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Honest Question: How much do Studio engineers make?


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Hey guys, I have just an honest question from a 23 year old college junior looking to enter the field.

 

First, I've been trying to be pro active and I'm trying to get my foot in the door.

 

I live basically next door to the guys who make Cranesong Recording Gear (superior,WI)and I've already pestered Dave Hill the owner of Inner Sea Recordings by asking him if I can maybe sit in on a recording session or something, but he hasn't called me back yet, hehe. (hey someone please tell him Jason really would love to mop his floors just to sit in on a session to see how it goes down!)

 

I'm going to school right now for music composition, then I want to go to musictech or fullsail for music technology and become a music engineer. I've been *ahem* producing tracks since 99' with cubase/sonar/digital performer/ and a small setup of things like a RNC compressor, studioprojects mics,m audio monitors, and a motu 828, low end stuff like that. I totally love making music and messing around with the gear knobs and such.

 

ANYWAYS: I'm wanting to know what I can expect to make as an entry level studio engineer with a 4 year degree in music composition and a degree from say fullsail? I'm not delusional enough to think I'll be a producer someday but that would rock. Any opinions/facts/truth/experience, for God sakes, would be greatly appreciated. Basically I don't want to starve to death after working my arse off for a bunch of years at school. Please say something!

 

Jason

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I'm not experienced or knowledgable to answer your question, but:

 

"I'm not delusional enough to think I'll be a producer someday but that would rock."

 

Why not? If that's what you want, go forward and do it. Who cares what anyone might think. Even the best started from scratch.

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I can't say for sure but from what I understand and have read, including an article in the newest FOH, you may have to intern for nothing for awhile to get going. Not saying that's in every case but it looks very tough.

 

Our Joint

 

"When you come slam bang up against trouble, it never looks half as bad if you face up to it." The Duke...

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$15 an hour for a freelance engineer not including studio fees is a ballpark figure in my neck of the woods. It varies of course and depends on alot of things- type of studio (demo, mid or high end), experience and or/credits just to name a couple. IMO being a full time recording engineer is a tough way to make a living and its getting harder and harder.
my band: Mission 5
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It'll depend on what you do. You can make alot, you can make nothing. Around here there's only so many opportunities, and the local college is pumping out a new bunch of engineers every quarter. Even seasoned pro's with historically great studios and lots of experience with top national bands, are working dirt cheap, if they are working at all. I know of one guy though who produces cd's for churches who says he's making some good bucks, but it's feast or famine. Most have to do a variety of various things to pay the bills...but expect to do a lot of work, and if what you produce, sells a lot, you might make alot, if it doesn't, go back to the drawing board. There's no guarantees and the competition is fierce.

Living' in the shadow,

of someone else's dream....

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Evosix,

that it a great question, and I for one, am in not even slightly qualified to answer it. A couple of comments, anyway.

Bruce Vig talks about the state of studios in this link.

www.thedailypage.com/artists/article.php?intmusicnewsid=454

 

The great George Massenburg replied to the question "What advice do you have for the reader who wants to be the next George Massenburg?" in Behind the Glass, by Howard Massey,"Learn how to do something useful; learn how to write. Learn how to do electronic CAD, and give me a call. I've go a thousand applications from second engineers. I don't need second engineers."

 

You seem like a smart guy, in this industry you've go to be tough and determine, but you've also got to be very creative if you want to get anything out of it.

 

It sounds like you have a pretty good setup - as good as some advertising studios in our area. Put yourself out there and start producing. if you aren't already. And post your results so we can check 'em out.

 

Good luck wherever the path may take you.

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It depends on who you are. You don't become an Studio Engineer overnight. It's a process. Nowadayz, you go to school... you graduate... you get an un paid internship at a studio (if you are lucky)... or you get a "runner" or General Assistant position (if you are more lucky)... minimum wage is the norm here.

 

From this point on you get promoted. When? Who knows? It depends. Somebody has to leave a slot in order to somebody else to take it. Cool thing is, studios generally promote from the inside. So if you are in, and if you're patient... you'll be promoted... someday... what day? Who knows.

 

And that glorious day comes when you are an Assitant Engineer... You assist sessions (DUH!) and you are the Engineers right hand. Cool, huh? Not quite... there's not a set rate on how much you'll earn as an AE. That will depend on the area you're living in and how much experience you have (There can be 6 different AE's in a studio earning six different rates) And as a AE you usually get paid by the hour (not by the session, or by the day, or by the month). Which means they could be good months... and bad months...

 

So when you openly decide to become what we know as a Studio Engineer (or just Audio Engineer, for that matter)... you pretty much go freelancing. Generally, studios don't keep in-house engineers (they are exceptions - but big commercial studios don't do it that often).

 

And here we come back to your question... how much does an Studio Engineer make? it depends on who you are ... some new, unknown Engineers start by charging $15-20 an hour... others... $200 a day... much more experienced/reknowned cats will get $1000 a day... Tom Lord-Alge will make between $7000 and $10000 per mix.

 

I'm wanting to know what I can expect to make as an entry level studio engineer with a 4 year degree in music composition and a degree from say fullsail?
I still don't know an Engineer who straight out of college was "an Engineer"... many of the biggest cats in the industry started sweeping floors... and that's pretty much what a major recording studio is going to expect from you... as an "entry-level engineer"...

 

So there you have it. The "Audio Engineering Career" is a very tough one... is it worth it? I certainly hope so... :rolleyes:

 

NOTE: You also mentioned career as a Producer... now THAT's a whole different ballpark... A producer deals more with record labels than it deals with studios. You'll meet producers that never interned at a studio in their lives all the time. It's a lot about contacts and who get to listen your productions... But again, that's a very different and very particular career... :cool:

Who Put The ' M ' In MySpace?

don\'t_click | day_job

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Originally posted by Dave the Grave:

With such lousy pay, why on earth would anyone with an ounce of gumption ever go into this field?

 

Keep music/studio engineering as a hobby and find a real profession that pays!

 

:DTR

That may or may not be good advice. The jury is still out.

 

You will have difficulty with money for a long time. Your income will be sporadic and spotty, when you have one.

 

You won't have as much flexibility about where to live as if you were, say, a teacher or a cop.

 

Banks will look at you funny when you go shopping for a mortgage.

 

On the other hand, you might get to feel good about your job, and enjoy your life. You will meet interesting people and may have trouble relating to folks who took the path more travelled.

 

Working in the music business is really a lifestyle choice. It will affect your life a lot more than the 9-5 that you can put away when you get home.

 

Unfortunately, it may be a very long time before you ever feel secure about your job. I'm into year five now and it's not at all easy.

 

Then again, I look at what other people are doing, and I know that it's not for me. This is the burden that we bear for doing what we love.

----------------------------

Phil Mann

http://www.wideblacksky.com

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Originally posted by where02190:

Not enough.

You stole my answer Where. ;)

 

Engineers do have a hard time these days... if you're thinking of doing it for money or for fame, forgetaboutit and find a different career. If you can work long hours for little or no pay - especially for the first few / several years while you're starting out, and you really CAN'T do anything else because THIS IS WHAT YOU LOVE, and it's just something you HAVE to do, then go ahead and go for it. Nothing anyone can say will discourage you from it anyway, and if you have some talent and "ears", you'll probably do okay. You're not going to get rich in this job though. .

 

There are a lot of career paths for AE's besides just "making records", and we've discussed some of them in the past (and I'd like to discuss others) over on the Project Studio forum. Radio, film and TV, industrial A/V, computer game audio, live sound, remixing for surround, etc. etc. The competition for doing "big name acts" is getting harder and harder - schools are pumping out record (no pun intended) numbers of grads while the job position numbers are decreasing due to the proliferation of artist and producer owned home and project studios... and those "big boy" gigs are obviously, the most attractive for a lot of people. At the top, the pay can be pretty decent, especially if you get into production (take some music, psych and business classes now while you can!), and some corporate gigs can pay decent, but "in the trenches" as a freelance can be pretty competitive and the money isn't the greatest. It really depends on where you wind up and how hard you're willing to work - and how good you are (which is a function of natural talent times work effort plus experience rolled through the filter of your personality and how you can interact with others).

 

Feel free to go over to the PS forum and post a poll with different income brackets - that way people can answer without having to give out any personal information if they don't want to... I imagine you'll get more responses that way. :)

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Long and rambly, but I'm 25 and make an ok living as a freelance engineer so I'm not speaking entirely out of my ass...

 

Skip FullSail. You don't need to pay someone 30k to learn how to push a broom. Read read read. Record record record (on your home stuff). Get to know all the musicians in your town. Hang out and record them for free. Beg for a chance to sweep floors for free at a decent studio. Work your ass off for months before even thinking about steping into the control room. When you do, especially if clients are in the building KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. If you show half an ounce of potential, most engineers will offer to answer any questions you have AFTER THE SESSION. (We're geeks, we like to talk about what we love. Plus the more you know the better assistant you will be) I want my assistants to be hungry for my job. If they don't want to do what I do but better, they might as well get a real job. Eventually the engineer will let you do some overdubs while he/she takes a piss. Don't fuck it up. Some day they will get sick and let you do a session by yourself. All this time you should still be mingling with the local musicians and recording them for free whenever you can.

 

After you start to do a few sessions, think to yourself "I'm still not an engineer, I know nothing" ie don't let it go to your head. When you get paid it'll probably be in the 10-20 dollar range. Many times you will do sessions thinking you will get paid, but someone (owner, band, label) will stiff you. Every time this happens, decide if it is worth it to fight or not. Hint - untill you know otherwise, its not worth it. Don't turn down work for the first 3-5 years. Take all the work you can get. All of it.

 

It takes about 10,000 hours 'engineering' before you should consider yourself an engineer. 10,000 hours. You can do that in a few years. Of course, some of the best engineers who came up 'in the day' did it in about a week. :) While I was interning/assisting/engineering I would regularly work from sat morning to monday morning, plus wed and thursday from 5p to 8a. And go to school full time and work(record/live sound) all of the jazz/classical/composition concerts that went on. (a full year of this didn't make me an engineer, though at times I thought otherwise)

 

While at the studio, you'll be able to list every session and engineer booked for the next week. Outside of the studio it'll take you ten minutes to tie your shoes.

 

If you continue to stay current with all the musicians around you. And you've got some decent musical ideas going on, you will always have people to record. The contacts you're making right now (in music school) are some of the most important you will ever make.

 

These are the two fundimental things you'll need to know about the technical side of things. Everything builds from these.

 

1. Sound has THREE and only THREE attributes: amplitude, frequency, phase(time) EVERYTHING that changes sound, does it through manipulation of these three things.

 

2. Signal flow and control. Know exactly which path the signal is taking to get from A-Z and know what is happening to it at each point along the way. Think source to destination.

 

Find a copy of the SSL 4000 G users manual. It is well written and covers many different signal flow configurations that translate and scale to almost any other board.

 

Learn about the tech stuff. Fill your head with it. Everything you can get your hands on. Spend time staring at complex charts and graphs. Read esoteric electrical engineering books. Get in over your head. Don't worry, you only have to understand them if you plan on designing gear, but it helps to have some vague idea of what is happening under the hood.

 

Learn how to solder. Make cables. Pin 2 Hot.

 

Now realize that the emense amount of technical information is at most 20% of the job. At most. People skills make up at least 80% of the skills employed while engineering. You'll notice this when you assist. People skills are paramount.

 

Back to money.

 

Your loyalty belongs to two things. Your pocket book and your soul. Keep this in mind when making decisions. Of course, only being 25, I suspect that this list should be longer.

 

If you move to a big city, young engineers can often only find paying gigs doing hip hop. There is a segment of the hip hop world (not exclusivly by any means) that is funded by drug money. Loud music, lots of stoned partiers, small dark control rooms, and guns don't mix very well. I know this from experience.

 

Bottom line: The # of hours you work has little to do with how much you make. I make anywhere from 0-100 dollars an hour depending on the gig. My yearly income has fluctuated as much as 30,000$ depending on the year. Think long and hard before bringing children/dependants into the situation. This is not a steady lifestyle.

 

/jim

 

I wrote this over the course of the evening, so there may be many posts that say the same things but better.

"...it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lacking patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It is the same in any country."

 

-Hermann Goering, second in command of the Third Reich

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Originally posted by Rensonic:

...many of the biggest cats in the industry started sweeping floors... and that's pretty much what a major recording studio is going to expect from you... as an "entry-level engineer"...

 

...You also mentioned career as a Producer

It was the toilett in addition, not only the floor 25 years ago on my first day in Burbank. Not saying that i'm a "biggest cat".

In smaller teams he has to be interchangable. The industry is in transition to multi media, he/she has to have talents for DVD, authoring, video, surround, encoding, cutting, compositing and graphics etc.

A a good start is to study something in electronics and all in multi media and then apply for a job in a prod. facility. Cleaning floors is of no use for a production company.

 

A self-employed music producer is often composer, arranger and engineer in a personal union. Today a good start is to study music, publishing, business and electronic engineering. He has a extended creative potential. Successful self employed music producers are a rare species.

 

Being a self employed multi media producer is nearly impossible since the spectrum of what has to be done is to widespread.

 

Regards Angelo

-Peace, Love, and Potahhhhto
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What a bunch of geeks. :D

 

I like the part about experience, that's really the only way you're going to learn something like engineering, by doing it over, and over, and over, and over.. again, and to be a good engineer you have to learn how to listen.

 

It really does take a while to learn how to do that. You have to, train your ear and that's what takes a while. Engineers can hear things that most people can't.....much like a piano tuner. :D

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Hmmm...

 

Right now...doing my web/multimedia day gig...

...I'm making more than the 75% group in both USDL categories. :thu:

 

But...I am also getting quite bored with my day gig. :(

After almost 10 yearsthe fun/passion has slowly drained away...and now it's just a job.

 

Now I'm thinking about expanding my current private project studio gig, into a more commercial, semi-full time facility.

However...it will probably cost me about $100k to do that... :eek:

'cuz I would need to remodel and add-on if I were to expand out.

 

And, my reasons have nothing to do with trying to make as much or more income as an AE/commercial studio, than I already do now...

...it just wouldn't happen.

Though I am thinking about it because I need to do something that is interesting and enjoyable...something that will give me a reason to get up in the morning.

 

Mind you...I would probably still keep my day gig...'cuz I sure don't want to go backwards, financially. :)

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

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Originally posted by Gato:

And the answer is ------- :bor:

21 days/month, 45h/week:

$ 500.-/month talented beginner

$ 1500.-/month coming from a recording school

$ 5000.-/month full experience audio

$ 7000.-/month for multimedia engineer

 

freelance:

$ 300.- to 400.-/day experienced freelance, but not more then 6000.-/month.

 

to your comments like:

"Engineers can hear things that most people can't..." and "is funded by drug money. Loud music, lots of stoned partiers". That's one scene.

 

Here is another:

http://variety.careercast.com/js.php?view=2&lookid=variety&qInd=varietycategorymusic

 

Text: College degree preferred but not required.

MS or PhD in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering or other related field. Is proud to be an Equal Opportunity Employer and Drug Free Workplace!

-Peace, Love, and Potahhhhto
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Originally posted by where02190:

Jim,

Great post, except for two corrections.

 

1. Phase does not equal time.

2. Not all devices are pin 2 hot.

Thanks for the props.(is that actually a word?)

 

My understanding is that phase is related to time. Are you confusing it with polarity? (If not, point me in the right direction)

 

You're right about not everything being pin 2 hot, but that has been the AES standard since 1982. Plus, I just delt with a number of miswired snakes recently :mad::)

 

This is a tight business right now, and everyone telling you to have a large skillset is spot on. Be able to do studio mutitrack, location recording ( multitrack music, and 2 track music) plus live sound. Learn how to work with video/film and the post process.

 

Angelo is correct in saying my 'drugs n guns' story doesn't always apply. But there is a certain type of mid-sized of studio that draws this crowd. And many studio owners will cater to them to keep the doors open in this rather barren market. If you're any good at assisting you'll be able to read the type of situation you're working in.

 

/jim

"...it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lacking patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It is the same in any country."

 

-Hermann Goering, second in command of the Third Reich

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Originally posted by Angelo Clematide:

Originally posted by Gato:

Here is another:

http://variety.careercast.com/js.php?view=2&lookid=variety&qInd=varietycategorymusic

 

Text: College degree preferred but not required.

MS or PhD in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering or other related field. Is proud to be an Equal Opportunity Employer and Drug Free Workplace!

Cool link, I hadn't heard of careercast.com before.

 

/jim

"...it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lacking patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It is the same in any country."

 

-Hermann Goering, second in command of the Third Reich

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Right now...doing my web/multimedia day gig...

...I'm making more than the 75% group in both USDL categories.

Miroslav,

 

I would imagine that those figures are only TAXABLE income. With a good background in accounting or hiring professional accountants to keep the books; there are tons of expenses paid out that come straight off the top before earnings are reported. Studio mortgage/rent, utilities, new equipment purchases/upgrades, service repairs, travel expenses, entertainment for clients, advertisement, and TONS of other write offs that would reduce the figure that goes into IRS.

 

If those were actual figures of a GROSS income after expenses, I'd never leave the Post Office because I make more than most ALL those listed throughout the entire entertainment industry according to DOL's Bureau of Statistics; and I don't live in California or New York where the cost of living is extreme. I live in the Midwest where $300,000-$500,000 will buy you an elaborate home in any one of the most elite townships in the entire State...

You can take the man away from his music, but you can't take the music out of the man.

 

Books by Craig Anderton through Amazon

 

Sweetwater: Bruce Swedien\'s "Make Mine Music"

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Originally posted by Ani:

Right now...doing my web/multimedia day gig...

...I'm making more than the 75% group in both USDL categories.

Miroslav,

 

I would imagine that those figures are only TAXABLE income. With a good background in accounting or hiring professional accountants to keep the books; there are tons of expenses paid out that come straight off the top before earnings are reported. Studio mortgage/rent, utilities, new equipment purchases/upgrades, service repairs, travel expenses, entertainment for clients, advertisement, and TONS of other write offs that would reduce the figure that goes into IRS.

Well...studio writeoffs, mortgage/rent, equipment purchases/repairs...etc...

...are really not "studio income"...IMO...

 

Who cares if an AE made $300k last year...

...but then took $250k off the top to pay for studio expenses...??? :rolleyes:

 

Only thing that counts...is the $50k he/she put in their pocket. :thu:

 

It's the stuff that you put in your pocket...that you are going to live off of day-to-day...family/food/life/etc...that really counts. :)

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

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It's the stuff that you put in your pocket...that you are going to live off of day-to-day...family/food/life/etc...that really counts.
;) Life is good....

 

I was quite surprised to see the figures being reported to DOL... and I'm glad to see that there are some that contradict those figures. It lets me know there is still hope.

 

Geez, if those wages reported reflected the actual earnings of the industry as a whole; who, in their right minds, would even consider the music business as a career pursuit when there are so many other options where one can make great wages?

You can take the man away from his music, but you can't take the music out of the man.

 

Books by Craig Anderton through Amazon

 

Sweetwater: Bruce Swedien\'s "Make Mine Music"

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Geez, if those wages reported reflected the actual earnings of the industry as a whole; who, in their right minds, would even consider the music business as a career pursuit when there are so many other options where one can make great wages?

 

Yeah, you'd have to be nuts to do that... HEY WAIT A SECOND! :D

 

Seriously, like I said earlier... you have to do it "for the love", because most are NOT going to get rich doing this job. :)

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According to DOL a sound engineer does best when he is with a software publisher, a seldom luxury job and second motion picture and video industries, third Sound Recording Industries.

That shows that working in studios where artist record their music is not first choice, something i was not aware till i saw it black on white

 

Sound Recording Industries, real sad fun is down the page, since we start our career with sweeping the floor:

 

http://www.bls.gov/oes/2003/may/naics4_512200.htm

 

$44,920 Sound Engineering Technicians

$18,660 Building/Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance

$106,850 Sales Managers

 

...you come in in the morning sweep the floor then work all day in the studio as a engineer and after all are gone you sweep again, you don't come near the sales manager. Depressing.

-Peace, Love, and Potahhhhto
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Originally posted by soundthinker:

My understanding is that phase is related to time. Are you confusing it with polarity? (If not, point me in the right direction)
Take a waveform and shift it's phase 180 degrees.

 

Correct this by shifting it in time.

 

Yes there is a relationship between time and phase, Just like there is a relationship between time and amplitude. but one cannot correct the other.

 

This is an often misunderstood principle.

Hope this is helpful.

 

NP Recording Studios

Analog approach to digital recording.

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