Advice for up-and-coming Producers and Engineers from Recording Connection mentor Sean Giovanni
Over the years, Sean Giovanni, owner and chief producer/engineer of The Record Shop in Nashville, has accumulated a pretty impressive client list that includes artists as diverse as John Legend, Tim McGraw, DJ Sinister, Brett Michaels, Randy Houser and country music duo Big & Rich. Sean Giovanni also has the distinction of being one of Recording Connection’s most effective mentors. During a recent conversation with us, he drew from his own musical and life experiences to share some solid advice for people looking to break into the recording industry.
Giovanni started learning how to play guitar and piano at an early age. However, he soon realized he wanted more from music. Simply playing piano or guitar, left him, he says, “frustrated because I wasn’t really excelling … and in my mind I had this grand vision for the way songs were arranged. So later on in life, I realized that at my core, I was really meant to be a producer and engineer, to direct and create all the sounds as opposed to just focusing on just one of them the way a musician does.”
Like countless other music producers and engineers, Giovanni had to forge his own way to make it in the music industry. This renegade way of doing things is something he strongly urges up-and-comers to adopt. “Once you have the education, rather than trying to start out right away by getting a job in a studio, if you can’t find a job in the studio, find a band you can record and bring them into the studio,” he says.
“When I moved to Nashville, I could not get a job [in a studio] anywhere but I landed a job DJing in a club downtown, and so that’s how I made a living. Then, I’d find artists and bands, and I ended up connecting with a small studio who let me use their facility after hours, and gave me free reign over the place. So I made work for myself. I found artists I could work with and brought them into the studio. When [the studio owner] saw all the business I could bring in, he started bringing me in on projects … it just kind of grew from there … I found that getting started out, if I could add value to the organization, they’re much more interested in sending me work or giving me an opportunity. If I can make them money, they’re going to want to hire me to do things.”
Giovanni also says diversity is key when it comes to getting work and getting working in the music industry. He advises new music producers and audio engineers to be as diverse as their skills and interests will take them. Again, referring back to his own experience in the industry, he says, “It’s good to have a basic knowledge of every style of music … It’s helped me in the evolution of country music, for example. My background in programming and pop tracks and hip-hop has been so valuable for me to be able to jump on this new wave of country music that’s coming out that is also very heavily programmed and has a lot of pop influences. [T]here’s not a lot of the country guys that could jump right in and do that, so I find myself getting a lot of work on that side of things because I can do both of them. I can do a straight-up country record, I can do the pop thing and I can combine them together. It’s helped me in other genres as well.”
Getting the right connections has also played a huge role in Sean Giovanni’s success as a producer/engineer. New projects cam his way after doing good work on the previous ones and often for not a lot of money. In fact, getting to work for major Nashville labels was an opportunity that came along, not when he was necessarily looking for it, but when it decided to help out a friend on a certain project. Even if the pay is low, the producer/engineer says, consider projects as the opportunities that they are rather than getting too hung up on the money part of the equation right away.
“Be open to helping people out,” Giovanni says, “recognizing the value of doing something. Even if you’re getting paid less than you think you’re worth, the value that can come from that later on is going to be exponentially more than the little bit of money that you make at first. That was my thought process starting out, and now I don’t have to worry about that at all, which is an awesome thing.”
We think so too!
Thanks Gio for all the advice! Keep on creating with The Record Shop and Balcony TV!