Victoria from Venezuela, sound engineer and director of Meraki Sound
Studied: BA in Sound Technology at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, MSc in International Business at Aston University in Birmingham
Now: Founder and Director of Meraki Sound
Victoria Masso is a bright young Venezuelan student who created her business, Meraki, to help sound engineers link up with clients and promote good quality music for us all. We spoke to her about her ambitions, and her advice for anyone aspiring to work in the music industry…
Was your future career an important part of your decision to come and study in the UK?
Yes it was. As a sound engineer you freelance most of the time – it’s almost impossible for a sound engineer to get a fixed job. If I had gone for a traditional job, it would have been either in the music business or in entertainment internationally. I did the Master’s because I knew it would help with employability.
How did your university help you to prepare for your future career?
After graduating from Liverpool I remember thinking, ‘What if, instead of being hired, I started my own thing?’ So I did an MA in international business at Aston University, and while I was there I found the BSEEN programme, which supports student and graduate entrepreneurs.
It was thanks to them I started my own company. BSEEN offers office space, funding and mentoring – it has helped me with everything. You start with a week, learning everything you need to know about how to start. It’s great: you’re in the same office as loads of people, ask questions to all of them, they’ve been through the same experience.
My university is sponsoring me at the moment, on a graduate entrepreneur visa. At Aston, it’s all about what you’re going to do with your degree afterwards – they don’t stop helping you until you get a job, especially if you’re an international student!
Victoria hard at work on the soundboard
What’s your business all about?
It’s called Meraki. It started because of me dreading the job search. I remember thinking, ‘I love my degree, but what am I going to do with it?’ I could see all my friends struggling to find jobs, so the idea is to help all the people like me, who have potential and would otherwise have to leave the UK if they can’t find a job.
The music business is tough. A lot of studios are shutting down, and even if you do get a job in a studio, you pretty much just start off serving coffee. It doesn’t feel like you’re using your full potential after your degree. So really it was being in that situation and analysing what paths people were taking, that led me to think there was space for my business.
Initially, the business was just me, but now I have eight people! Engineers from Norway, the USA and two composers from Venezuela. One of these is also an arranger. Most of the composers are from the Simón Bolívar youth orchestra; we’re making sure we get great musicians and have everything in as high quality as possible.
What do you think the big challenges are in the music industry?
When I was studying the music business, I realised the whole business model is a bit outdated – today there is free music and people don’t understand the difference between good and bad quality recording. Good quality, cheap mp3s… they have caused a huge problem. People think they can get quality things for a cheap price.
So in my last year at university, when I understood how the music business worked, I realised I could try and change things. With Meraki, sound engineers can get jobs more easily – they can choose the jobs they want, and can also get paid what their job is worth.
On the customer side, we make it as easy as possible for the customer to target the right engineer and obtain an estimate of what the job costs. People want fast answers! So we need to make it as fast and easy for the customer as possible.
We also need to see what they want before they know it! And we want to educate people – you’re paying this amount of money but you’re getting the same in sound quality. It’s important to explain to them that not anybody can use the software, and that the difference between a cheap mp3 and a good quality recording is huge. We’re going against the current trend in many ways.
What volunteering or internship experience did you get as a student?
I did some freelancing and sound engineering work. I also did some bartending and translation. With bartending, I improved my English a lot! I learnt how to talk to British people, how to joke to people, what not to say. I also got jobs through the university when I was in Liverpool. Thanks to them I worked on a cultural project – EUCLID on pre-Columbian research – which was fascinating.
What tips do you have for students looking to build up their CVs while at university?
Get really good grades – it is crucial if you want a very good job. I didn’t realise the grade I received in my BA was so important to employers. Learn a language as well, that is really important. I think you should aim to have three languages by the end of university. I’m behind, I only speak two!
Also, try to get experience in the area that you want, or a related area at least. In this industry it’s all about who you know, and the contacts you make – that’s how you get jobs.
That said, also have fun in your first year when it doesn’t matter so much, and then get down to serious business!
Victoria at the TEDx Aston University event she co-organised
What are your ambitions for the future?
In my dream world, we’ll become this big brand that will be instantly recogniseable, so everyone will associate our engineers with great quality. We’ll expand everywhere in the world and have our own recording studios. At the moment each engineer has their own recording facilities, but in the future we’ll have facilities to provide for engineers who want to use them.
We’ll change the way that people pursue music; we’ll not just use cheap equipment. I want people to think, ‘I’m going to go the extra mile and pay for good music’ – I want to help them understand the difference.
At the end of the day, everything is evolving, so we will also need to keep up-to-date. Piracy, mp3s and all of these things are destroying music, and good music makes a difference to everyone. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like some form of music!
If you had one piece of advice for graduates who want to develop a business what would it be?
Get people to help you – join something like BSEEN. I have a friend who started his business by himself with three people, whereas I started as one person, but I joined BSEEN and you can really see the difference between our startups.
Find a mentor – you need to have help. You save so much time, so much money and so many mistakes when you get experienced help! A big mistake equals money lost. If you mess up with your trademark, you waste money. When you start, you have lots of time but not lots of money – so make sure you always ask for help with big decisions!