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Q: I am a student at a community college. I want to get into the music industry, but not as a singer. I want to be an engineer. I’m really nervous, though, that there is no money in this profession. But this is something that I want to do. Here, in Petersburg, Virginia, there are no [engineering] jobs: I would have to go out of the city to get work. I’m hitting a brick wall in trying to choose a good school and getting the hands-on experience I need.
–S. Wilson, Petersburg, Virginia
A: For any career track, but particularly one in entertainment, your success will depend on job experience, networking, and persistence. This means you can’t pursue a dream by doubting your potential. To satisfy one of your concerns, there is a significant amount of money to be made in music engineering—mostly from freelancing, but be prepared to pay your dues.
“A person starting out has to be hungry and willing to put in long hours and, many times, all-nighters,” says Wendell Hanes, music composer, sound designer, and co-owner of Bang Studios in New York City. “This type of person can expect to make $25 — $40 an hour and average $35,000 a year.” Experienced engineers who work regularly can earn between $60,000 and $100,000 per year at $100 an hour, says Hanes. And celebrity engineers can command more than $250,000 a year and negotiate deals to receive points from the sales of an album or project.
Although many state schools offer solid music programs, which may include engineering studies, I recommend investigating Berklee College of Music in Boston, which offers a great program as well as excellent networking opportunities. Also, check out the Music Engineering program at the University of Miami.
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