What Does a Concert Audio Technician Do?
Concert audio technicians (also called live audio engineers) are the people responsible for the quality of sound an audience hears during a live music performance. 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 fighting difficult acoustical challenges in the process.
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. In this situation, you get to work with lots of different acts with unique needs, and 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—and if you’re good at what you do, there’s a bit of job security involved with being an in-house tech.
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. On the other hand, the challenge will be to figure out the acoustic issues in a different room or outdoor venue each night, and you’ll have to become an expert at solve problems on the fly. If you love to travel, this can be great gig to have (and for bigger acts, the pay isn’t bad, either). The disadvantages are that the road can get tiresome (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.