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How Much Does A Sound Designer Make?

Adam Scott

This article will discuss how much a sound designer makes as a senior sound designer and other related aspects that a sound designer deals with while producing sound effects.

Audio designers are different from engineers

I feel that sound designers are different from engineers. Here’s why.

Engineers can make a lot of money if they are part of a larger team, which is usually composed of several engineers. So even if you are a talented engineer, your maximum earning potential may not be the highest if you are a part of a larger group of engineers.

Sound designers are a different story. They are usually independent artists, so they can make a lot more money than their engineer counterparts.

Sound designers are one of the few people who work with their hands, instead of with a computer. For this reason, sound designers have a greater propensity for earning higher wages.

Sound designers make a lot more than sound engineers for the simple reason that sound engineers tend to earn less money than sound designers due to the fact that sound engineers are not necessarily good at their work.

If you are a sound designer, I guarantee you will have a much more fulfilling job than an engineer.

How much does a senior sound designer make?black vinyl record on turntable

How much a senior sound designer makes is the question that many sound designers seek to find an answer to. To answer this question, we will take a look at the yearly income of senior sound designers and compare it to that of sound engineers who are paid by hourly rates.

Total annual salary of senior sound designers

Although the salaries of both senior sound designers and sound engineers have slightly varying annual salaries, they still fall within the same general range of around $50k – $120k per year.

If you go through the salary data for sound engineers, you’ll notice that the majority of them have annual salaries between $55k and $80k per year.

These annual salaries give you a general idea of how much each senior sound designer is earning in the movie industry, assuming that their role is not high-level and isn’t critical to the movie’s success.

Senior sound designers make around 20% of the wage of sound engineersblack and blue audio mixer

Now let’s take a look at the actual wage of senior sound designers, as opposed to engineer wages.

First of all, many senior sound designers are actually paid as a percentage of the total amount spent on the project. For example, if you are hired as a senior sound designer, and you work on a movie that costs $50,000, then your compensation will be 20%.

If you’re hired as a junior sound engineer, your compensation would be 10% of the total amount spent on the movie, or $10,000.

The salary of a senior sound designer is usually just a percentage of the overall wage that is paid to sound engineers.

The 20% salary of senior sound designers is compared to the 9% wage of sound engineers, because most senior sound designers have a higher workload. For example, if you have to work on a $50,000 movie and your salary is 20%, then your workload would be significantly higher.

If a sound engineer is assigned to work on a project that costs $50,000, their compensation would be a simple 10% or $10,000.

Therefore, if you are working on a lower-cost, lower-budget film, then you would be paid less than a senior sound designer.

Of course, there are a few exceptions to this rule.

Although the lowest senior sound designer’s salary typically goes up to $90,000 per year, senior sound designers working on a movie that costs $250,000 per year will typically earn $150,000.

Once you get past the $50,000 level, senior sound designers will usually earn the higher end of the wage range.

However, let’s take a look at the most profitable low-budget films that have won Oscars, based on the total budget of the movie.

Low-budget winning films

Movies that have won Oscars for sound design typically have a lower total budget.

The minimum salary of a sound designer for an Oscar-winning film is usually $75,000 .

The real-world pay of a sound designerman wearing black headphones

When I’m researching films, I often have to come up with my own pay packages for my interviews, based on the estimated budget of the movie.

I’m interested in how much sound designers are paid for their work, because I’m always curious how much time I’ll spend to complete a project.

I decided to find the real salary of the average sound designer working on films that are in the top 500 in Box Office, based on their total budgets.

The average sound designer’s salary is $90,000.

How did I determine the salary of sound designers?

To figure out how much sound designers earn in the real world, I calculated the median pay for sound designers, and then used the 95th percentile (or upper limit) to find the median.

Based on that median salary, we can estimate how much a sound designer can expect to earn.

For this analysis, I used the 4-year range (2011–2015).

For the average sound designer working in this 4-year range, they would earn $90,000–$100,000.

After searching through these films, it’s clear that the median salary for a sound designer in the top 500 in Box Office is about $90,000.

In the article, I was able to identify five films with the highest gross revenues and the highest number of nominations. In the case of Up in the Air, there were only three nominations.

Based on those films, I was able to find the top 500 films with the highest gross revenues, based on their total budgets.


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