how it works, plus, you'll never get approved for a half-million dollar SSL console with all of that student loan debt! If people knew the realities of the job, they wouldn't bother going to school for it, and instead would focus all of they energy on improving their skills, becoming efficient, and learning how to handle clients, money, and time, and learning how to run a business. That's what it's all about, and it takes a lot of time. Don't waste four years so you can have a piece of paper.
Think about it - what happens after you get that degree? Ah, that's right. The same thing that happens if you have no degree at all - you have to start working with clients, building up your clientele and your reputation, and you have to start pumping out quality work. You're literally in the same boat as someone who just graduated high school, except you have a $100,000 piece of paper on your wall. I can tell you, in my 10-year career as an audio engineer, I've never been selected (or turned away) for a gig because of my college education. NEVER. I don't have a recording degree - I went to college for accounting and dropped out because I was too busy recording clients! I learned a lot about money management and business in school, but when I realized I was already doing what I wanted to do, and my reputation was starting to grow, I realized it was time to pursue recording as a career, and do so with my full attention.
Am I advocating dropping out of school? No! Can you learn a lot at school? Sure! Can you make good connections and network with people? Absolutely! Can you get experience and have great opportunities? Yes! JUST REMEMBER that you can do all of those things without "recording school." You can start doing those things now, without going into crazy debt. Get a job, buy some gear, buy some software, treat your room, and start recording. Do it until you're blue in the face. Read about it. Research it. Listen to podcasts, read books, subscribe to magazines. Live it, breathe it, practice it, get as much skill as you can, and then maybe, just maybe, you'll have a future in this business of music.
Kendal Osborne is the Host of the Recording Lounge Podcast and the Owner / Head Engineer at The Closet Studios