If you imagine what it is like to record an album, you will probably think of stress, but also a lot of fun. You wouldn’t be too far of the mark with that, because recording an album is, indeed, incredibly stressful. The problem is, however, that stress can ruin creativity. We have all heard of Prima Donnas throwing a hissy fit because they don’t have Himalayan strawberries in their rehearsing rooms. We have all heard of managers throwing in the towel or blowing a gasket. But we never seem to hear about the people who actually do the work, and who settle all of these arguments: the audio engineer. They say that bartenders are the best psychologists and, if that is true, then those attending audio engineering schools are probably the world’s best diplomats.
Very few people understand just how much time it takes to create the perfect sound. Getting that perfect sound together for the perfect album takes blood, sweat, and tears, and not just from the artist, but mainly from the audio engineer. They have to remain professional at all times, which can be very difficult when dealing with people who think they know it all and who have a huge sense of entitlement. Audio engineers are babysitters to the millionaires, something that nothing could have prepared them for. And, worst of all, once the album is produced and becomes a bestselling hit, they get none of the credit for it.
The audio engineer, it can be said, truly is the musician with the passion. They don’t do it for the money, either. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for audio engineers is $53,330 per year. The top 10% of earners can expect annual salaries of $118,530 or more, but even that is nothing compared to the average amount earned by a star for an album. Audio engineers, therefore, are in it simply because they have a passion for music and want to make sure beautiful sounds are shared with the world. They’re not in it for the glamour, they simply want to do what they do best.
One very positive thing about the job of audio engineers is that, should they have enough of the antics of the famous super stars, they can always move out of the music industry, and into the television and film industry instead. They work on Foley recording and editing, dialogue and ADR editing, sound effects and background sound editing, and more. While this role is different, they may still find themselves benefiting the stars, however. And they will still be unrecognized for this. Next time you watch a movie, see how long it takes you do find out who the audio engineers were. It is likely their name will be mentioned, but not until the closing credits, where they will be right the way at the bottom.
Audio engineers deserve our appreciation. They studied hard, they work even harder, and what they create is what everybody enjoys.