Have you ever wondered how much employees make at your local Guitar Center store? As one of the largest musical instrument retailers in the world, Guitar Center employs thousands across its nearly 300 locations in the United States.
But how much does Guitar Center pay its employees? Is it possible to make a decent living working at the iconic music shop?
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into Guitar Center salaries, bonuses, benefits, and overall compensation. You’ll learn the average pay across the company, how salaries differ by role and location, and how Guitar Center stacks up against competitors.
Whether you’re considering a career in music retail or just curious about what goes on behind the scenes, read on for a comprehensive look at the salaries at Guitar Center.
Guitar Center Company Overview
Before getting into the numbers, let’s take a quick look at Guitar Center itself. Founded in Hollywood in 1959 as a small organ and guitar shop, Guitar Center has grown over the past 60+ years into the world’s largest retailer of musical instruments and equipment.
The company operates nearly 300 stores across the U.S., selling everything from guitars, amps, and drums to recording equipment, DJ gear, and more.
Guitar Center brought in $2.1 billion in revenue in 2021 and employs over 10,000 people. It’s a subsidiary of Ares Management Corporation, a leading global investment firm.
Between its retail stores, e-commerce site, and catalog/phone sales channels, Guitar Center sells more fretted instruments than any other company in the United States.
Average Salaries at Guitar Center
So how much can you expect to earn working for this iconic music retailer? Based on available data, the average estimated annual salary at Guitar Center, including base pay and bonuses, is around $127,282. The median Guitar Center salary lands at $117,453.
For hourly workers, this translates to an average of $61 per hour or a median of $56 per hour.
To put this in perspective, the national median wage across all occupations in the U.S. is $20 per hour or $41,600 annually. So Guitar Center pays slightly above average when looking at all industries.
Salaries by Role
Of course, salaries can vary significantly depending on your role at Guitar Center. Here’s a look at the estimated pay for some common positions:
Highest Paid: General Counsel
The highest paid job at Guitar Center is General Counsel, the top attorney, with an average salary of $246,392 per year. This six-figure compensation reflects the importance of legal oversight in a large corporation.
Lowest Paid: Operations Manager
At the other end of the spectrum, Operations Managers make an estimated $44,500 at Guitar Center. This role involves overseeing the daily operations of retail stores. While on the lower end for Guitar Center, this salary remains aligned with industry averages.
The iconic Guitar Center sales associates, who help customers pick out instruments and gear, earn around $23,000 per year on average. Pay for retail associates and consultants falls on the lower side of Guitar Center’s pay scale.
Managing the guitar, drum, keyboard or other departments in a Guitar Center store pays approximately $35,000 per year. This salary represents a bump up from the associate level.
Pro Audio Sales Specialist
Those with technical expertise in professional audio equipment make about $27,000 on average at Guitar Center. Specialized knowledge brings a pay boost over entry-level retail.
Overseeing major initiatives like store openings and systems implementations pay around $83,000 per year for Guitar Center project managers.
Driving advertising, social media, and events for Guitar Center stores brings an average salary of $67,000 annually for marketing managers.
So in summary, base pay at Guitar Center ranges from around $20,000 for entry-level store associates to over $200,000 for corporate executives, with differences based on role, experience, and location. Bonuses and commissions provide opportunities to exceed base.
Salaries by Department
In addition to role, department is a major factor determining average pay at Guitar Center. Product managers enjoy the highest salaries, averaging $198,339 per year. This reflects the importance of managing Guitar Center’s core retail merchandise.
On the flip side, administrative roles in departments like Finance and HR average around $63,618 annually. Compensation drops for back-office corporate functions.
Here’s a breakdown of average salaries by department:
- Product: $198,339
- Marketing: $100,379
- Sales: $135,340
- Operations: $82,833
- Design: $126,746
- Admin: $63,618
So you’ll generally find the biggest bucks in customer-facing departments like Marketing, Sales, and Product Management. Support functions pay less but remain competitive.
Salaries by Location
Where you work can also impact your earnings at Guitar Center. Average salaries are highest in major metropolitan markets where the cost of living exceeds national averages.
For instance, compensation for the same role tends to be higher in Los Angeles than a smaller market like Madison, Wisconsin. Coastal cities also tend to pay more than middle America.
Some of the best-paying Guitar Center locations include:
- Los Angeles, CA
- Salt Lake City, UT
- San Francisco, CA
- Seattle, WA
- New York, NY
So location definitely plays into Guitar Center salaries, with corporate roles concentrated in LA and big cities paying more for both corporate and retail positions.
Compensation Compared to Competitors
How does Guitar Center’s compensation stack up against other retailers? Overall, Guitar Center pays competitively based on available benchmarks. Here are some comparisons:
- For sales associates, Guitar Center salaries align with averages for musical instrument retailers and general retail stores.
- For most corporate roles, Guitar Center pays comparable to industry norms when adjusted for geographic differences.
- Vs. top competitors like Sam Ash Music, salaries are relatively similar for equivalent store and corporate positions.
So while not an outright leader in compensation, Guitar Center remains competitive within both music and broader retail. The company matches industry averages rather than exceeding them significantly.
Benefits and Employee Satisfaction
Aside from salary, benefits and overall employee satisfaction provide useful context around total rewards.
Guitar Center offers benefits including health/dental insurance, 401k retirement savings plans, merchandise discounts, and more. Surveys suggest employees rate satisfaction with pay and benefits at around 44%.
Compared to industry peers, Guitar Center ranks in the bottom 5-15% for compensation satisfaction. Employees give below-average ratings for pay fairness and calling pay/benefits a reason to stay.
While compensation matches industry norms, Guitar Center has room to improve employee satisfaction through enhanced pay structures and benefit offerings. Development opportunities and workplace culture matter too.
Working at Guitar Center provides the chance to combine your passion for music with earning a living. Salaries range widely based on factors like role, experience, department, and location.
Average pay hovers around $127,000 annually, competitive within music retail. Store associates earn on the lower end around $20,000, while executives make over $200,000. Major markets and specialty positions pay the best.
While competitive, Guitar Center salaries don’t exceed industry averages. Employees see room for improvement in pay and benefits. But for many, the chance to work around music, help customers, and build a career outweighs compensation as the sole factor.
So while you probably won’t get rich working at Guitar Center, you can earn a respectable living in a job immersed in the world of music. For guitar and music enthusiasts, that may just hit the right notes.
About the Author
Team Guitar Top Review Talk about Guitars! We are a group of friends that bonded over their shared love of playing guitar. We all have different backgrounds and experiences with music, but we share a passion for writing about the things that we love.