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Chatting to Shure24 ‘Audience Choice’ FOH engineer Hannah Brodrick

Shure24 spotlights 24 audio pioneers

Hannah Brodrick

Shure24 is an initiative launched by Shure in partnership with MixCloud, which shines a light on 24 audio innovators that are, as Hannah Brodrick – one of the featured 24 – puts it, “pushing the boundaries of audio culture and doing something interesting in the music industry”. The 24 audio creatives – working in the fields of production, podcasting, radio, audio engineering, sonic artistry and field recording – were selected by four industry-pioneering curators, one of which happened to be James Lavell (UNKLE). Lavell picked Brodrick, a live sound engineer and co-founder of the Women In Live Music organisation, as one of his chosen audio innovators and Shure selected her as a finalist. She is also one of four out of the 24 individuals to receive the ‘Audience Choice’ vote. Here, we chat with Brodrick about being part of Shure24 and her plans for this year…

Tell me more about Shure 24.

Well, one of the curators happened to be James Lavell who was someone I worked with for his band UNKLE and he chose me as one of his six people. We talked a lot and had good conversations about equality in the music industry; we had a good relationship. Then Shure chose me to be one of his nominees. And I was completely shocked about this, by the way. All the other nominees were producers and artists and I was this weird anomaly, I was the only one who was an engineer. What you won if you got enough votes was a mentorship session and a lot of promotion by Shure. I used this to bring promotion to my organisation, Women In Live Music. And I like the idea of inspiring people, maybe other women, who are trying to do the same thing but don’t have any role models and can look at me and go, “Oh cool, she’s doing it”.

Can you tell us a bit more about your background?

I started out studying Music Technology at university. I was part of the rock and metal scene in London when I was younger and spent all my money on gigs. All I wanted to do was something in the music industry, but I didn’t really know where I fitted into that. My course was really studio-based so I assumed I’d become a producer or studio engineer. After I graduated from uni a lot of my peers had home studios or had already landed an internship but I wasn’t having much luck. Funnily enough, I went to a job centre and had a really amazing advisor – at this point, I was working as a cleaner – and she tried so hard, she could see my passion and potential, and she got me an internship at a theatre. From there I started learning about live sound and how shows came together. After that, I started working in other venues in Brighton, and then about six years ago, I went to London to do a live sound course at Britannia Row. I started working for them, I moved to London and my world opened up completely. Soon after that, I started touring, doing merch, driving, and doing sound. The rest is history…

Why do you think it’s so hard to get internships at studios?

There aren’t a lot of jobs in it, especially with bedroom studios these days and people getting experience that way. When you don’t know anyone and are applying to things online without a contact, that’s difficult. It would be a lot easier to go in knowing someone. No one applies to go on tour with Iron Maiden with a CV, I only get the opportunities I do now from knowing people. If I tried to enter the industry now, even with the skills I have, it would take me five years.

Do you think there is a lack of awareness around career options in live sound?

Yeah, 100 per cent. I never even knew what a sound engineer was. But that’s the beauty of it because as sound engineers and technicians, we are lurking in the shadows. It’s a secret thing. So, I think there’s a lack of awareness and maybe we do need to be bringing these people more into the spotlight. There’s a lot of talk about producers, but with live, you don’t really have those big names. Maybe that’s the next big thing.

Do you think it’s important to get an audio education?

No, I wouldn’t say so. I’d say about 50 per cent of engineers I know have some sort of an education. Rarely a degree. Most of the time the best engineers are people who started working in a warehouse and learned that way. I only really started getting good at sound after doing it over and over again. I could read 100 books and I would not be a better sound engineer. The education side of music technology didn’t even exist more than 10 years ago, there wasn’t such a thing. So all the old engineers didn’t have an education, they just did it. When I did it, my teacher laughed at me as it was seen as a bit of a mickey mouse subject. For me, education was really important, but I think I’m an anomaly in that sense. And a lot of people that were on my course aren’t working as sound engineers.

What advice would you give aspiring live sound engineers?

One thing I wish I’d done is shadow people, that’s the best way to learn. Joining communities is great, there are so many Facebook groups where people post information. Going to trade shows is great as well. If you want to be a touring sound engineer, you’re going to have to start off doing merch and driving, tour managing, lights, or corporate stuff. It’s not a straight road.

What are some of the essential skills?

Empathy. 99 per cent of being a good sound engineer is your personality and communicating with people. You’re working with musicians, and they are interesting people – often volatile, sensitive – and you’re handling their art so you have to be really emotionally intelligent and aware. You might not be the best sound engineer in the world but if you’re a really good people person, you’ll stay on tour. People only hire people that they like. Also a willingness to learn anything that comes along. Everyday you learn something new, it’s the only way in this industry.

Do you have a favourite project or tour you’ve done this year?

Winterfylleth – they released an acoustic album last year and they did a tour. It was really cool because it was all acoustic, it was really mellow and the venues were beautiful. It was all seated. It was a weird mix of a metal crowd all sitting down, some of them having a little cry. I’m really looking forward to doing a few of those shows again, it’s something different.