WHAT DOES A CONCERT AUDIO TECHNICIAN DO?
The recording industry, and the music industry in general, is much larger than anyone likes to admit. Most people think of the music industry as just musicians, bands, and maybe producers. However, in reality, there are a myriad of jobs that exist outside of those listed above. People who fill all types of roles from engineers to stage hands to A&R execs.
They’re all valuable parts of the ever-evolving ecosystem that is the music industry. One of these jobs is that of Concert Audio Technicians, also referred to as Live Audio Engineers. They are the people responsible for the quality of sound an audience hears during a live music performance.
They’re the people you see standing in the back of the room, tweaking live shows, tweaking handles and knobs on the master soundboard. They’re the person everyone doesn’t pay attention to, instead focusing on the act on the stage. However, in reality they’re the person who’s exercising the most control of the events transpiring.
Live Audio Engineering
Unlike studio engineers, who mainly work in controlled acoustic environments, where mistakes can be corrected by multiple takes or in post-production, a concert audio tech basically has to work to make sure the band’s live performance sounds right to the audience in real time. Sometimes in fighting difficult acoustical challenges they have to rapidly solve problems, so that the audience isn’t aware of the issue currently happening.
Being a concert audio technician can take many forms, and many times bigger shows will involve multiple audio professionals doing specialized tasks. You might find yourself working the front-of-house (FOH) sound, controlling the sound from the main speakers, or you might be assigned to run the monitoring system to make sure the performers are hearing the correct mixes in their ears or through the floor monitors.
You might even assist one or more specific performers backstage, as a guitar tech, for example. Beyond these multiple roles you might perform during individual shows, most jobs for concert audio techs fall into one of two categories.
IN-HOUSE AUDIO TECHS
Many live concert venues employ in-house audio techs to run sound for them on a regular basis. They’re on call, always ready to help out and make sure the sound is always perfect. In this situation, you get to work with lots of different acts with unique needs. You get to embrace the challenge of making each of them sound great with relatively little practice time.
On the other hand, you have the advantage of running sound in the same venue night after night, which means the room’s acoustic challenges remain pretty much the same, and you can figure out how to compensate for them. You also have the advantage of going home to your own bed.
This may sound like something that’s a given, but for many people in the music industry, who are constantly on the road, the importance of this can’t be overstated. If you’re good at what you do, there’s a bit of job security involved with being an in-house tech. It might not be the most glamorous version of the job, but it is the most reliable.
It’s the version of the job that will allow you to actually have a job and a life. Many people who live on the road, never really enjoy the fact that they’re seeing a new place every night because it’s just that… It’s their job. It’s not actually getting to see the place. However, being an in-house audio engineer gives you the privilege of being someone who can see their friends, sleep in their own bed, and live a relatively normal existence.
TOURING AUDIO TECHS
The other type of concert audio tech is the one who gets hired by a band as they go on tour, running audio for all the shows. In this case, the band itself is the constant in the equation, and you’ll know how to meet their needs night after night. This position is very personality driven.
You’ll be balancing and interacting with the various members of the band. You’ll be helping them bring their vision to life, and you’ll be doing so night after night. If you’re the type of person that loves close collaborations, this could be great for you. If you’re not, maybe not so much.
The additional challenges to this role will be to figure out the acoustic issues of a different room or outdoor venue each night. You’ll be constantly having to problem solve in a new location. If you love to travel, this can be a great gig to have. For bigger acts, the pay isn’t bad, either.
The disadvantages are that the road can get tiresome. You won’t see your friends and family nearly as much as you’d want. And the hours can be quite long. And, of course, once the tour is over, you’re basically out of a job. An average working concert audio tech earns around $35K annually while the top ten percentile of the profession pull in above $62K a year.
Being a concert audio tech is about more than making money, however. It’s about embracing the challenge of solving problems and making bands and artists sound their very best for an audience who paid good money for tickets to see them play. For a concert audio technician, this is the most rewarding part of the job.