I Want That Job!: Sound engineer

The sound engineer has the tech knowhow to make your favorite songs sound great
By Laura Aka
February 1, 2021

When your favorite artist steps into the studio to record a new song, the sound engineer is ready to make sure the best sound is captured.

A sound engineer is responsible for the technical side of a recording or live performance. The sound engineer designs and manages sound levels and outputs, and is responsible for maintaining the physical sound equipment, like amps and microphones.

A sound engineer needs to have good aural skills, strong attention to detail, able to work as part of a team, problem solving skills, among others.

Mack Woodward is a freelance sound engineer. He has an associate’s degree in recording arts, but says there are a variety of ways to get into the industry. “Some people went to school. Then some people just did the internship at the studio and that was their schooling. There’s all different paths, but you don’t necessarily need a degree.”

He adds, “The degree or the school gives you a well-rounded [overview]. It wasn’t only recording in a studio. I got live sound introduction. I got post audio, which was all movies and that kind of thing. So it opened my mind to how many careers are possible.”

Despite COVID-19, Woodward has remained busy. “I can only assume it’s because tours stopped, and artists were trying to keep fans and social media ‘fed’.”

“Thankfully due to technology, I was able to work from home for those months and get songs mixed for clients. Once we started going back into the studio later in the summer, we would wear masks in the common areas as a consideration for others. We would still generally take on clients- at least those who felt comfortable coming back in.”

The median pay in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), for a category that includes broadcast and sound engineering technicians was $45,510.

Employment in this area is expected to increase 9% for the ten-year period ending in 2029. That growth is expected to come from businesses, schools, and entertainment industries seeking to improve their audio and video capabilities.

Woodward says it’s rewarding to hear a song he has worked on played on the radio. But adds it’s more than that. “The most rewarding aspect is when I get a call from somebody saying that they want to work with me after hearing something that I’ve done. I think that’s the coolest thing.”

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