Without live sound engineers, concerts wouldn’t sound the way you or the performers would hope. Chances are everything coming out of the instruments would be at the same sound level, drowning out the vocals or losing the rhythm guitar. It’s up to sound engineering technicians to adjust the levels and monitor noise to ensure the band is getting the proper sound. Anyone new to the business can expect to work as a monitor engineer. Salaries for this position vary by experience and work setting.
As of 2011, the average salary of a sound engineer technician was $56,110 a year, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because high salaries can sometimes skew the average, the median wage is often used as a better way to analyze earnings. Half of all sound engineer earned less than $46,750 a year in 2011. Neither figure, however, accounts for industry, nor do they reflect experience.
A survey conducted by the Berklee College of Music found that salaries vary by role. Sound engineers new to the business will likely serve as monitor engineers, who set up and break down the audio system. During sound checks, these techs are also responsible for adjusting the monitor-mixing console, which isolates the signal for each band member. Salaries start out at $35,000 a year. With more experience, you can expect to earn $60,000 a year. Front-of-house engineers, who oversee the whole operation, start out at $60,000 and can earn more than $120,000 a year with experience.
Many live sound engineers don’t just stick to “mixing” music for concerts. They also can be found working in the video game, recording or motion picture industries. For motion pictures, salaries start out at about $40,000 a year, reports Berklee College of Music. Video game sound mixers start out at about $35,000 a year, while those in the recording industry start out at $25,000 a year. An assistant engineer earns even less, averaging $18,000 to $25,000 at recording studios and $18,000 to $28,000 in video games.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of jobs for sound engineers to grow 1% from 2010 to 2020. That compares to projected growth of 14 percent across all occupations. Job prospects are expected to be limited for sound techs, regardless of industry. The reason is simple: Advancements in computer technology have led to fewer engineers needed to mix music.