Abbey Road Institute students awarded internship Down Under
Have you ever thought about doing an internship abroad?
A growing number of employers and companies value candidates that have gained cross-cultural work experience. This is no exception within the music industry. But how do you obtain international practice? In this article, we’ll be exploring the benefits of doing an internship abroad. Abbey Road Institute London graduates Zak Baker and Rebekah Arnold had the chance to do an internship in Australia, so we’ve asked them about their time as overseas interns. Because, besides beefing up your resume, it’s also very exciting crossing the oceans.
But how do you land a studio internship?
In general, internships can be a challenge to secure these days, but it’s certainly not impossible. Make sure you are prepared and be willing to try different methods. Having a solid background in audio and music production certainly helps you to get started. Eagerness to learn and work hard are the usual suspects. But eventually, it’s all about bringing value to the studio. Having different skill sets and being versatile can often give you an advantage. Therefore, it’s good to ask yourself, which other skills and attributes you bring into the organisation and position.
But sometimes a bit of luck helps, being at the right place at the right time. This was precisely what happened to Zak Baker and Rebekah Arnold, both graduated from the Abbey Road Institute in London last year. As Zak explains: “Before studying at Abbey Road Institute, I’ve been to Australia a couple of times. I always wanted to go back, so I started looking for studio’s to work for and came across Studios 301 in Sydney. That studio is amazing and just knew that this would be the place. So I’ve tried to get in contact but at a certain point decided to focus on my study and left it for a while.
Then one day while being in class at Abbey Road Institute London, the studio owner of Studios 301 walks in and mentions that they were offering internships. Can you believe that?! That felt like a dream coming true. Our lecturer mentioned that the internship was offered to the top four students in our class. So that was it, I just had to get it. Rebekah and I ended up in the top four, working very hard through lots of late nights and early mornings and were the ones that went eventually.”
It sounds like a great start and something meant to be, while at the same time it’s a good example showing that luck is something you initiate. Or using a more philosophical approach: ‘Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.’
So what are the benefits of doing an internship and what’s it like doing it abroad?
5 benefits of an internship abroad
Develop and refine your skills
At Abbey Road Institute, students are trained and prepared for a career in music production or sound engineering, covering many subject areas. From sound and music theory to mixing and mastering, from signal processing and production techniques to the principles of musicianship and studio etiquette, including practical work in real life recording sessions. All super interesting topics providing you with the fundamental skills and knowledge to kickstart and enhance your career in music. But putting it into practice without the backup of your lecturers and support staff is a slightly different ball game. An internship is a perfect time to develop your skills further and to refine them while being open to learning many new things.
As Zak explains “Going into the studio, you have to remind yourself that you don’t know everything. I believe that’s the best way to learn a lot of new things and making it even more exciting. The course is a thorough foundation to get started. You know the gear, understand the environment, know how to patch things on a patchbay for instance, which puts you in a good position when you are there, simply because you can be of help. That’s where you add value as an intern.” He adds “the bigger sessions were great. That’s when you can really help the engineer as an assistant. The studio had quite a lot of analogue gear, so during downtime, we had to go through all of them to get acquainted. There are a lot of things to do, and that’s the best part. One day you could be setting up Studio 1 for an orchestral recording and the next day be testing and taking apart the Neve 88R console then the day after you might have to set up a studio for an ADR session.”
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Learn by observation and explore a career path and a new culture
As an intern, you get an inside scoop on the industry that’s hard to learn in any classroom or from any book. You can gain skills and knowledge just by physically being in a studio environment and paying attention to your surroundings. How do employees work together and communicate? How many hours do people typically work? What are the different roles? How is the interaction with clients and external people? Just by keeping your eyes open and observe.
Another way to learn through observation is to sit in sessions or shadow an employee for a day. Just being a silent participant can give you a better understanding of how the company and/or the business operates. There are heaps to learn from that experience alone.
Being in another country with a different culture makes the learning by observing experience even more exciting and at the same time challenging. It requires some willingness though since obviously, moving to a big city and/or another country for an internship can be costly. Besides that, not everybody can uproot everything and leave. But, if you do have the means, it’s worth trying. As Rebekah did and shares with us: “The experience itself was great because I got to travel to the other side of the world and be independent. I really enjoyed exploring Sydney and being inspired by the scenery and people. The best thing about the internship for me was to see first-hand how a studio is run and live out some of the things that we were taught at the Institute for real. I learnt that a studio does more than just record music.”
Figure out what you want to do—and don’t want to do
We all have aspirations. But at the same time, questions arise like how do you accomplish them and are you really the right fit for the job? Internships are ideal for exploring this further. Make sure you match your career interests to the type of internship you do. This means; If you think you want to work in a recording studio abroad, you need to intern at a recording studio abroad, since your notion of what it’s like to work at a studio and/or in another country might be different from reality. This helps you to get a better understanding of the environment, the business, the work ethics etc. It might exceed your expectations, or it reveals certain aspects you didn’t think about before and helps you to reconsider. Either way, figuring out what type of roles you want or don’t want and where, while you’re interning, can help you find the job (and environment) that fits you.
Nevertheless, as cool as it may seem, running a studio is still very much a business—and sometimes a challenging one too. As an intern, you basically become part of the daily operation of the company. In a studio that often means you have to do any task that is required, which doesn’t always incorporate assisting in a recording session.
Rebekah explains “[As an intern] many tasks require you taking a runner role which included a fair amount of cleaning and moving stuff around. We set up and packed down sessions, prepared coffee and water for staff and clients, and on some occasions, you are sent out on food orders.”
Zak adds “There were indeed so many different roles you had to be able to do as an intern. From helping at the reception to testing gear. But I liked that part, for me the favourite thing about the internship and working in a studio environment is that every day always brought something different.
Make valuable connections
Meeting new people. This is one of the best parts of the internship. While slightly depending on the environment and culture you are in, you can initiate quite a bit from this perspective. Introduce yourself to people you don’t know and ask to learn more about their job. Spend time building relationships with your fellow interns. Even though they might feel like being your competition right now, they’re going to be your industry peers one day. You may be able to lean on them as your career develops. Stay in touch with your newly established connections, both from school and the internship, so you never get overlooked when job openings pop up. Did you know that around 70% of job openings are fulfilled through networks?
In the studio, you get the chance to work with great co-workers, but at the same time with amazing artists, producers, bands, musicians, and such. They also become part of your connections and network. Showing your skills can leave a good impression, something you can refer to when getting in contact again at a later stage in your career. Besides that, great stories make for great memories, especially when meeting and working with your favourite bands/artists.
Both Zak and Rebekah had the chance to assist in recording sessions with A$AP Rocky, Brockhampton and Skepta at Studios 301. “There were a few all-nighter sessions, which we were fortunate enough to be asked to assist, one of which was with Brockhampton, which happens to be one of my favourite groups” Zak shares with us smiling. “So that was a surreal moment. I don’t think I’ll ever forget. I’m a huge Brockhampton fan, so I knew for instance which mics they normally use for their vocals and such. The sessions were tiring, but they went really well and got to chat with the guys. I feel quite lucky.”
Get professional feedback
Getting constructive feedback on your performance throughout the internship can help you develop and sharpen your skills. When people engage with you and offer advice, they often become stakeholders in your career success and can even provide you recommendations.
So, for this, we’ve contacted Studios 301’s key staff members about their experience.
Jess Deskovic, Internship Coordinator: Zak and Becky were great additions to the team, They assisted in preparing each of the studios within the facility, greeting clients, and helping engineers set up and pack down. Amongst the day to day operations of the studio, there are many opportunities to get into the studio and learn about Studios 301s gear and standard in recording. Zak and Becky both displayed an aptitude for learning and improving on the skills they had brought over with them. At Studios 301 we try to create a positive and open environment for our interns to learn and share amongst their team members; Zak and Becky both brought great attitudes and positively contributed to the team and studio during their stay.
Ron Haryanto/ General Manager: It was a pleasure to have both Zak and Rebekah at the Sydney Studios 301 as interns. I hope they both enjoyed their stay and learned some valuable insight on how a large format studio like us works, and also took home some tremendous in-studio experiences from the sessions they were involved in. In particular the A$AP Rocky, Brockhampton and Skepta all night sessions which I know the guys got a big kick out of.
Thank you, Jess and Ron! Now that sounds like a great experience from both sides.
Rebekah and Zak both returned to the UK after their internship abroad in Australia.
Rebekah came back earlier for another internship opportunity in London at Dean Street Studios, the iconic studio previously owned by Tony Visconti and now part of the Miloco Studios network.
Rebekah explains: “I came back when I found out about the internship at Dean Street Studios. I do a few of the same tasks and also assist [more] sessions, and I feel good knowing that there is a potential future for me at Dean Street.”
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Rebekah and Zak both attended the official graduation ceremony at Abbey Road Studios last October to receive their official diploma. However, Zak was still in Sydney at that time. So how did he do this? It’s a memorable event; his mother and friends attended the ceremony and had Zak on Facetime participating, making the whole event extra special. Something we still talk about.
And for Zak, what’s next?: “The whole experience reassured me that this is what I want to do. Every single second was so much fun. When I got back I was assisting someone in his studio at and at the same time building more connections while being open for work as a runner, assistant and engineering work. My favourite music is British music, so London makes the most sense, but if it were for something in LA I would jump off immediately.”
But then, while publishing this blog article, we received an email from Zak: “My job search has gone quite well actually, I’m the assistant engineer/mixer at Blue Bell Hill Studios (also part of the Miloco Studios Network) in Kent now.” That’s great news!
Thank you Zak and Rebekah, for sharing your experiences with us! We’re looking forward to seeing your music endeavours flourish!
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More to come
We also want to thank Studios 301 for giving students this opportunity, and there are more to come! Several students from the Abbey Road Institute’s in Germany and Paris will do their internships at Studios 301 shortly, which we’ll be sharing on their social media channels for more ‘inside’ stories and valuable experiences.
About Studios 301
Studios 301 is one of Australia’s most significant recording, mixing and mastering studio complexes, with the mission to become the breeding ground for the next generation of successful engineers, producers and technicians. After an impressive relocation and reconstruction project, it now contains and offers 11 studios, digitisation services, event hire facilities, masterclasses and coworking spaces. More info on studios301.com