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Daniel Imaña is a sound engineer and producer living in Brooklyn, New York. He has been working in the music industry in New York City for over six years. He is also the drummer and producer of the indie-rock band The Tryptics. Read on as Daniel gives TeaTime-Mag an exclusive insider’s look at this unconventional industry.
Text and photographs courtesy of: Daniel Imana      Country: United States

was once told by a friend who was a recording engineer that working in the music industry was more of a lifestyle than a job. I thought this sounded cool at the time, but never paid too much attention to it. Later, I would understand much better exactly what he meant.

the no-sleep look
I am originally from La Paz, Bolivia. Being a drummer and a music lover, I decided to move to Nashville, Tennessee, for college where I majored in music-recording with an emphasis on production and technology. In college, I found myself working on a very interesting schedule: we had classes during the day and the studios were available for booking after 8pm. We had the option to book 4-hour sessions from 8pm to 12am, 12am to 4am, and 4am to 8am. So at the college, it was easy to recognize the music-recording major students because of their tired, no-sleep look. After graduation, I moved to NYC and got lucky landing a job at a great recording studio.

a “make it happen” attitude
At first, I got hired at Sony Music Studios as a general assistant. The general assistant is the person responsible for assisting any and all the sessions happening at the studios. The job can range from “doing a run” to the store and getting the special drink Beyoncé likes, to getting the right gear for a session, to engineering a recording session if needed. Whatever the task would be, you had to be ready and “make it happen“.

Everyone who begins at Sony tries to move up the ladder and make connections in order to develop a career. Producer and sound engineer Andy Manganello emphasizes the importance of making connections in the industry, saying that “One thing that has remained constant [in the music industry] is the need for networking. When Sony Music Studios was thriving, artists would ‘run into’ each other in the hallways and something great and collaborative would come out of it. Indy artists and producers have to stay connected in whatever capacity to move the business and the artistry forward. Everything from passing on gig tips to helping record a vocal – you have to be open and willing to share in order to succeed and to get people thinking about you and your talents. Being open and supporting each other’s endeavors is much more productive and will create more opportunities for work and collaborative art.”

an unpredictable schedule
I spent a large part of my time at the studios, easily clocking between 60 to 80 hours a week, however, my schedule was never the same. In a session, you would usually show up a few hours before the client was supposed to arrive to set up the equipment. Once the client arrived (usually a few hours after his expected arrival time) the flow of the session was also unpredictable. It could go from a quick vocal session where the artist comes to work alone and leaves a couple of hours later, to an 18 hour session where the artist, friends and entourage come by to eat, drink, hang out, leaving at 5am after recording vocals for a song for only an hour.

Every week was different and I found myself sleeping at the studio’s couch multiple times. Says guitarist and producer Gerardo Giraldo, “From the day I decided to be a musician I’ve never had a schedule. A recording session or a concert are things for which one must be ready at any time. In my case, as a guitarist and producer, I had to learn how to be versatile so I can move easily to any type of gig that may arise.”

recognizing opportunity
Due to a terrible time for the economy and the music industry, Sony Music Studios closed its doors a couple of years after I started working there, leaving us all without a job. The facility was going to be demolished and turned into luxury apartments, so all studios were completely dismantled and all the equipment was sold. We got offered great deals and many of us found an opportunity to get the tools we needed to be able to keep on working independently.

running 24/7
A couple of months later, a friend of mine and I found ourselves opening up a small recording studio in Manhattan. Working independently was a new experience for us. We had to work hard not only in the recording and production of the music, but also in finding the clients to work with. We had the studio running almost 24 / 7. In our efforts to be more effective, we created shifts for every day of the week so that we could both use the room and make the most out of it. I would come in the afternoon and stay past midnight most of the time.

I learned to fully appreciate brunch time and really got to see NYC after midnight, as it became my routine when going home. After two years, we ended up moving the studio to a different location in Park Avenue and had it there for about one more year before we realized that having a studio in Manhattan wasn’t the best idea at the time. Seeing major music studios in the city close gave us a hint. My partner and I decided to close our studio and do work as freelancer engineers instead.

freelance focus
I now live in Brooklyn, NY. I rent a loft and have built a production studio here where I live and work. I spend most of my time working and producing other people’s music and also working, playing, and producing my own band The Tryptics. I have much more control of my time and schedule now, but I find myself working on a very similar schedule as before. Every week’s schedule is different depending on the project that I am working on and the availability of my clients. Even when working on my own band’s music I find myself working late into the next day’s morning. I am not sure if it has to do with feeling more “inspired” during the evenings and nights, or simply because that’s the way I learned how to work and got used to doing things in college. I feel very focused when the sun has gone down and have no trouble staying up all night working on a song.

The lifestyle my friend was talking about when referring to working in the music industry makes a lot more sense now. In the words of another industry insider, mastering engineer Julian Silva, “After all these years working in my own mastering studio, I couldn’t see myself having a fixed schedule and working a 9-to-5 job.”


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Easy Summary

I was once told by a friend who was a recording engineer that working in the music industry was more of a lifestyle than a job. I thought this sounded cool at the time, but never paid too much attention to it. Later, I would understand much better exactly what he meant.

the no-sleep look
In college, I majored in music-recording. I worked on a very interesting schedule: we had classes during the day and used the studios after 8pm, from 8pm to 12am, 12am to 4am, and 4am to 8am. So it was easy to recognize the music-recording students because of their tired, no-sleep look.

a “make it happen” attitude
I got hired at Sony Music Studios as a general assistant. The general assistant is responsible for assisting all the sessions happening at the studios. Whatever the task would be, you had to be ready and make it happen.

an unpredictable schedule
At the studios, my schedule was never the same. Every week was different and I slept on the studio’s couch many times.

running 24/7
I opened up a small recording studio with a friend in Manhattan. Working independently was a new experience for us. We kept the studio open almost twenty four hours a day. To be effective, we created shifts for every day of the week so that we could both use the room and make the most out of it. I would start work in the afternoon and stay past midnight most of the time. I learned to love brunch time and really got to see NYC after midnight, as it became my routine when going home.

 

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Not your typical 9-to-5 job

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Not your typical 9 to 5 job.

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