Meeting Topic: CRAS Women of Audio (CRAS WOA) Zoom Meeting with CRAS Grad Samantha Kossoff
Moderator Name: CRAS Instructor and WOA Faculty Advisor Nancy Scharlau-Murman
Speaker Name: Manager of Super Sound Studios in ATL Samantha Kossoff
Meeting Location: Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences, Gilbert Az via Zoom
The Women of Audio were pleased to welcome CRAS alumni Samantha Kossoff to speak via Zoom. Samantha is the current manager of Super Sound Studios in Atlanta, GA. The event was hosted by CRAS instructor Nancy Scharlau-Murman, who started by asking Samantha to give some background into her journey from internship to where she is today.
"I decided to go to Atlanta for my internship because I'm from New Jersey so I didn't want to be too far from home, like all the way in LA... I also didn't want to be in New York because it was really expensive at the time... I've always loved rap music so I decided to go to Atlanta."
After deciding on Atlanta, Samantha began researching the studios in the area and came across Silent Sound Studios. Immediately, she was taken aback by the the beauty of the studio. This admiration was enhanced when Samantha discovered the industry reputation that the studio had.
"People were calling it the best studio in Atlanta, if not the country." This information was not easy to come by for Samantha, however. According to her, the owner of the studio, Them "TK" Kidd, was very respectful of the privacy of their clients. "It was actually hard to find information, I had to dig really deep, which just showed me how the owner really valued privacy and security."
Silent Sound Studios was the first place that Ms. Kossoff interviewed at for her internship, and she was hired the same day. During her time as an intern, it became clear to TK that she had a much better knowledge of the SSL console than the other interns. He began to quiz her on the console, much like the type of quizzes that she had become accustomed to during her time at CRAS. This extensive knowledge allowed her to be promoted at a very fast pace.
"Seniority wasn't really considered over who was being outstanding. We had some conversations about me becoming the Head Assistant because our Head Assistant at the time was actually moving to Trinidad."
During these discussions, Samantha became aware that TK had been trying sell the studio for a few years and he had been made an offer. TK let her know that he would put in a good word for her if she wanted to stay at the studio rather than having to look for a new job. She decided to stay, the studio was renamed Super Sound Studios, and because of her extensive knowledge and work ethic, she was offered the manager position for the studio.
"In my head I had envisioned myself going from intern to assistant to engineer. So when I was offered the job, I was actually a little conflicted.... Does this mean I might have to give up the path I saw myself on and make some compromises? At the end of the day I decided, this is only going to add to my experience, it's going to add to my resume, it's going to give me more opportunities in the future... So I decided to take the job, and I ended up loving it... I've been doing that ever since."
Nancy then asked Samantha to describe her duties as a studio manager. Ms. Kossoff explained that most of her responsibilities revolve around staff management: interviewing, hiring, training, and unfortunately the occasional termination. She also communicates with labels and A&R to make sure that any items that are necessary for the session are obtained, such as rider items or other supplies necessary. Samantha also works on sessions, stating: "A lot of our day sessions are kind of low profile and not as service heavy so sometimes we won't call in an assistant for those sessions, we'll just have the client service members and management handle those." Furthermore, she occasionally will book sessions, but typically the first line of communication for bookings is handled by the chief executive.
Samantha explained that her current schedule is much more consistent than it used to be. Initially, Samantha was the only manager. This meant that she had to pull 24 hour shifts on several occasions. Now, the studio has a day shift and night shift manager. "I don't have to be at work until 12, and I leave work at 6. I work Sunday through Thursday. So while I don't have a normal Saturday/Sunday weekend, I still kind of do have a weekend on Fridays and Saturdays. I love my schedule because it gives me a lot of free time to do other things. The fact that we have a day shift management and a night shift management really helps."
Nancy asked Samantha to give a quick run-through of what Super Sound Studios has to offer. Samantha described their main room, Suite A, as "Our pride and joy." It was designed by Russ Berger, and many have cited it as the "Best Sounding Room in the Country." It houses an SSL 4000 G, as well as a fully stocked credenza with industry standard gear, both vintage and modern. The live room is large enough for a full band, plus it has a sliding glass door that can be used for isolation.
As Samantha describes it, all of the other rooms at Super Sound Studios are floating rigs. This includes their B-room, named Suite T. This room's construction was recently completed as a mini A-room in both layout and acoustics. Also available is their Terrace which is not a full live room like Studio A and Suite T, rather it is a room for one vocalist. This is also the concept behind the Cut II. The Cut is a mixing suite with recording capabilities, however there is no booth, so headphones must be worn by the engineer to do so. There is also a media suite that can be used for podcasts, as well as executive meetings.
Nancy then inquired what Samantha looks for when hiring an intern. "I would say the biggest thing would be reliability. If you can show up, that's the bare minimum... You can't prove yourself if you're not there." Samantha also noted punctuality, consistency, staying humble, having integrity and an eagerness to learn.
Super Sound Studios has recently started an apprenticeship program in addition to their interns. An apprenticeship is less strict on requirements because they are there for extra assistance. They don't need the same amount of fundamental knowledge as an intern would need, such as proper mic setup, patching, a basic understanding of Pro Tools and outboard gear. "I've noticed that the people who come to work for us from CRAS are definitely at an advantage when it comes to that versus our other interns that may have come from other schools. (Going into my internship,) I knew quite a bit more than the other interns about analog gear."
Super Sound Studios has two shifts, a day shift, 10AM-10PM, and a night shift, 8PM-8AM. "I always recommend to people that you have the availability to work at least one day shift and one night shift per week, just so you get a more well-rounded experience. I've seen with our interns that only have availability for one shift a week... They kind of miss a lot and they're just not around to be getting regular updates. We have a group chat that we always communicate updates on, but people don't always remember to check it... Especially if you're only there one day a week." On the other hand, working too many hours as an intern can have negative effects as well. "I always tell people that it's probably not a good idea to work more than four shifts a week. Especially if the majority of those shifts are overnight, it's going to really mess up your sleep schedule. If you're working all night at our place, you can't do anything the next day. If you're getting home at ten in the morning after being there all night, you're going to have to go to sleep. It can make it hard for people to have other jobs and other commitments if they're working more than four days a week."
When asked to share any times during her internship that she received any positive feedback that stood out, Samantha recollected: "Something that really helped my confidence was that the owner started calling me a rockstar." Samantha has carried on this tradition, noting: "The fact that Silent Sound was such a welcoming place and was open to acknowledging everyone, that's something that I try to do now. I feel like it really does boost confidence and make you want to strive to do better." Many of the people currently working at the studio were also there when it was Silent Sound. "I joke sometimes that we're kind of like a cult, like that's how tight-knit we've become. Everybody is super supportive."
Ms. Kossoff went on to explain the distinctive differences in the Atlanta music scene as opposed to other locations. "Atlanta is mainly hip-hop. With hip-hop comes a certain culture. Something that I like to make people aware of before they accept a job with us is that there are certain things about studio life in Atlanta that are very different from studio life in other places. It can be kind of shocking, quite frankly, if you've never been exposed to that kind of stuff. Something that's really prevalent in hip-hop culture is guns, so unfortunately some of our clients do bring guns. It's mainly for protection or maybe if someone's trying to shoot a music video... Also a lot of our clients like to do drugs... I just think that it's important for everybody that's interested in coming to Atlanta to be aware of those things before you move all the way out here and then find out about it after the fact. Most people in our area are aware of it, and actually welcome it. Me growing up in New Jersey, I was never exposed to any of that stuff. So it was kind of a culture shock for me."
Samantha described the Atlanta music industry as primarily hip-hop and films. Nancy asked if Samantha noticed the scene growing. "Honestly I feel like the scene is growing, but the diversity is decreasing. Atlanta used to be a hub for all sorts of music, and now it's mainly hip-hop." Atlanta is also growing in population, which inevitably is increasing the cost of living.
"When inflation hit us, it hit all at once within the last year or two... Things used to be so cheap when I first moved here, like incredibly cheap. Now it's almost equivalent to living in New York."
Towards the end of the meeting, Samantha recollected on her fond memories of her time at CRAS. Ms. Kossoff was a member of the mentorship program while attending CRAS, and she noted helping her classmates succeed as one of her fondest memories. Another cherished memory she mentioned was when she got the chance to see her father play the drums for the first time during her 5th cycle project. "He used to be a jazz session musician, and I had never heard my dad play drums. He had to stop years ago before I was born because he was having really bad hearing problems. That was the first time I ever saw my dad play drums. The project went well, and it was my first time operating a console by myself. It was just a really great experience."
Written By: CRAS AES Secretary - William Walton