AES Section Meeting Reports

Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences - May 23, 2022

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The CRAS AES chapter was delighted to welcome Jason Weiner, CRAS alumnus and President/CEO of Crowded Head Industries Inc. Jason began his presentation by expressing his heartfelt excitement over returning to CRAS. After polling students on their place in the program and what they seek to accomplish, he posed the following question, "What are you going to encounter when you get out there?" By narrating his own journey, he hoped to arm students with a realistic idea of what to anticipate when beginning their post-CRAS careers. 

For Jason, CRAS is where his path began. He had previously played in bands and worked in radio, but this school is where he truly decided to focus on sound for a living. The instructors provided him with a wealth of information, but he understood that at the end of the day, he was the responsible party—he had to translate that foundation into a career. While students may erroneously believe the lessons end at 12th Cycle, the truth is that you never stop learning. The adventure has just begun.

Jason drew attention to what he calls the three "superpowers of audio": kindness, responsiveness, and work ethic. These attributes more than any other, he said, will endear you to coworkers and employers. He claimed that there are no shortcuts to success; you must maintain the hustle and put in the work if you wish to make it. Taking risks is the name of the game. If you aren't willing to take chances, you restrict your opportunity. If you fail, if you take a hit, then just, "...dust yourself off and move forward." Jason believes that he's learned more from his losses than he's learned from his triumphs. Failure showed him what he was made of. It's not about how hard you can hit; it's about how hard you can take a hit and keep pressing on. He stressed that, "You can't blame anyone for your failures. The only person that can stop you is you." 

Jason went on to detail his personal history. In 2006, he was a 20-year-old living out of a van, having performed in the same band for a decade. At one point he experienced an epiphany. He decided this would be his final tour and prepared to venture cross-country to attend CRAS. Upon arriving, he immediately went to look for a job. When he wasn't tearing open boxes and stocking shelves, he was at CRAS absorbing everything he could and booking studios at every chance he had. Jason remembered several intelligent classmates that excelled academically at the Conservatory. While they may have been "book smart," they never took the time to apply that knowledge. Not coincidentally, only one person he knows from his time at CRAS remains in the industry. He underscores that GPA is irrelevant in the real world. The only thing anyone cares about in the industry is whether you can do your job. Will this person show up on time and ready to work?. Is this person going to say the wrong thing in front of the wrong person at the wrong time and cost him a job? Are they willing to learn? Are they humble? Can they take direction? Do they know what a finder window is? (The audience erupted with laughter.)

Jason recalled how he acquired his ideal internship through sheer audacity, introducing himself to the studio despite its advertised unwillingness to take on students. After an impromptu conversation and studio tour, they promised to create a position just for him. Upon starting the job a month later, he finally understood the lessons his father taught him growing up with a family business: work ethic is everything. It's what made him stand out. "When you get started on your internship, there's no such thing as downtime," he said. "When you're done with your tasks, you take on another. You find a broom, you brew coffee, you make sure that you do everything you need to do to get to the place that you want to be." Jason emphasized that when the internship ends, they're under no obligation to retain you. They'll dismiss you if you haven't made an impression. The goal is to get them to ask you back, or alternatively, recommend you to someone else. Interns should show interest and positivity. Entitlement will be met with dismissal. 

Expanding upon his internship experience, Jason recounted how the person that hired him arranged for his next opportunity in Nashville. According to him, it was the "coolest job" he had ever had up until that point in his life. He was responsible for the transmission of deliverables: the multitrack sessions, stems, and mixes for finished albums. These assets are what labels use to monetize—and remonetize--their material. Jason described "assets" as the worth of a company. Their importance cannot be overstated, and they're difficult to obtain if they aren't secured right away. He described the experience of working with major artists, some of which he idolized growing up, as surreal. This job enabled him to take care of his family and proved to him that everything he endured was worth it. 

Jason then pivoted to the particulars of deliverables in the audio industry. He mentioned that before Pro Tools, assets were provided on tape. Analog was straightforward—digital assets are not. Disk allocation errors, file verification, and mislabeling (or a lack of labeling) can complicate the process. He pulled up an example of a bad project, highlighting issues such as missing files and unnecessarily dense sessions with extraneous playlists. To contrast this, Jason transitioned to a proper session that is appropriately organized. He repeated that this is highly important; improper deliverables can cost companies both money and clients. 

Circling back to his job in Nashville, Jason discussed the importance of making friends with as many people as possible; not "networking," but genuine friendships. These connections translate into lifelong advocates and an endless source of opportunity. When Jason decided to start his own business, one such connection, the owner of one of the labels he was working with, offered the seed money. 

It's at this point that Jason spoke of the adversity he faced in his career, reiterating that no one is immune. He lost his best friend, lost money producing a record for one of his favorite bands, and discovered that his wife had cancer after giving birth to twins. Thankfully his wife pulled through, but his troubles were far from over. A business partnership (co-owning their own studio) with one of his closest friends turned sour when he discovered that friend's fraudulent activities. This upended Jason's life. Owning a professional studio was a lifelong dream of his, but it was time to move on. He moved back west and redoubled his focus on Crowded Head. In that time, he attracted more jobs than ever before. Jason contends that if you can take losses and remain committed, you will be prepared for anything. 

Going into business for himself, he said, was the best thing he could have possibly done, and strongly encourages students to consider that path. He said that CRAS teaches everything you need to know to be entrepreneurs in the industry. For Jason, it allowed him the freedom to do everything he could possibly want. He loves what he does and anticipates checking off the next bullet points on his bucket list. "At the end of the day, we all want to be satisfied," said Jason, "We all want to do the things that make us happy. I'm 42 years old now, and for me, it feels like I'm just getting started. I don't think I could have done any of this had I not decided to come here and put in the work." 

With those closing remarks, he opened the floor to questions involving family, the future of digital file management, and the importance of social skills. 

CRAS AES wishes to extend its gratitude to Jason Weiner for taking the time to share his invaluable experience and insight with us. We hope to see him again soon!

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