Sound technicians operate and maintain the equipment used to record, mix and amplify sound for radio, film, television, music and events.
Sound technicians usually earn
$45K-$80K per year
Source: Gravity Events, The Inside Track, Native Audio, 2018.
Pay for sound technicians varies depending on skills, experience and the type of work they do.
Entry-level or assistant sound technicians usually earn between $17 and $25 an hour.
Experienced sound technicians usually earn between $30 and $80 an hour.
Sound technicians on a salary usually earn between $45,000 and $80,000 a year.
Many sound technicians are self-employed and work on short-term contracts.
Sources: Gravity Events; The Inside Track; Native Audio, 2018.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Sound technicians may do some or all of the following:
- discuss requirements with clients
- prepare recording booths and television studios for recording
- choose and set up equipment such as microphones
- preview sound recordings and adjust quality to correct level
- mix sounds on a mixing desk, and add sound effects
- mix sound for live bands and corporate events
- creatively use sound to support the story in film and television productions
- edit recordings and adjust sound levels as necessary
- set up and pack out sound equipment
- maintain sound equipment.
Skills and knowledge
Sound technicians need to have:
- knowledge of sound, music and acoustics
- technical skills to operate sound recording equipment and sound production and editing software.
- may work long and irregular hours, including evenings, weekends and public holidays
- may work indoors in radio, film and television studios, recording rooms and concert venues, or outdoors in various locations.
What's the job really like?
Andrew Downes never planned on becoming a recording engineer, but 30 years after he “fell into” the job he can’t see himself ever doing anything else.
Doesn’t feel like a job
“I don’t really see being a recording engineer as a job, I think that’s what I enjoy most about it. I’ve managed to find something that if I wasn’t doing for a living, I’m pretty sure I’d be doing as a hobby.”
No such thing as a typical day
“There’s no such thing as a typical day for me. I might be editing sound files, or mixing audio, or I might have to travel somewhere for a recording session. I tend to spend a large amount of time soldering and fixing broken equipment as well.
“I also spend a bunch of time watching videos to get new skills on how to use new versions of software or finding out about new hardware and similar things. So I count that as being an important part of my work.”
It’s important to be self-motivated, patient and persistent
“You have to be very self-motivated and patient because, like any career in the arts, there’s a lot of rejection. You’ve got to be persistent.”
Dave Whitehead talks about how he became a sound designer/composer – 4.16 mins.
I actually started doing theatre sound first, so making sound effects for little theatre productions and then writing music for little children's-pantomimes, and things like that, so it was pretty basic stuff.
Prior to that I was actually playing in bands, the school band, so being in the music room, trying to record a track, you know, so putting down a guitar, putting down a drum track in the music rooms at school, so really utilising what they had.
And then I went to a careers guys and he told me about theatre and television and that sort of thing. So it was actually my guidance counsellor at school who told me to head down that path.
Anyway, so theatre soundtracks, doing sound effects, and then started doing short films. Now the thing is if anyone really wants to get into doing pretty much anything in film, I would say start with a short film and there are people at the polytechnics, there are people at universities, people at film schools that need sound, or that need art department, or that need people who are creative to come in and work on those projects and make them great.
And so the thing is look at short films, because they are the building blocks, and I've done maybe 30 or 40 and I still do them now, and I'm about to shoot my own first one, so it's like things move from one thing to the other.
But start small and I think it's a better thing... I'm mean feature films are huge and if you work on a short film and it gets noticed by someone who works on a feature film, or the director that you did the short film for becomes famous and has a feature film, all of a sudden you're in a different ball park and you will have a career that might open up into feature films.
There's a lot of times where you don't have incoming money, so it's good to be diverse. So the thing is the film industry there might be a film shooting for four, five, six months and then it will... be a break of a couple of months where you've got to hopefully store your pennies, but it is a good industry to be in so don't be dismayed by that whole thing, but there might be times when you have to borrow some food money from your parents, but it's a good career.
Sound design, sound effects editing, dialogue editing, foli artist, music producer - all of those things, they're all in the same sort of park and all of them just require you to sort of, chip away at your skill sets.
So start small - play your guitar, get it sounding good. If you're shooting a little film on a hand-held video, just put a little fluffy thing on the end of your microphone so that it doesn't all sound horrible.
Look online at advice from people such as myself or other people and use that as your resource to try and move your career ahead, but just small steps, small steps. Do something every day to get to what you want.
It's okay to be scared of what you're going to do. Like it's actually a prerequisite to doing some creative job. But embrace that fear of what you're going to do because you don't know if you're going to be able to pull it off and you've got to try and pull something out of thin air to make something work, but that's part of the process, it's part of that whole kiwi ingenuity thing - if someone from overseas is watching this, it's the the same thing as well - where ever you are, use what ever you have within in your grasp to try and propel yourself forward. To get to the top of what you do...I don't know if there is a top, you know, and I don't think you're striving to do that. What you're trying to do is try and get your voice out there, because your voice is important, you know, it's important for anyone to hear what you have to say, because it might be what we all need to hear.
There are no specific entry requirements to become a sound technician as skills are gained on the job as a sound assistant. However, you usually need:
- a tertiary qualification in a relevant field, such as sound engineering or television, video and film production
- experience and demonstrated ability in sound operation.
There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a sound technician. However, music, dance, and drama, digital technologies, media studies, English and maths are useful.
Sound technicians need to be:
- patient, reliable and creative
- able to show initiative
- able to work well under pressure
- detail focussed
- able to work to deadlines
- good problem solvers and decision makers
- good communicators and team players
You've got to be patient. While you’re employed by people, you’re also working with them and everybody works at different speeds.
Useful experience for sound technicians includes:
- any previous recording or sound work
- work with audio production software and equipment
- event work, such as work at festivals and concerts
- work in the music, television or film industry.
Sound technicians need to have excellent hearing. They also need good stamina as they may have to stand at a sound desk for long hours.Check out related courses
What are the chances of getting a job?
Few opportunities for sound technicians
It is difficult to get paid, full-time work as a sound technician due to the small size of the entertainment industry in New Zealand.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further reduced opportunities for sound technicians.
Demand may improve slightly as restrictions to control the spread of the pandemic ease.
According to the Census, 546 sound technicians worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Types of employers varied
Sound technicians work for a wide range of organisations. They may work at:
- live concerts
- recording studios
- radio studios
- post-production sound editing suites
- television and film sets
- sound or theatre performances
- corporate events and functions.
- Burt, C, owner/sound designer, The Inside Track, careers.govt.nz interview, April 2018.
- Isaacs, D, managing director, Gravity Events, careers.govt.nz interview, April 2018.
- Junovich, G, managing director, Native Audio, careers.govt.nz interview, April 2018.
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Sound technicians may progress to become production managers or to run their own business.
Sound technicians may specialise in a particular medium such as television, film, radio or music recording. They may also specialise in a particular area, such as live events or post production sound mixing.
Last updated 4 June 2020