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Starting Over At 51

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Don Hunter
Starting Over At 51
on Jul 25, 2008 at 1:30:21 am

Hello My Name is Don Hunter.
I need your help – The recording community – to help me find a new direction for my recording career.
I am 51 and have been recording music since 1980. I have had my own recording studio business off and on during the years as well as freelanced at small independent studios.
I was making a small amount of money with a personal studio for many years but I burnt out and have stopped since 2001.
I am a bit confused. I always wanted to work at a big studio like fantasy out here on the west coast, The Plant, Fantasy… but I believe these are hard to get into and positions are hard to come by and it seems that they are not doing as well as they used to either.
On the other side it seems like everyone has a home studio and are using the big studios just for tracking.
I know there are many students coming out of tech schools that are fully certified ready to start and they are in line ahead of me especially at my age.
I have been working with Pro tools since 2000 and Digital Performer years before that. I may not know all the tricks and tweaks But I can mix pretty well with Pro Tools. But I feel that I don’t have all the skills that studios look for because I’ve never been certified. Is certification a major qualification?
I decided to try video editing and I have Video Production Certificate from City College.
I have tried to keep up with the new software that’s out there and I have the new Mac Pro with Pro Tools 7.4 and am thinking of getting a Pro Tools 101 certification. Also I have Final Cut Pro.
I have a web site and a myspace page but I am not quite sure how to market them.
Where is the audio work these days? How do you find work, how do you find projects for game sound, video soundtracks, Vo, vocal tracking. I am not sure where to look or who to call.
At my age should I try to get into a commercial facility or should I try to restart my personal studio.? I need someone who is currently having success to advise me if you would be so kind.
Don Hunter

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Ty Ford
Re: Starting Over At 51
on Jul 25, 2008 at 11:29:25 am

Hello Don and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

This is pretty off the grid for this forum, but we all find ourselves at these crossroads from time to time. Most of us here have reinvented ourselves several times. It can be disorienting especially if it's the first time.

If getting certified is what gets you hired where you are, get certified. I certainly won't do you any harm.

Where's the work? It's out there. Your people skills are as important as your technical and aesthetic skills. There's no way to tell where you are on that scale. I know several really smart audio guys with bad attitudes. They end up shooting themselves in the foot most of the time. Not saying this is you, just pointing out the less obvious. Maybe an attitude adjustment is in order.

As weird as this may sound, sometimes being brutally honest with yourself and asking for help from whatever force you may believe in works. There is energy around us all of the time. If you can tune into it, things happen.

You can burn out for any number of reasons. Could be this is not what you were meant to do (anymore), to you have failed to realize that the work you used to do isn't there in the form you've become accustomed to seeing.

There was this experiment with mice in a maze. The researchers faithfully put cheese in the same spot for a while. All the mice found it. Life was good. Then the researchers moved the cheese. A lot of mice kept coming back to the same spot looking for the cheese. Over time, some mice figured it out and started looking elsewhere. We can learn from this. Part of you has figured out the cheese has been moved. You have already started your migration into video. That's a very good sign. Don't doubt yourself. Pay attention to what's going on around you. Get out there. Talk with people, not just in forums, but others.

When someone asks me what I do for a living, I say I'm a hunter-gatherer. When they question that, I tell them that almost every day I get up and look for new opportunities. Symbolically, I go out and pickup the first rock I see. Anything under there for me? No? Look, there's a rock over there. Anything under there for me? Well there's something, but what is it and what do I do with it? Eat it, put it in the virtual or financial bank, give it to someone else I know may have been looking for one of these. Move on. That's the life of the hunter-gatherer.

If you've looked under every rock where you are and find absolutely NOTHING, then it's time to move on. If you find things but don't know what to do with them, you need to start thinking differently.

You don't sound like you've been working a 9-5 job. That's good. Many 9-5 folks are ill-equipped to be hunter-gatherers. It freaks them out when they don't have a job to go to. I think you're probably more than halfway there. It takes a leap of faith. Not everyone can do that.

Taking a leap of faith means taking chances. You may or may not end up on your feet...this time. Next time maybe you will. The important things to hold to your heart what you learn from your mistakes and that it takes less energy to change the course of an object in motion than to put that object into motion.

Start every day being open; asking,"What's out there for me? What do I do with this day?"

Staying open requires a LOT of energy at first. Most people aren't open at all. They are in a rut because predictable behavior and responses require less energy. You will feel tired. That's OK. Sleep well, eat well, get up the next and ask the same questions again.

Let your brain play with creative and productive thoughts. I find the 10-20 minutes or so as I go to sleep and just after I wake up are fertile ground. Try using that time to exercise your thoughts, come up with new ideas, let things occur to you. Don't bear down. Keep it light and fun.

Let me know how that works for you. Thanks for letting me share this stuff. Pass it forward.


Ty Ford


Ty Ford

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide

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David Jones
Re: Starting Over At 51
on Jul 25, 2008 at 6:12:38 pm

Hi Don-

You're right...everybody DOES have their own recording studio at home. More has changed in the audio and video business in the last ten years than at any other time. In fact, I know a recording engineer who works at a triditional recording studio and does some big-time stuff, but also has his own "home" recording setup and does that on the side as well.

The college I went to (and have returned to), has revamped its media technology and filmmaking degrees to keep up with the industry. Gone are seperate programs for filmmaking, television, and sound recording production. Now, they're all combined into, more or less, one area of study.

It sounds like you are doing the right thing by getting up on the latest technology; now it's about owning the right gear and marketing yourself. I also think the fact you have experience will go a long way. This is the type of business where experience matters.

When I say, "owning the right gear" I mean having the tools that are considered industry standard. If you don't have what the client wants, you won't be getting many calls.

When it comes to marketing yourself, it's all about the internet now. Sites like, will let you list yourself and look at job postings. There may be others like these more geared toward the audio recording industry as well.

I hope this helps. The real question is what do you really want to do? Keep an open mind about what area of recording you want to go into. But keep in mind that it is a business, and if you're not making (or can't make) money where you are, look into where the work is you want to do.

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Mark Barroso
Re: Starting Over At 51
on Jul 25, 2008 at 11:35:02 pm

I'm a week shy of 50 myself and I'm about a year into re-inventing myself as a filmmaker. I still do audio ENG work, however.

It's not clear to me if what niche of sound work you want to do, but don't expect any help from other soundmen in your area. They will view you as a competitor and don't want to see you succeed. The advice to "find out what your clients needs" is good, but also be up front with them. I shot some friends weddings for free just for the practice and also my first doc. Don't bullshit clients about your experience level and explain why you're giving them a deal. I have a few people I do this for just to keep my skills sharp.

That said, if you sell yourself cheap you will always be thought of the Cheap Soundman and you won't make a living.

Spend the money for good gear, but also look for the used stuff. Lots of bargains out there.

Good luck!

FCP 4.5 /
OS 10.4.9 /
1Ghz G4 powerbook + 1 G ram /
Daisy chained: LaCie FW 400 150 GB and G-tech 500 HD
G-Tech Quad 750GB connected by eSATA PCMCIA card
playback deck: Pan dv2500

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Steve Wargo
Re: Starting Over At 51
on Jul 31, 2008 at 7:35:12 am

Join organizations in your area. Meet people. Network.

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
2-Sony EX-1 HD .

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