Sweetwater is part of the MMP program's DNA. Their CEO, Chuck Surack, was instrumental in convincing state officials to fund the construction of our facilities. Many of our music technology and production graduates have or are working there. 298 Ball State students have applied for positions there, 28 are now on staff. Learn more about what Jeff McDonald looks for when considering applicants by listening to a talk he gave on careers at Sweetwater, and a subsequent conversation with a student.
The average community music store sells $800,000 a year. A small Guitar Center sells $1,000,000. Each sales engineer in one of these cubicles is like a music store, many sell around $7,000,000 a year. 15% of their sales staff makes $95,000 or more a year.
Getting to know the company
- Our Story. Find out what their goal is, how Chuck Surack founded the business, how the team works, and what their values are. They put a lot of effort into their Guitar Gallery to make customers comfortable buying an instrument online. They put their instruments through an extensive checkup before sending out, and have a new high tech fret analyzer/shaper for optimizing playability. More...
- Take a virtual tour of Sweetwater's Campus. They have recording studios, theatre, resident reps from Yamaha and Avid, and a steady stream of visitors from manufacturers. They offer many resources to make work conditions more pleasant, including a fitness center with trainer, racquetball court, virtual golf, arcade, restaurant, hair salon, dry cleaning and postal services, massage therapist, a DVD lending library, and employee discounts on gear.
- Sweetwater has invested a million dollars in their high tech conveyor built to keep the warehouse operating efficiently.
- They are looking for self-starters, high-energy, smart people who will add to the positivity rather than take away from it. Talent Acquisitions Specialist Missy Lyons says "You got to run fast!" The challenge is to build up 4,000 customers in your first 18 months. 3.5 out of 10 don't make it. Once you get past your second year the job gets easier, but you continue to make around 90 phone calls a day.
New sales engineers go through a 13-week training program at Sweetwater U, spending more time getting ready to work there as the average Guitar Center employee is said to stay on the job.
- Sweetwater is located in Fort Wayne and is one of the brightest lights in the Indiana Music Business scene. They are expanding rapidly and if you are sharp, have a capacity to learn, are interested in music technology and knowing all about all types of gear, want to work with other musicians hooking up clients with the right products and seeing that they get the most out of them, you may wish to consider interning or seeking a position there. In addition to doing the right thing for customers, Sweetwater strives to create a high performance culture that is stimulating and fun to be part of.
- The Sweetwater Minute is a series of hundreds of videos featuring Editorial Director Mitch Gallagher interviewing leading performers and music manufacturing representatives.
- Many employees are interviewed on the Sweetwater Minute or have their own web pages, including Greg Baitz (Dean of Sweetwater U), Jeffrey Green, a longtime sales engineer there and recipient of the School of Music's Distinguished Alumni award in 2012, Jeff McDonald (director of Human Resources) and Doug Hills (sales manager).
- Chuck Surack helped celebrate the 250th episode of the Sweetwater Minute talks about his background as a musician, Gear Fest, their growth, facility, entrepreneurship, vision, and performing. Check out the conversations on The Open Road for more understanding of the man and his mission [ part 1 ] [ part 2 ]. Listen to the interview on the Art + Music + Technology podcast to learn how he got his start in mobile recording and a sound designer for the Kurzweil K2000.
- 1.5% of their business comes from their retail shop (which should increase now after the floorspace has doubled). 1% comes from their studio business. They rarely hire engineers. Those they do hire are strong performers and/or composers/arrangers as well. The day we visited they were working on a project with Sypra Gyro.
- Watch the presentations by Greg Baitz and Jeff McDonald available through the MMP Organization part of Blackboard.
- I asked Matt McKible, one of our grads working there, for ideas on how we could improve our program. "Personally, I think there should be emphasis on specific products, but by the time the students graduate, they will all be different and most of the products discussed will be gone. The one big segment of our business that stays fairly constant is guitars. Being a guitarist in college, I knew enough to get by, but it is a huge part of our growth here and something that everyone should be comfortable with when working here." Their entrance exam covers topics including guitars, drums, keyboards, microphones, signal flow, and terminology. 50% is considered a very good score.
- The best way to work into the company is to start with an internship your junior year. It takes 1-3 months to go through the interview process. Start applying around Christmas if you're looking to start a job after graduating in May.
- Their glossary of terms is a great resource, and can be useful in preparing for the technical exam recruits are given.
- Check out the Sweetwater Minutes, a huge catalog of interviews done by Mitch Gallagher on a wide range of topics.