So you're interested in making money in the audio industry. It's a big industry with many jobs to fill and in this article, we'll go through 100 of these jobs to give you a good idea of how to either start making money or how to make some extra cash on the side if you're already working in the industry.
I'll state up front that, in many of these gigs, there is a clear divide between the audio engineer/technician and the talent (the person/people that are creating the audio). However, to list out even more possibilities for income, I've added some jobs in which you can be both the “talent” and the “tech” at once (as in writing stock music, for example).
There's so much opportunity out there and also plenty of competition. I've worked many of the following gigs to various amount of success and have, more often than not, had to rely on several to make my full time income.
I've compiled this list as a reminder to myself of the opportunities out there and to share with you, reader, what possibilities are out there for cash flow are for someone interested in working with audio.
I'll add instances where I have personally made money in each of the following services and products to share my experience and help inspire you.
A service is any activity or benefit you can offer that is essentially intangible and does no result in the ownership of anything. Services are based on labour and can be billed wholesale, at a day rate, hourly, etc.
Providing a service means doing something for someone else, either remotely or in-person; individually or as part of a team. Outsourcing is possible via contract or employment of other to do the work for you.
As we'll see, services provided often sound like job titles.
Here is a list of services you can provide to make money in the audio industry.
- Recording Assistant
- Recording Engineer
- Mixing Engineer
- Mastering Engineer
- Audio Editor
- Field Recorder
- Boom Operator
- Podcasting Audio Engineer
- Live Sound Technician
- Broadcast Audio Engineer
- Acoustic Treatment Technician
- Acoustic Designer
- Music/Score Composer
- Equipment Repair
- Equipment Technician
- Radio Technician
- Sound Designer
- Digital Programmer
- Project Coordinator
- Renting/Hiring Out Gear
- Renting Out Rehearsal Space
- Product Demos
- Manual Writing
- Standards & Regulations
- Archiving & Data Entry
- Voice Over Artist
- Session Musician
- Foley Artist
A product is anything that can be offered in a market for attention, acquisition, use, or consumption that might satisfy a need or want of a consumer. Products can be sold individually or in bulk. In some cases, the licensing to a product can also be sold.
Providing a product means creating a product that can be sold to someone else. The production of a product could be outsourced or done yourself and it could be physical or digital. The sale of a product could include the intellectual rights of that product as well.
The main benefit of selling products is scalability: the idea that you can design, build, or otherwise produce the product(s) once and have them sell with minimal effort compared to providing a service, which takes time.
Here is a list of products you can provide to make money in the audio industry:
- Intellectual Property Rights
- Stock Music
- Sound Effects
- Music Records
- Synth/Patch Design
- Online Courses
- Educational Books
- Digital Plug-ins
- Audio Equipment Manufacturing
- Instrument Manufacturing
- Running A Website/Blog
- Owning A Business Within The Audio Industry
Let's get into each of these money-making methods in this article!
1. Recording Assistant
The position of recording assistant, like many services in this article, has a rather loose definition.
Typically, the job of recording assistant applies to professional studios (that make enough money to afford a recording assistant).
The recording assistant helps in the following ways:
- Pre-production of a session.
- Setting up the recording session.
- Troubleshooting issues (along with the recording engineer).
- Tearing down the session afterwards.
- Odd-tasks around the studio (including getting coffee and snacks!)
Pretty much all the things except for being hands-on-console while at the recording station.
This is a great opportunity for newcomers and even seasoned professionals to work with and learn from experienced recording engineers and to get comfortable in a new studio environment.
Although the title of “recording assistant” typically refers to a studio position, it may also apply to field recording, live recording, and other situations where an assistant is needed to record audio.
2. Recording Engineer
The recording engineer, in many smaller studios, is often also required to play the roles of assistant, mixing and mastering engineers in one.
Recording engineers are tasked with running the technical operations during a recording session. This generally applies to studio sessions but could also fit elsewhere.
Recording engineers are responsible for setting up sessions appropriately and achieving the best results possible from a recording session.
There are plenty of performances a recording engineer could be tasked with recording. Some recording engineers specialize in one of the following, while others offer their services in multiple. The performances a recording engineer could be tasked with recording are as follows:
- Music (full band)
- Music (overdubs)
- Voice Over (radio ads, audiobook, narration, animation, etc.)
- Automated Dialogue Replacement (film, TV, animation, etc.)
The list above sums up most situations within the studio environment.
3. Mixing Engineer
The mixing engineer is in charge of the processing and combination of multiple audio signals into one or more channels.
The mixing engineer position is generally assumed to be in a studio environment where the engineer has pre-recorded tracks that he or she must mix into mono, stereo, or surround “mixdown” before mastering.
That being said, the art of mixing extends to live mixes, where a live sound engineer/technician will be in charge of mixing audio for front of house and/or monitors.
Audio mixing is a craft that takes a lot of practice to master. There's a lot to know about technical mixing and a ton of subjectivity and creativity that goes along with the craft.
Mixing audio includes the following:
- Level balancing
- Panning (in stereo and surround sound mixes)
- Time-Based Processing (Delay, Reverb, Modulation, etc.)
- Mixing down (bouncing)
A mixed track is sometimes the final product but is typically mastered to a set standard, which brings us to our next way to make money in audio.
4. Mastering Engineer
Mastering has come to be defined as the process of finalizing an audio mix, ensuring the best audio quality while maintaining the standards of the final product's intended use.
This fits into the historical definition of the “master tape” which was the final product of stored audio that was to be duplicated to create other playback records (whether vinyl, tape, etc.).
The mastering engineer is tasked with the following:
- Cleaning up any potential issues in the mix (ideally this won't have to happen).
- Adjusting levels and formatting for a specified standard(s).
- Bouncing the final product for the specified standard(s).
Some people make a living solely from mastering but this is rare. Oftentimes, especially in smaller projects, the mixing engineer will take care of the recording, mixing and mastering of the audio or the mastering will be given to another “jack-of-all-trades” with a fresh ear.
5. Audio Editor
Editing audio is a great way to get your foot in the door, so to speak, with a studio or new clientele.
Audio editing, as the name suggests, is the editing of audio. Today, this process is simplified with the help of digital audio workstations (no more cutting and splicing tape!).
It involves cutting out false takes and compiling the select takes (often in a particular order). Editing, to some extent, also requires level balancing to achieve a consistent record.
It's tedious work (especially drum editing and audiobook editing, from my experience) but someone has to do it and that someone will often get paid for it.
6. Field Recorder
A field recorder is like a recording engineer outside of the studio. Rather than have a stationary control room, the field recorder works with portable gear and microphones.
Field recorders are required for film, television, and other remote location recordings.
This job title technically refers to the person at the controls of the audio recording device. However, on actual gigs, you may be required to double as a boom operator and audio assistant.
Most times the audio from a field recording session will be sent back to a studio where it will be mixed (often along with the video footage).
7. Boom Operator
The boom operator is the trusted sidekick (or the same person in some cases) as the field recorder.
The boom op will hold the boom mic over top of the actors' heads out of frame to capture their voices. Alternatively, the boom op will be tasked with capturing the sound of non-human subjects that are the focus of the visual shot.
Related article: How To Properly Hold A Boom Pole And Microphone
8. Podcasting Audio Engineer
Podcasting has become huge in recent years. Having an audio-only format allows consumers to listen while multi-tasking. We'll discuss podcasts as products later.
With so many people wanting to get into podcasting, there is an opportunity for us technically-inclined audio folks to provide the service of “podcast engineer”.
This could entail many things, including:
- Renting an acoustically treated space to record.
- Renting location gear for mobile podcast setups.
- Recording the podcasts.
- Mixing the podcasts.
- Producing the podcasts.
- Doing the backend work (uploading, metadata, etc.).
Note that all of the services mentioned could be their very own services. I've mentioned podcast audio engineer specifically because it's a hot opportunity at the moment.
9. Live Sound Technician
Live sound technicians are hired to run the front-of-house (PA system) and monitors of a live performance.
Depending on the size of the venue, there may be several live sound technicians and labourers.
One or more technicians will be running the live mix to the FOH and/or monitors.
Other technicians may be used for set-up and tear-down the audio equipment and be put on standby during the performance if anything needs adjustment.
10. Broadcast Audio Engineer
Audio is a big part of a live broadcast.
In many scenarios, there will be a head audio engineer (A1) that will be in charge of mixing the show and one or more assistant technicians (A2) that will set up and tear down the audio equipment and be on standby during the broadcast if anything needs fixing.
11. Acoustic Treatment Technician
Acoustic treatment technicians work to acoustically treat physical spaces to get the best sounding room possible.
This work is important to consider when designing studio spaces, concert halls, movie theatres, etc. and is just as important when converting another space into a nice-sounding room.
12. Acoustic Designer
The acoustic designer helps get the acoustics of a room right in the first place by working with an architect or as an architect.
Proper acoustic design is critical to achieving ideal listening (or testing) environments.
13. Music/Score Composer
A lot of multimedia is made better by music.
Being able to provide scoring and composition to a video or film can earn you good money. This is particularly true if you can record, program, mix and master all yourself as the composer and engineer.
If you're a good enough session musician, working with a composer can be lucrative. If you're an engineer with a knack for composition, you can work opt to work all by yourself!
14. Equipment Repair
Developing a solid understanding of how audio equipment works (and how to read manuals and schematics), can help in troubleshooting and fixing issues in audio equipment.
Being able to repair damaged audio gear is a great skill that can turn into a profitable business. Audio gear can get quite expensive and it's often cheaper to get gear repaired rather than buying brand new gear (unlike a lot of other technology).
If you can fix it, there's money to be made.
Alternatively, repairmen can buy damaged gear for a fraction of the price, fix it up, and sell it for profits on the used market.
15. Equipment Technician
Perhaps even more lucrative than repairs is being an equipment technician. Understanding how equipment works together and how to troubleshoot systems is a valuable skill to have in the world of audio.
Equipment technician gigs range from the guitar tech that keeps the guitars tuned for a band on tour, to the AV guy at the local theatre, to technical directors that run the Superbowl broadcast.
Teaching is a skill as old as mankind.
A lot of gigging guitarists teach guitar lessons for extra dough. It may be more difficult to get kids excited about audio gear than guitar but teaching can, nonetheless, be a worthy endeavour.
That's what I do on this blog!
I also wouldn't be where I am today without the mentors (at school; in the professional studio; in the broadcast world, and more) who helped to teach me what I know today.
While I was in school, I met a lot of professionals that took side gigs teaching college students the tools and tricks to the trade.
Consider putting together a course on the audio subjects you're knowledgable in to sell on the following websites:
Consulting can be a great gig if you understand how audio systems work and can point people in the right direction about how they should build their studio, PA system, field recording kit, etc.
18. Radio Technician
Radio stations need audio technicians to run the show and ensure that everything is working properly.
A great part about this gig is that the radio show hosts are typically set up with all they need to run the show themselves.
19. Sound Designer
Films and television programs benefit from sound design. Sometimes, however, foley either cannot be done or cannot produce the desired results.
Being able to record, source, program, manipulate and mix sound can prove to be a great working opportunity, especially if you get a full season of a profitable show.
I worked for nearly a year on a 52-episode season of an animated series doing nothing but sound design. It effectively covered all my bills for the year.
20. Digital Programmer
Whether it's programming for digital audio workstations like Avid's Pro Tools (link to check it out at Avid); audio plug-ins for Waves; streaming services like Spotify, or anything else software-related, companies are looking for programmers.
If you've got skills in computer programming, there are opportunities to work in the audio industry.
Software and hardware companies have research and development teams. If you're inventive and technologically savvy, an R&D job at an audio equipment manufacturer could be waiting for you!
I typically use the term “equipment manufacturer” when referring to the various producers of audio equipment. Another way to refer to these manufacturers is by their brand.
Some brands are perhaps better known than others (JBL speakers, Beats headphones, Shure microphones, Fender guitars, etc.). Perhaps this is because they have the best products on the market at consumer price points or perhaps it's because of their branding.
Like it or not (I'm personally only warming up the idea now), branding is an important part of any business. Successful companies often have teams dedicated to branding.
I'll include marketing in this section, too. In order to make a profit and remain in business, a manufacturer should have the appropriate marketing needed to sell its products. If you excel at marketing, there could be an opportunity to work in the audio industry!
I'd imagine that being a gear head that works as an in-store sales clerk is like being a kid in a candy store (until the paycheck is spent on a new guitar instead of rent). I know I get excited every time I walk into my local shop.
A salesperson retail gig is a good option for those who know a lot about gear and like interacting with fellow musicians and audio enthusiasts to get them the products they're looking for.
24. Project Coordinator
In larger projects (and even in smaller ones), logistics can get a bit confusing. Having a project coordinator in an audio project can be extremely beneficial.
Project coordinators can be in charge of:
- Obtaining the appropriate crew for a job.
- Setting the schedule for the job.
- Managing payouts for each employee and/or contractor.
- Arranging travel and hotel stays for the out-of-town crew members.
Though the coordinator may not have their hands on the audio equipment, you can bet it's a way to make a decent living (often salaried) in the audio and AV industries.
Producers can be invaluable members of the audio team that effectively steer the ship, so to speak, in the direction of the common goal.
There are several types of producers in the audio industry (and peripheral industries). To name a few:
- Music producer: in charge of directing the musicians and engineers toward a common sound for a recorded single or album. This term now also doubles as a term to describe an electronic dance music musician.
- Technical producer: in charge of ensuring all technical equipment works smoothly during a session, broadcast, etc.
- Gameday producer: in charge of calling the shots in terms of storyline and talking points during a broadcast (especially in sports).
- Advertisement producer: in charge of ensuring proper tonality and branding in an audio advertisement.
26. Renting/Hiring Out Gear
I like to think of gear as being an asset (perhaps I'm business-minded or perhaps I'm naively optimistic).
The reason I think that is because, as we've mentioned, you're likely to be able to charge a higher fee and provide a better product if you use your own gear (rather than renting and using strange gear) on a gig.
On the slip side of that, though, is the fact that you can rent out your gear for a fee. If rented out to trustworthy giggers (those that won't damage or steal the gear), then it's as if your equipment is making money for you rather than collecting dust in the storage room.
27. Renting Out Rehearsal Space
In the early days of running his studio, one of my mentors would rent out the space to jam bands to rehearse in.
By the time he was able to hire me, the studio had picked up to the point where this rental was no longer needed to keep the studio profitable. That being said, in the early days when he was building up his clientele, the
28. Product Demos
There are really two ways to make money doing product demos.
The first, which is the more difficult one to get into, is to demo new gear from specific manufacturers at conventions. This requires having an in with the company that produces the hardware or software; being able to learn a piece of equipment inside and out, and being willing to demo the product to potential buyers and fellow audio enthusiasts.
The second way is through the internet.
YouTube is filled with musicians and audio enthusiasts that demo software and hardware for people to check out. So how do you get paid for this? Typically the manufacturer won't pay you directly. However, through ads and affiliate marketing, you can certainly make money doing product demos.
Affiliate marketing is essentially sending traffic to buy a product at a certain website and getting a commission if the person buys “through your link”. The largest affiliate program online is through Amazon, though many other affiliate programs are out there, including B&H Photo Video, Crutchfield, Sweetwater and Guitar Center.
29. Manual Writing
If you're a great technical writer and can understand how audio gear works, there are product manuals that need writing.
30. Standards & Regulations
There are plenty of committees and regulatory bodies in the audio industry. These companies set standards for the audio industry and even give out certifications to manufacturers and products that follow or surpass the recommended regulations.
Audio standards/regulatory bodies include but are certainly not limited to:
- Tomlinson Holman's eXperiment
- International Electrotechnical Commission
- Society of Broadcast Engineers
- Audio Engineering Society
31. Archiving & Data Entry
Archiving (and I'd include metadata entry) is a low-excitement process but it can certainly pay out.
This could mean backing up hard drives of audio sessions and files; converting ADAT or vinyl into digital audio for digital storage; uploading audio to a cloud server, among other things.
The same goes for metadata and other data entry. Sure, it's not luxurious but it can help pay the bills and get you in contact with someone who may work professionally in the field of audio.
Labourer, roadie, utility worker. Whatever you want to call it, though this gig may not be hands-on with any audio per se, it's a great way to get into the industry.
This job essentially entails loading gear into and out of venues, shops, etc. Sharing an environment with audio professionals is sure to garner some insight into how they work and what they know. Use this gig to earn a bit of cash and also to learn more about the craft you're interested in.
Love them or hate them, advertisements make money.
Radio ads are essentially a 100% audio product. Video ads almost certainly have an audio component to them.
Though it's ultimately the company that owns the ad, there is a tone of money to be made in providing the service of recording and producing advertisements.
This ties into branding.
34. Voice-Over Artist
The voice-over artists may or may not be the ones recording themselves. However, this is certainly a service that has to do with audio.
What you're providing here is your voice. I've worked with tens, if not hundreds, of people that make a significant portion of their income doing voice-over work for radio, animation, and other audio-based media.
Some voice-over artists even get into recording themselves and further increase the amount they can charge for their service.
35. Session Musician
Like voice-over acting, this may not require technical audio skills, per se.
However, being able to play an instrument well enough to become a session musician means that you can effectively provide the service of playing on the record and having your work turned into audio.
Being able to record yourself will make you even more competitive in the marketplace.
Journalism will sometimes require audio. Whether you're the audio tech behind the control; the journalist, or both, the service/product is audio.
I say service/product because journalism can be seen as a product or as a service.
37. Foley Artist
Foley is still alive and well in the film industry. Being able to provide foley is a skill that can make you money.
Perhaps this doesn't have so much to do with the technical side of audio but it does still have to do with audio as a whole.
Announcers are expected in sports broadcasting and in front-of-house in sporting arenas. Without audio, the announcer's job would not exist.
39. Intellectual Property Rights
Intellectual property rights are defined as the rights given to persons over the creations of their minds.
In the audio industry, this includes:
- Patents for technology: patents apply to newly developed technology as well as to improvements in products or processes. Any new technological advancements made in audio equipment can be patented.
- Trademarks: a trademark is a recognizable sign, design, or expression which identifies products or services of a particular source from those of others. Trademarks tie in with branding and marketing.
- Writing rights: these IP rights are also known as writing credits and are given to the writers of content (especially music) and payout royalties whenever that content is played or performed in public. Note that you do not necessarily have to write something to have part of the legal writing credit.
- Mechanical rights: these IP rights refer to ownership of recorded media (especially music) and payout royalties when this media is played in public. These rights are typically given to the artist themselves or their publisher.
- Performance rights: the IP rights payout to the writer/publisher when a copyrighted work (typically music) is performed live.
As an audio engineer, I've bargained my way into writing credits on a few works. These writing credits bring in some money quarterly through royalties via SOCAN (I'm a Canadian citizen).
I also have writing, mechanical and performance rights on the music I've written and recorded.
Though I haven't invented or improved upon any technology, I do have copyright over my website mynewmicrophone.com.
As an audio engineer/enthusiast, you too can attain intellectual property rights throughout your career.
40. Stock Music
Music can really add to a production. Media producers are often in search of good music to fit the tone of their production.
Sometimes they hire composers for custom music and scoring. Many other times, they go to stock music libraries online.
Writing stock music for these libraries may be a competitive field to get into but it can be very lucrative (and a source of passive income) if done correctly.
The stock music can be licensed as royalty-free for a one-time fee or it can be licensed at a lower (or free) upfront price and maintain your writing credits.
Popular stock music libraries include those on:
Note that, if you've got a competitive edge, you could also create your very own stock music library to licence your own stock music and even get a cut from licensing the stock music of others!
Personally, I've never gone through the process of writing for the above-mentioned stock sites. However, as part of my salaried position, I write stock music for a private music library.
41. Sound Effects
Similar to stock music is sound effects.
Creating sound effects and selling the licensing online is another way to make passive income online with a product.
Popular online sound effects libraries include those on:
Alternatively, you could package up sound clips and sell them in sound effects or sample libraries. This is a popular way to promote yourself and to make money, particularly in the hip-hop and EDM scenes.
In the previous section, we discussed providing the service of recording podcasts. That will typically get you paid upfront for the work you do.
However, perhaps greater potential earnings are possible with owning the podcast itself (or at least part of the podcast).
A podcast is a product and it can make money in several ways:
- Premium content
Podcasts also work to promote you and your brand and can lead to plenty of other opportunities down the line (just like the other jobs on this list).
Audiobooks, like podcasts, can be a great way to make money with audio.
If you've written a book, consider recording yourself (or someone else) reading it and publishing it an audiobook version.
Note that audiobooks generally demand a higher audio quality than podcasts so hiring a professional studio to record your reading will be beneficial.
44. Music Records
Music sales are certainly not what they used to be. The streaming revolution has really disrupted the industry by decimating record sales.
However, it's still possible to make money selling records. There are websites online like bandcamp.com that can sell digital or physical records.
A resurgence in vinyl records has come about, so rather than CDs, many artists will release digital and vinyl records for sale.
45. Synth/Patch Design
The rather niche business of designing software patches for soft synthesizers and DAW plug-ins can be lucrative if you're interested in the EDM scene and have a knack for synth design.
These patches/presets can be sold in packages or separately.
Popular online preset libraries include those on:
46. Online Courses
Online courses are a great way to use you expertise to help others and get paid while doing so. On top of that, online courses are very scalable: create the course once; update it if ever necessary, and the sky's the limit on how many people will purchase and go through the course.
An online course could be produced as an ebook; a series of videos; audio chapters; interactive software, or a combination of these formats.
You could choose to sell the course through your own sales page.
Alternatively, you could choose to go through a reputable website such as:
47. Educational Books
Books could be considered course material.
Writing physical text books for educational facilities can be a lucrative business to get into.
Going a more digital route, the ebook market and self-publishing revolution make writing and publishing a book easier than ever.
Once written, your book can continue to bring in cash flow if marketed correctly.
48. Digital Plug-ins
Rather than building presets for a plug-in, you could design the plug-in itself.
If you've got a knack for computer programming and a creative mind for a cool digital audio plug-in, then this could be for you.
Steve Duda, the owner of Xfer Records and creator of the popular wavetable synthesizer software Serum, is a great example of someone that has produced a successful line of digital plug-ins.
49. Audio Equipment Manufacturing
Not into software? Perhaps you understand circuit design enough to design and construct audio hardware that you could sell for profit.
If you can manage to design something unique (and needed in the market), you could even patent your invention for garner some IP rights.
Related My New Microphone category: Equipment Brands/Manufacturers
50. Instrument Manufacturing
Instrument design and manufacturing can a deeply fulfilling hobby and can certainly net you some dough if you're good enough.
With instrument building kits now on the market, this skill could be considered a service. For example, you could charge to build a guitar for someone.
Even better would be to build custom instruments and build up a name for yourself within the music community.
There's even the potential to patent a unique instrument design you come up with if you so choose.
51. Running A Website/Blog/Vlog
Online business is my personal favourite method of “making money with audio”. On My New Microphone, I write about all things audio and have effectively replaced my full-time audio engineer income with online income.
I personally make money on this blog via advertisements and affiliate marketing.
But simply writing about audio is not all you can do online.
Vlogs can bring in significant revenue as well and require audio skills (at least beginner level).
There are so many opportunities to make income online with audio. Running a website, blog or vlog about audio is a great way to combine learning, teaching, branding, marketing, and business in one.
I made this blog following the teachings of Income School's Project 24 course. Here's an affiliate link to that course for you to check out!
52. Owning A Business Within The Audio Industry
Finally, I want to talk about owning a business within the audio industry.
Technically speaking (at least by Canadian law), any freelancer that works with audio in any capacity listed above is his or her own business.
So your business could be registered or non-registered; a single person or a team of people.
My business, as an example, offers products and services.
The products are this website and the content held within.
The services include all my freelance contract work (field recording, broadcast audio technician, mixing engineer, audio editor, boom operator, and anything else that comes up that I either get a call for or bid on).
The businesses I have worked for include:
- Post-production and recording facility as a salaried employee.
- Multimedia communications groups as a contracted broadcast audio engineer; audio assistant; camera assistant, and camera operator.
- Governmental bodies as a contracted AV technician, field recorder, etc.
- Independent small businesses (bands, videographers, etc.) as a contracted audio engineer/technician.
There are plenty of products and services to provide in the audio industry. Using your skills to gain customers and make money is, in effect, becoming a business.
I wish you the best of luck in your endeavours and hope this article has inspired you to further your learning to produce an income in the audio industry!