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Saucyjack
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16th January 2005
Old 16th January 2005
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Session musician rate?

What's a good ballpark rate for session musicians.I'm looking at recording an acoustic demo for a client and he may need to add some drums,bass,etc to his performance.
I got several friends to call on to do the gig but trying to get a ballpark rate.... this isn't major label/Nashville stuff.
More along decent project studio lines.

Any ideas?
I'm thinking around $20 a song as a
starting guess?
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16th January 2005
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In my area it's about $100-$150 CAD (Vancouver, Canada) for a good non-union studio musician per track. I would stick with the guys who do it for a living. Big difference between playing live and studio playing. I had some friends who were great live players come in to track in the studio and they just couldn't cut it. The amount of time it takes with the inexperienced including all the editing that is needed adds up to more than the rate of a good studio musician in my experience.

For example, one of my earliest drum sessions was with a friend who was a great live player with no studio experience. Well, there were what seemed to be endless takes, endless punch-ins and alot of editing. This was on the first song. The producer just shut down the session and we didnt use the tracks.

We then got a session drummer. He came in (never heard the tracks) Listened to the song while reading the chart. We hit record and it was done in one take. We did 2 other passes (which werent used) just in case and he was out of there. Another plus point was that he brought along a few really amazing kits with him and we were able to try different snares, cymbals etc. From that point on it was session players for me.

Shane
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16th January 2005
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A friend in Florida (and another in the Dallas area) finding that the going rates are in the range of around $100-$150 per song as well. Jeez - it's cheaper to hire musicians in Nashville than that...
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Saucyjack
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16th January 2005
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Wow.
I'm pretty sure I could talk my friends into doing it for free beer(and they are pretrty good players) but I was wanting to cut them some cash.

Real session musicians aren't really an option.

But I don't think the project will be able to afford (or honestly really deserves)$100-150 a song.

That gives me a range though.
I
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In my gig I pay session vocalists $60-$75 per song with players getting $75-$100, depending on how much gear they bring, and how many tracks they end up doing.

I usually have to work to a flat fee pricepoint, so anything more than that will eat my profits, plus I play most instruments well enough to avoid using session players most of the time. If the client wants to spring the extra $$, then we'll bring in the local symphony if they can afford it.

What Shane said is true...I cringe when recording most of the local live guys around here. They tend to play on "Budweiser" time/pitch, even if they are pretty good players who sound decent live. Many is the time I've replaced their parts with my own playing to save the track.

Good Luck!
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16th January 2005
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Quote:
Originally posted by Kyle Ashley
What Shane said is true...I cringe when recording most of the local live guys around here. They tend to play on "Budweiser" time/pitch, even if they are pretty good players who sound decent live. Many is the time I've replaced their parts with my own playing to save the track.

Good Luck!
Absolutely. I have also seen this done also. You are now wasting your valuable time redoing those parts.

I did a few jingle sessions were I just said 'No. I'm not doing this' Once I had a percussion player who never even played to a click track in his entire life. (Dont get me wrong. He is a great live player and great on stage and fun to watch)Of course I asked all the relevent questions before the session started and just said I cant do it. So I set the session up and my partner did it. He spent his whole weekend editing. And now he knows why.

Session players even for demos

Shane
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16th January 2005
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I'll play for free if I dig the project (rare) other than that, I'm coming in and providing a service...

It's scale, or on a per tune basis.
In my neck o the woods....100 an hour, or 300.00 per tune on a demo/indie type thing.


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$150 for the first hour and $50 per hour after that sounds fair to me. I'd hit it.
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Interesting, everyone is thinking around the same, $100 - $150.
That sounds good to me.
Not to pick on you SaucyJack, but you kind of hit a raw nerve there. I'd rather do something for nothing than $20. I will do work for nothing if it's something I really rate, or if it's a close friend. Other than that, people seem to call in favours and if the act gets signed you never hear from then again.
I was grumbling/laughing with another session player recently (we couldn't decide which)......... guys will call you up and ask for a days drumming for $50, then ask you to bring your Radio King and Black Beauty, which incidentally would cost them $100 to rent for the day. Am I a cartage company or a musician.
Anyway sorry for the tangent. Good luck with your tracks.
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I'm subject to use a variety of payment scales for performers:

1) What's recognized by a certain "funding" model (FACTOR here in Canada) is $76.XX/session per player, and $100 for leader (if applicable) - this is a template for anyone receiving "grant" money for a project (album or demo), and these values are based on current AFM rates (or so they tell me)

2) if the artist is paying, and they want the best (not their "friend" or "cousin" etc) it's $100/song, to a maximum of 2 hrs per song. On the same note, if the session is an "unfunded" demo etc, I often work it out with the players that they'll get $50/song (usually 3 songs), to a maximum session time of 4 hrs - that way they usually make about $40-50/hr, which is pretty fair these days...

3) Last option I use is $35/hr session fees for hiring an instrumentalist to flush out parts, do "sound design" (theatre/dance), and often it's the most popular, but have to watch the clock, and be efficient with the time budgeted/available.

I'm sure it sounds a bit weird, but it seems to never, ever cause grief, and the players always come back - then again - this is no NASHVILLE either

YMMV greatly,
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Here in the sticks where there really is no suh things and a full time session player I give give guys $50/song. I have a little stable of excellent players who I can trust. They are prepared, sound great, are flexable and on time.

The client usually pays them directly and I just"broker the deal" as it were.
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16th January 2005
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In the UK the standard MU (Musicians Union) rate is £106.80 ($185) per 3 hour session. These are generally NOT (but does sometimes include) rock and roll types ie. string players, brass, woodwind.

For a 'Bro' deal I'd say £50-£100 ($75/150) per song + whatever transport costs they have and a few beers after the session.

Some just show up for the beer. OR spend their money on YOU in the pub after! :-)

Really depends how close everyone is and how willing they are to help a 'friend' and not break your clients balls.

R.
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16th January 2005
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Thanks for the replies.

Here's the situation... the musicians I would be using are good friends...played in bands in the past and present,yadda,yadda,yadda.
I'm sure they would probably do it for free(and have in the past a few times) but a potential client asked me if I could line up some players for a what sounds like a quick demo project(I know,I know) and wanted to know what it would cost him,so I figured I would try to cut the players a few bucks.I'm not trying to screw anyone here.I would rather them make a few bucks than doing the deal for free.

Again this IS NOT anything close to major label stuff...more along the lines of a local guy wanting to lay down demo.
The client doesn't have a major budget and I don't think $100 a song is going to work.
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Hi SJ,

Well this what I'd do then...

I'd ask your client how much eaxtra money he has available to pay a real band.

If he's a friend, you know he's on the level and he really IS low on funds and he says, maybe, $250 - call up your mates and say ' look, I've got $250 between the 3 of you. Fancy coming down and having a go at a few songs?".

Like I said, and others have said before, a few beers can go a long way. Especially when dealing with friends.

If he's not a friend and he's a cheap b**tard (you know the type, never buys his round at the bar, always complains about leaving too much of a tip etc...) automatically (regardless of what amount he says!) say there's NO WAY he'll get anybody to do anything for that poxy little amount of money (remember, this is REGARDLESS of what amount he's already said) and add another 50% on top.

If he goes for it, call your friends and give them the lowdown.

If he doesn't, it's his cheap-ass problem and don't forget to throw in a few "Man, if only we'd had REAL drums on this thing..." a good 10 times during the session.

Maybe that's a little harsh but I sincerely believe that people should pay what they can afford and I hate seeing people that SHOULD get paid being taken advatage of.

Good luck,

R.
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16th January 2005
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Well, this has been an interesting thread so far on session rates. Now i am curios. What are the Nashville session rates these days?

Shane
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16th January 2005
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Quote:
Originally posted by Drumsound
Here in the sticks where there really is no suh things and a full time session player I give give guys $50/song. I have a little stable of excellent players who I can trust. They are prepared, sound great, are flexable and on time.

The client usually pays them directly and I just"broker the deal" as it were.
Man,

You've been reading my mail - basically the same deal here...
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16th January 2005
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Living here in L.A, it's a different gig, but I have a few thoughts. When the cards are on the table, I am only going to go for the gusy who do it for a living and charge $100hr. I think it's a bargain. Most of the time the client is paying, and I reap the rewards by sounding like a stud.

With that said, I am very aware of and hip to the "hey buddy" gig. I have some friends who are actual friends (as opposed to friendly collaborators) who are pro players and from time to time, we will help one another out.

The problem with the $20/song gig is this: you start to sell it to clients too soon. You're trying to get them excited about working with you and before you know it, you're selling your friends for far less then they are worth based on a past favor.

I think the key to keeping "hey buddy" gigs happening is to make sure there's a real gig mixed in there from time to time, or, set the "hey buddy" price at a point (say $75) where it's significant enough for your buddy to like you at the end of the day.

Just remember that mixing business with friendship is always a tough balance to achieve! Err on the side of watching out for your friend's interest instead of your own and you'll do well because they will err on the side of watching out for you. If the money's low, MAKE SURE it's acknowledged and the client buys some good brew.

My $.02. It's worth exactly $.02. Or, in Europe, it's worth $.000003.

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16th January 2005
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maybe this is an idea: why not offer the client two options: either the more expensive crew (your friends) or an semi pro crew, which consits from some new and young guns, that are trying to get a foot into the door of doing sessions.

i think you could offer a win-win situation to the client, you and the youngsters, and while on the one hand cutting back prices, you give a chance to some talented young musicans get into work with the other. this is exactly how i got my first session gig, and yes, i was w....ing my pants, but the engineerer was a nice &helpfull guy, explaining everything very correktly, and thus everything went better than he expected (so i was told later)

maybe, even a mixed crew is possible, eg its a rock thing, you give the major guitar parts to a seasoned musican, but the rhymth section is done by youngsters that are tight on groove and click.

hopefully, you don t get my idea wrong, and secondly, maybe this is of any help for you.

all the best!
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Quote:
Originally posted by tunesmith
The problem with the $20/song gig is this: you start to sell it to clients too soon. You're trying to get them excited about working with you and before you know it, you're selling your friends for far less then they are worth based on a past favor.

I think the key to keeping "hey buddy" gigs happening is to make sure there's a real gig mixed in there from time to time......"

Tunes
I think this first paragraph is SO SO important. I couldn't agree more.

And even though it seems like you had your answer under your situation before you asked the question...as cajonezzz and tunes said, around here in So Cal., $100/hour for demos is the going rate for GREAT players that do it for a living....some of them are the best true triple scale guys in the business. Most of them play at the $100/hour rate based on the fact that you WILL provide them with full (their) scale rate as those gigs come along.

But beyond that, in all of our situations, and locations....I truly think there is a psychology factor in what you pay a person for their service.
If a person has integrity and understand's the value of money (i.e. has to make money for a living), they may react different(better, faster, more efficient) to higher wages. Finding that $ equilibrium is key IMO.
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17th January 2005
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Quote:
Originally posted by Shan
Well, this has been an interesting thread so far on session rates. Now i am curios. What are the Nashville session rates these days?

Shane
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17th January 2005
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I am not a pro session musician, but the last time I played in the studio for pay was for a band leader of a Zydeco band I was playing with. Of course he was bookng me gigs, but his offer to me was hourly, at $20 per hour plus one copy of the final CD...as opposed to a "per song" fee...and I agreed.

There were 13 songs and I ended up in the studio one full 9 hr. day to lay down a dummy track for the rhythm section. Two 9 hr. days to lay down rhythm and lead guitar tracks, plus a few hours on one day to do backing vocals. I was happy with that arrangement and gave it my all.

If a complete stranger called me I would probably charge an hourly rate as well,at least $25 per hr., or a minimum of $150 if my work was minimal, just for the trouble of showing up, bringing gear,etc..

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Everytime I negotiate with a musician about fees...be it "friend or foe" I always put myself in their situation....I find the more u pay a guy/girl the better the experience is.....personally I'm not into making a financial killing out of a session...but a "sonic killing" ..... what ever it takes...the band have to feel good.....
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Some good points kudzu! I would also like to add that if your session musicians know you are on a tight budget, and they agree to give you a good deal for their services, it's not a bad idea to give them a good tip over and above their agreed fee.

I recently recorded at a studio down in Clarksdale Ms. and used the services of some of their local blues talent. Actually the harmonica player who helped us out drove 100 miles from Pontotoc Mississippi after putting in a full day's work at his job. He had offered me a really reasonable fee for an evenings session. I tipped him an extra $50 over the agreed fee for his trouble and I know he appreciated it. Plus, it was a Monday night and he had to drive 100 miles back home and get up at 7 AM the next day.
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Quote:
Originally posted by Drumsound
Here in the sticks where there really is no such thing as a full time session player I give give guys $50/song...The client usually pays them directly and I just"broker the deal" as it were.
Similar here, outside of Cleveland, OH. The musicians and singers charge anywhere from $20 to $75 per song -- they set their price depending on what they feel their contribution and time commitment is. The best guitar player in the area wants $175 to use him on a song. In 4 years, not one person has sprung for it.
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here in nyc, i pay musicians between 100-150 per hour depending on the situation. i'll always give them extra if they end up "leading" the other players or otherwise adding to the project. also cartage if they're bringing something like an upright or pedal steel. since parking is a drag, the extra cash is always appreciated.
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NEVER, EVER, EVER sacrifice on drum tracks!!!

* Get the client to do fewer songs on the same budget
* Convince the client (if he is your buddy) that the extra $50+ per song is SOOOOOOOOOOO worth it. In fact, it'll make the difference between bush league and competitive...

I mean, if the client just wants rough sketches of tunes, fine, get his bar band-buddies in & have fun. S&^t, for $200-400 (total!), you could have a version of each song that would be fine for, say sending home to the folks or showing to potential bandmates (for learning purposes).

BUT I CAN'T BELIEVE how many people who take their music so damn seriously will somehow avoid working, say, a brainless odd job (think 4-hr. shift 3x/wk. = $80-120 or so...) for a couple of months while they get THEIR music off the ground. Just the fact that all it takes to get WORLD CLASS PLAYERS on your record (esp. 3-4 song EP) is to wash a few dishes/pour coffee for a month or two! Jeez, you bought that amp you fell in love with, right?
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17th January 2005
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The reason the top players get what they get is the fact that they are so fast and so good that it's cheaper to use them than to pay for all the time spent fixing the work of lesser players.
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Here in Brazil the session musician is about 75$ or 100$ per track (remember that 1 dollar = 2.7 reais, so it's a fine money for the player).... worth every cent!!!!!

It happens a lot of times to me:
Great and famous live players who can't record fine in the studio.... They are sloowwww, have difficuties to read charts, memorize the song, play with click, play with properly dynamics, play with groove (!!!), bad sound and not good condition instruments.. and yes be ready to countless punch ins, playlists and spent hours editing it later... or in the end come to the decision that you will not use anything they recorded.

So I learned my lesson: there's a reason for the pro session musician fees.

If you are in a budget, at least the drummer and percussionist MUST BE session guys.
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12th October 2008
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I'd like to throw a wrinkle into this situation. I produce Hip Hop tracks. Now the way things generally work w/ Hip Hop nowadays is a producer will create music in advance on his own (not knowing if that music will ever be bought) and an artist will buy that music afterward.

If I had a completed track and I wanted to bring in a bass player to replay my bassline & throw in some options. How much do you think I should pay? Does the fact that my track may never be released or make a dime make a difference?

Also, would it be fair to only offer the player a percentage of my advance money, if & when the track is sold (1k-7k)? Or even include some publishing maybe? I'm broke as a joke right now & I would gladly give up more money if the track gets sold down the line, but I don't want to insult anyone...

edit: wow I just realized how damn old this thread is. Sorry, it came up in google.

edit 2: I just realized Bob Ohlsson posted on this thread... RESPECT!
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12th October 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saucyjack View Post
Any ideas?
I'm thinking around $20 a song as a
starting guess?
$50-80 per HOUR for the first tier of good musicians. Double to triple that for name, top of their game musicians.
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