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for a serious carrer, where is the $ in tech? is it in theatre, tv, movies, concerts?
i really want to know because while i love tech it could really effect my career decisions and am hoping someone can shed more light on this than the old roadie sitting around complaining that they are overworked, underpaid and unappreciated.
thanks in advance!
im planning to major in tehc but minor in something i can fall back on. im also looking into movies. hopefully this summer i might go out to LA for a week or 2 my grandpa has friends who work on movies.
How about a young roadie complaining that he's overworked, underpaid, and under appreciated? It sounds like a bitter old guy whining, but in reality, often it really is the case.

This is not a field you get into to be rich, it's a field you get into because you love it. If you make good connections, read your contracts carefully before you sign them, make sure you know your employers before you start working for them, etc., you'll generally avoid most of the real bad things, but still, the way this industry works, we're the least visible people, and are generally looked down on by the guys in suits who don't understand us.

It's not to say you can't make a living doing it, but you're definitely not going to be rich.

How much money? That depends on where you work, how hard you work, etc. Rates through IATSE in Evansville, IN are going to be entirely different than those you make if you're Local 1 in NYC.

As for TV, movies, or theatre, they're all pretty similar, it's more about where your heart is. Many guys I know bounce between two or more areas. One of the best sound designers/engineers for theatre I know, a top name in the field, is also a top name in live tv broadcast mixing (in fact, he mixes the feed from Times Square that you all listen to on New Year's, with the networks supplementing it with their own stuff).
It also depends on what your goals are. If you plan on being a roadie, you will only make so much money. If you plan on being a designer..you will make more money, and very possibly royalties...depending on the size of the show.

But they are right, its something you get into because you love it..knowing you may not make the most money in the world...but hopefully, with enough work you'll live very comfortably.
ccfan213 said:
for a serious carrer, where is the $ in tech? is it in theatre, tv, movies, concerts?
i really want to know because while i love tech it could really effect my career decisions and am hoping someone can shed more light on this than the old roadie sitting around complaining that they are overworked, underpaid and unappreciated.
thanks in advance!

Good question Matt, and one everyone should consider if they want to make this a career. This is a career field where you will not get rich overnight--but if you are good and willing, its a career that can pay you very well.. I've been in the biz for almost 20 years--I'm not riding in a Lamborghini with two homes and a jet airplane--but I'm not destitute and scraping the walls for crumbs or a place to sleep either. You have to ask yourself, IMO, the two BIG questions--1) what kind of income will accommodate the quality of life you want? and 2) what do you want to DO--be well off first in $$ or enjoy your work first? Its not as easy a question to answer a lot of the time..most folks want both and a lot of the time that is not the case in any career. This is, IMO, where you have to decide about sacrifices you will make in life... I'll give you some of my experiences & knowledge to help answer your question, but you have to decide for yourself if you want Tech to be your life's career.

Money possibility in a tech career--can vary from under $20k a year to well over 6 figures a year. Here are my experiences on what CAN be made and what I have made in the past....

HOUSE GIGS: In-house tech work for a theater or production house can be a good way to make a living. Most places (especially colleges and universitys) will want a degree or long work history before hiring. Pay for being a house TD or a Production Manager in a company can pay a range from $24k - $75k depending on experience, location, and work load. When you take on a manager role--you become FLSA "exempt" and do not make overtime rates for overtime worked. However when you are a tech, you can rake in the $$ in overtime. House gigs are nice--they offer a routine or place to go every day, a safe or secure job with benefits, that is not subject to many things like may happen on a tour to halt things abruptly (remember 9/11--touring came to a halt for a while), and its a place you can make your own and be proud of or build up to a higher level.. House gigs are great if you have a family and want to settle down...

UNIONS: Unions will take care of you...for a price. Unions such as IATSE take a cut of your pay for union dues--and in return you get benefits such as retirement, 401k's, health and medical etc. Unions vary per each area--some are easy to get a card at, and others will ignore you until you have put in half a dozen years or more on the C list (regardless of your experience) and maybe then they may consider taking you on as a full Union member who will get the better paying calls & gigs or in-house gigs. Union pay is set by contract for each gig and your rating or job duty--pay to the worker usually runs anywhere from $14-$35hr depending on your location and duty. This can result in a pay from $20k-6 figures easy for some shop in-house gigs. The Union gets you the job or show--and you work for them..they pay you so you never have to worry about the client "forgetting your check" at a show etc. Plus it outlines a lot of the "rules" and labor stuff that can be set upon you so you do not get abused or have to do work that you were not contracted to do (like empty trash bins or sweep out trucks--unless you were contracted to load and unload trucks). Out of your pay you pay a union dues fee to stay in the union--around $120 month or more..it can run by percentage of pay, or be a flat rate. Each IATSE branch has its own little "thing" on the way they work and collect dues (been in the IA--they DO vary from state to state no matter WHAT they BS you about). But all have health and retirement benefits for its members that come out of your pay. Its like having a regular employer--but your employer is the Union. For houses that are Union run--it can take years to get a gig there or be full time at one location--but when that happens you can do very very well for yourself, and in that case the Theater pays you based on your Union Contract that exists between the Theater and the Union. The longer you stay in the union--the more seniority you build up and the better your jobs and pay/benefits will get.. Union gigs are good for folks who are not in a family or relationship that ties them--until you get a house-gig for a Union you need to have flexible hours and a flexible life.

TOURING (theater or concert): As a freelancer or tour tech, you have more choices to go where the money is--but you have to have the skills to stay sane and manage yourself on the road. Plus you have to actually get yourself in with a touring company--not the easiest thing to do and can take a long time to even get a foot in the door sometimes. Income potential for touring can be anywhere from $600/wk plus per diem (usually $20-35/day) for newbies and "crew" type folks, to upwards of $2000+. per week plus per diem (note--you have to be VERY good, and you have to be a lead operator in Sound, Rigging or Lights or SM etc, for that highest pay rate). Some tours are Union--some are not. Tours are a good way to make a lot of money...but it takes a lot of your time while you are on them and its not like you can call in sick when on a tour. A tour can pay you in half a year what you would make in a full year at a house job--but its requires you to basically give up your life and plans for a duration of time--anywhere from a couple of months to a over a year... The nice part is while on the road--unless you have alimony or a bad habit, you can come off a tour and not have to work for a while--or you can go back out and save save save. If you can find yourself a good tour company and work your way up--in several years you can do very very well money-wise... If you want a family or to settle down--don't try to keep a marrage or relationship while out on tour--it will not last and the time committed by you on the road with little time to call or write, will drive you or the siginificant other crazy. Its not a "regular life" of 9-5 with weekends off....and you can be gone for months or longer and be out of touch with many persons for periods of time. If you have a wife or other who expects to hear from you 5 times per day just to say "I wuv u" and other stuff about groceries or "at home problems"--either forget touring or forget the relationship...cause both together will not work usually. Best way to tour--put all your stuff in storage for $30 a month and pre-pay it for a year, then sell your car, and just be gone...cause you may decide when your show closes you may not wanna come back to where you left and may wanna stay somewhere else for a while...

TEACHING: If you decide you wanna teach tech--the best locations for teaching theater tech are in a University setting..and for this you will be required to have a Masters degree for most places. A Bachalors will probably get you a teachers job in a high school. Teaching is fun, nice and offers you a chance to give back of your experiences--and it makes a nice fall-back plan to have if you should decide you are tired of life on the road or an in-house gig later in life. However--you NEED that Masters Degree...no ways around it. Teaching can give you a fixed and easy schedule, and offer a fun atmosphere..or it can frustrate the hell outta you. Benefits for teachers in University's are excellent for the most part--and the schedules are reasonable to build a life or family around. Teachers & TD's in Universities tend to earn in the $35-$60k range or even better...depending on the university, location or job position. Teachers in High School or Elementary tecn to earn from the low $teen$ to $35k range--again depending on the area and location and job position. Fairly pathetic if you ask me that the people who are teaching and shaping the children and leaders of tomorrow can barely pay for a single apartment and are paid BS, and many have to have second jobs elsewhere..

That should give you an idea of what tech life and careers are like and possible. If you want a life that is 9-5 or has weekends off--medical and dental and a ton of vacation benefits--get a real job that does all that or aim for a house-gig somewhere. If you want a family early--tech life will be difficult to give you a career and a family..so again get a real job and career...but if you decide you cannot do 9-5 in an office cubicle or deal with people in a sales environment--tech life can be extremely fun and if you work hard and do well and network your skills, you won't be homeless or hungry.... Hope this helps..good luck..

thanks wolf, thats very good information to know!
Thanks for the replies and compliments...and I didn't even touch the topic of being a Designer or Stage Manager or trying to do a specific job in Tech Production.. Perhaps later on I will write about being a Lighting Designer or Moving Light Programmer or Audio Mixer and all its possible $$$ or being a professional SM etc and the $$ there..


Ya Wolf, that would be something I am interested in.
[Professional SM or Lighting Designer $$]
Your post really helped putting things into perspective.
now when my family tells me that there is no money or future in tech theatre, i can now give them a few ball-park numbers.
thanks man!

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