SSR Success Story - Dave Phillips, Recording Engineer

Dave Phillips

Recording Engineer

Music Production & Sound Engineering

Dave Phillips studied at SSR back in our old school on Tariff Street, graduating in 2005 from our Audio Engineering Techniques & Technology course (now called Music Production & Sound Engineering). After graduating, Dave worked in various parts of the UK and began building a varied career in recording and production, education, studio management, record labels, and more.

We recently caught up with Dave and asked him about his time at SSR during the Tariff Street days, what he’s been up to since leaving the course, and what advice he has for today’s audio students.

Dave Phillips

“The Audio Engineering Techniques and Technology course was a part time thing, 2 nights a week, and I loved it. As a slightly older student, I was a little more engaged than I perhaps would have been when I was younger, with an ambition to become a recording engineer. Everything I was taught was magic, and the tutors - Martin Desai, Chris Power and Rob Magoolagan - were friendly and inspiring.

When I graduated from SSR, I was working as an entertainment host in Blackpool working 4 days a week for the equivalent wage of a business manager - I stuck that out for a while and moved back to Southampton when I got interested in buying into a franchised music school. I set up a small home studio that I worked in while I ran the music school a couple of days a week, and became a resident DJ for the Reflex and Flares nights in Southampton.

I had a few clients in the studio; recording simple demos, etc., as well as a seasonal gig with a school recording company - going into schools and recording choirs. It’s not glamorous work but it paid pretty well; it allowed me to upgrade my gear and practice. And it was regular.

When the financial crisis hit, I took the decision to close and was subsequently sought out as a recording engineer with an expertise in Pro Tools to teach music tech in a local college. I taught recording techniques for a bit before landing a full time job as a course coordinator. I was in that job for a year before landing the Centre Manager’s chair.

While I was working as a manager, I was given the chance to do a distance learning degree with the College which I could tailor to my own desires; I completed a production module, a performance module and I geared my professional project towards building a studio business. This gave me some focus on what I wanted to do with my studio at home and I set about building what was to become White Room Studio.

I didn’t really have the funds to throw at a premises, so I made the decision to initially base myself at home. I figured that I could record everything I needed in one or 2 rooms at home and if I needed bigger space for drums or loud guitars, I’d rent a space for a client on an ad hoc basis.

So I was running the music college, teaching a little, running a busy band, and recording people in the evenings and at weekends. On top of that, I was also asked to write some course material for the music college. Thankfully I’ve got a very understanding Mrs!

In 2014 I had to make decisions on financial cuts to the college; rather than make 4 members of staff redundant I chose to take a pay cut and reduced my work hours just to keep things ticking over. To make up the funds though, I went back to teaching and was travelling to Birmingham from Southampton each week.

All this made me take a look at my life, and I wondered why I wasn’t making music my full time work, so I decided to give up teaching altogether and focus all my energies on my studio and production work with the two bands I’d been building. I also started doing some freelance work; managing a few bands for cruise ships, which brings a little extra money in.

I’ve since launched a record label, Colour Records, which aims to produce and promote local singer/songwriters with a focus on musicality. And I’ve written an e-book advising students how to make sure they start working as musicians as soon as they graduate. It’s called ‘The Music Student’s Guide to being a Music Student’.

SSR set me up in a couple of ways. The course made me aware of studio technology and techniques and gave me a solid grounding in the subject. I think these kinds of skills are built up over long periods of time, longer than in a music course, but I certainly wouldn’t have been able to do any of the things I do now, or know the things I know without it!

SSR also helped me understand how a good college should be run, and how good lessons should be taught, and I always harped back to SSR when I was running and teaching in the music college. I also used SSR as a benchmark template for when I was trying to help develop the music academy’s product - especially when we started delivering music tech degrees. I still keep my SSR folder in the studio and refer to it when I need to! You’d be surprised how often it’s come into use.

To echo some of the sentiments in my book, one piece of important advice for anyone taking a course in music production is ‘prepare to diversify’. You can see I’ve got my fingers in many pies; it keeps the money coming in, especially if one of them happens to disappear for whatever reason.

I think being able to develop a proper career as a full time professional engineer takes a long time and you need to have other income streams that bring in money, but also allow you to work and practise in the studio as much as possible. Collaborate with everyone. Be prepared to work for free or very little pay in the first couple of years until you’ve got something of worth behind you.

I would also advise while you’re studying to get into a studio as an apprentice as soon as possible, and plan to stay there way past the course finishing. The whole ‘can I help out and make the tea?’ days are largely in the past, but with the right people in the right place, finding an opportunity to work while continuing to learn would be a huge advantage to anyone.”


Wise words indeed!

We would like to thank Dave for taking the time to share his experiences and thoughts with us and we hope you enjoyed reading his story.

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