Music Editor Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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A music editor's mean salary is roughly $57,000. Is it worth the training requirements? Read on for real job listings and career information to find out if this is the career for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Music Editor

Music editors, also called sound and audio editors, primarily work to perfect the sound for film and video projects. Read on for some pros and cons of starting down this career path.

Pros of a Music Editor Career
Creative work*
Few educational requirements (22% have an associate's degree, 31% have just a high school diploma)**
Interaction with writers, musicians and other artistic people*
Varied projects, always something new*

Cons of a Music Editor Career
Evening, weekend and holiday hours often required*
Most jobs are available in California or New York
Stressful, deadline-driven environment*
Freelancers must regularly spend time marketing their services*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net OnLine.

Career Information

Career Options and Job Description

Music editors work on films, in television, in the music industry, in advertising, for schools and government agencies and for other various organizations. The job involves setting up and controlling various audio equipment, as well as recording and manipulating sounds to achieve desired effects. In the film industry in particular, music editors synchronize music and other sounds with the visual aspects of a film project. The work is usually done during long shifts indoors at a sound studio.

Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), music editors fall under the category of sound engineering technicians. These professionals earned a mean income of $56,610 as of 2013. The expected growth in this field between 2012-2022 was projected to be about 1%, which is slower than average across industries. As more digital audio is used in businesses and at schools, there may be freelancing opportunities to supplement your income. Steady jobs as music editors are few and far between, so they are naturally very competitive.

Education and Training Requirements

No specific education is required, although most editors have at least a high school diploma. You may also enroll in a program in sound engineering or audio production through a vocational school or community college where you can learn to operate the necessary equipment. These programs may range from several months to 2-3 years and include course work in editing for film and television, audio production theory, multi-track recording, digital technology and copyright law.

In order to get a job as a music editor, you may need to complete one or more internships at the kind of sound studio where you wish to work. Networking is an important part of finding a job as a music editor, and internships offer the chance to meet and interact with people in the industry who could serve as useful contacts during your job search.

Necessary Skills

To succeed as a sound engineer and music editor, you need to have strong computer skills and manual dexterity, as well as the ability to manage time and work well under pressure of deadlines. Small technical problems arise continually in this line of work, so the ability to calmly and effectively troubleshoot will serve you well. It is absolutely necessary to be detail-oriented, since sound engineering and editing often requires precise, moment-by-moment decisions.

You will need to stay up-to-date with the latest technological advancements in digital sound editing to use the programs that are called for and also to innovate and create your own current ideas. Editors interact with a lot of different people, so you need strong communication skills.

What Employers Are Looking for

Job listings for audio editors vary a great deal in scope and specific requirements, but they all ask for candidates with significant experience and knowledge of the relevant computer programs. Here is information from May and June 2012 job listings in this field:

  • A production company in Detroit requests a post-audio engineer to finalize the sound on a new horror film. The company is looking for someone with experience who believes he or she is capable of mastering a film's audio reels. No specific training or education is mentioned.
  • A sound studio in southern California is seeking a permanent post audio mixer. The job duties include working on sound for film and television programs, and the candidate must be prepared to record, mix and edit sound for the various projects.
  • A film crew in New York is looking for a freelance sound editor to work on an independent film. The job offers 1-2 weeks of work. To be considered, applicants must send audio files demonstrating their abilities.

How to Stand out in the Field

Sound editors need to constantly maintain skills in how to operate the latest audio equipment, since this field depends so heavily on technology. Study any programs you aren't familiar with and get experience editing different types of projects, from albums to films to commercials.

Having an extensive knowledge of music and music history will serve you well in your pursuit of a music editor career. When musicians and studios interact with sound editors, they will probably feel better if they have the impression that the editor is well versed in the genre they are working in.

Other Careers to Consider

Film Editor

If you enjoy editing but are interested in working with visuals as well as sound, you may want to consider a career as a film and video editor. This job combines working in the studio and working on location wherever film and television is being shot. According to the BLS, film and video editors earned a mean annual income of $67,000 as of 2011.

Music Journalist

If you want to spend more time around music and less time at the office, you may want to consider becoming a music journalist. Music writers listen to records and review them, interview musicians and attend concerts that they then write articles about. If this sounds appealing, you can enter this career by studying writing as an undergraduate and looking for freelance writing jobs (starting with unpaid jobs for beginners). You will need to build up a portfolio of clips (published work) before moving on to more high-profile writing assignments.

As a music writer, you have the chance to work either freelance or for a publication. According to the BLS, independent writers earned roughly $100,000 in 2011, while writers employed at newspapers or magazines earned a mean annual wage of $55,000. The upside of working as a staff writer rather than an independent freelancer is job security and the knowledge that you will earn a certain amount each month.

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