Music Careers in 2012: Video Game Audio, Scoring, Conducting Pays; Teaching? Not So Much (Study)

Berklee School of Music L
Phil Farnsworth

Boston's Berklee College of Music releases a report analyzing pay rates for dozens of music business professions.

Does a career in music pay? It's a question countless singers, players, writers, engineers, producers and audio technicians have asked themselves and the answer is as complicated as the most epic of concertos.  

Thankfully, the esteemed Berklee College of Music in Boston has updated its 2010 study on music industry salaries and breaks it down.

The report called "Music Careers in Dollars and Cents" shows that recent years have seen salaries for music teachers increase, although the highest compensation still tops out at $70,000. Conversely, commercial-jingle writers were subject to income cuts.

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Among the highest earners? An orchestra conductor can earn up to $275,000, a director of audio for a video game company may see a starting salary in the range of $70,000 and with experience, could make $140,000. An audio engineer for a broadcast market is also compensated nicely, with salaries ranging from $80,000 to $160,000.

Less predictable professions include being a music producer or promoter, where an aspiring industry insider could make zero or get lucky and bring in seven figures. The latter is a far cry from the average salary for music industry professionals, which is approximately $34,000 a year, according to the Future of Music Coalition. The top five states for music careers are New York, California, Florida, Texas, and Tennessee.

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Peter Spellman, director of Berklee's Career Development Center, says, "downward pressure on many music performance salaries right now [are] due to the slowing global economic recovery, changing perceptions of music's value, and hyper competition. Thus, all the more reason for musicians to expand their repertoire of both musical and professional skills in this transforming industry."

The study also offers helpful tools for those seeking information on how to navigate the music industry, including a list of organizations and associations created as resources for musicians.

Berklee's 2010 chart can be found here. The updated 2012 chart can be found here.

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