How Much Does a Sound Designer Make?
July 23, 2022
Sound designers are in high demand, and the field is growing. But how much do they really make?
Sound design is a complex industry, with many facets and many different roles. As a result, it can be hard to know just how much you'll make as a sound designer at any given point in time. The good news is that sound design is a highly specialised job, so there aren't many people who do it.
You could ask around, but take those answers with a grain of salt: everyone's situation is different and salaries vary widely within this profession. In this article we'll walk through some ways to approach this question so that you can make an informed choice about your career path, as well as an overview of average salary ranges.
Short answer: sound designer salary
The short answer is that a sound designer’s salary range is $45,000 to $90,000 in the United States, and around £30,000 to £70,000 in the UK. Though salaries for sound designers vary depending on the industry and location.
The average salary for someone in the profession is $70,000 per year and £44,195 in the UK. Sound designers with more experience and skills may earn more than this. The ranging salaries means that some production sound designers earn less than this average figure and some earn more – it’s not an exact science!
In terms of hourly rates and salaries, you can expect to make anywhere between:
- $34/hour (median) if you work on documentaries or other smaller productions; or
- $40/hour (average) if you work on video games or feature films.
How much a sound designer makes can depend on their experience and skill level. More experienced and skilled sound designers usually make more money than those who are just starting out.
Making it in a complex industry
The sound design industry is a complex one, with many different types of jobs, skills, people and companies. You might be interested in becoming a sound designer for games, films, TV, or music production. The salaries for each type of industry can vary, making it complex to compare sound designer salaries.
Each industry requires slightly different skills and knowledge. You might be interested in the work of a game dialogue sound designer but your voice isn't quite right for it. Or maybe you have what it takes to make music for games but your technical skills aren't quite up to snuff yet – though the positive is that there are many ways to get into the sound design field and increase your value!
The games industry
Sound designers working in the gaming industry generally make more than those working in film or television. How much a sound designer makes per project varies widely. Some projects may only require a few hours of work, while others may require months of work. The size of the project and the budget of the production also play a role in how much a sound designer makes per project. Generally, sound designers working on big budget productions make more money than those working on smaller projects.
The film industry
The amount of money a film sound designer makes per project can vary depending on the size and scope of the production. A film sound designer working on a big-budget Hollywood movie will typically make more money than one working on a low-budget indie film. Sound designers working in Hollywood generally make more money than those working in other parts of the world. This is because Hollywood productions have larger budgets and can therefore pay their sound designers more money.
Sound designers working on independent films or television shows typically make less money than those working on studio productions. This is because independent productions have smaller budgets and cannot afford to pay their sound designers as much money.
If you're interested in learning more about this career path, I suggest checking out some online forums where people discuss these issues and share their experiences (and advice).
How can sound designers earn more?
So how do you get paid more as a sound designer? The first step is to consider what type of sound design you are doing and where it falls on the industry spectrum. For example, if you work as a music composer or producer (in other words, someone who creates sounds for artistic purposes), then your salary will likely be lower than someone who works as a sound engineer or designer in the film industry.
Sound designers also have many options when it comes to career paths. If you are interested in pursuing a career in education or research related to audio or music technology, consider becoming a professor or researcher at a respected music and sound design institution.
Find your lane
As you start to figure out what kind of sound design work you want to do, it's important that you identify your lane.
Do what you love. If there's something in the world that excites and inspires you so much that it feels like a part of who you are, then pursue it even if it doesn't pay off financially just yet. You will be happier and more satisfied with yourself as a person when doing work that aligns with who you truly are as a person – your passions, skillsets, and personal brand value will shine through in all aspects of your life (including your career).
Do what's easy for you. If something comes naturally to someone else but not necessarily for you, don't force yourself into doing it just because they can do it better than anyone else! Focus on areas where your strengths lie so that those things come easily to you; this way everything gets done faster too because there won't be any struggle involved (or at least less struggle than usual).
Avoid the comparison trap
Avoid the comparison trap. Don’t compare yourself or your salary to other people, your successes to their failures or vice versa, or your situation to theirs. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is the version of you that was doing the same thing a year ago – and even then it doesn’t matter because the future is uncertain and change happens all of the time anyway!
This is not about being modest; it's about being realistic about what's going on in your world and being able to embrace change when it comes along instead of worrying about how others are doing things differently than you would do them.
Focus on making sure that every project gets done at its highest quality as efficiently as possible – not just for yourself but also for your clients who depend on timely delivery from their vendors (which includes us!). This way, you’ll have a strong portfolio as a sound designer, which will give you better leverage when seeking better paid work.
The best way to think about this is that you have a portfolio that includes every project that you've worked on so far. The objective of those projects was not just to make something great; it was also about showing what kind of value you bring to any given project and proving that you can be relied upon. It is a demonstration that you know what you’re doing when it comes to sound design, and even mixing, mastering, music production sound engineering or another area.
You're in charge of how much you make
While there are a lot of factors that go into how much you make, there’s one thing you can control: your own work.
You can't control the market, or what other people are doing in your field. But you can control your own work and turn it into something more valuable – and more profitable.
How much a sound designer makes per year can also vary depending on the economy. In times of economic recession, many film and television productions are cancelled or put on hold, which can lead to less work for sound designers. However, in times of economic growth, there is often more work available for sound designers as more productions are green-lit.
This can be one of the more unfortunate sides of the sound design industry, since creative arts are often the first to receive financial cuts in time of need. But it is important to pursue your passion as a sound designer and understand that you will find the right opportunity.
In conclusion, salaries for a sound designer can vary depending on a number of factors. Although, the most important thing to conclude is that you should persevere with integrity and professionalism in this industry, developing a portfolio that makes you invaluable.
If you’re a sound designer, it can be difficult to find the motivation to work for low pay, or in some cases, for free. And if you do decide to jump into this career, it’s important not to compare yourself with others who aren’t in the same situation as you.
In fact, this is something we should all remember when pursuing any career path: focus on what you can do and don’t worry too much about how much money other people make doing similar work!