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How much should I charge for recording?
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Aaron Giese
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#1
9th November 2012
Old 9th November 2012
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How much should I charge for recording?

I've heard that its best to go with an hourly rate in most situations with some exceptions, but I'm not sure what my hourly rate should be. I feel like I've been working for next to nothing for a while and maybe I should rethink the business side of this. Also, I've heard that it varies based on your location. My initial goal was to just work as much as I could no matter how much I got paid just to get experience and get good. I feel like I'm starting to get pretty decent and maybe I should charge more, but I'm not sure the bands I've been working with could afford it. I'd like to try to make a living at this some how although I do still have a day job.

I'm recording out of a project studio in my parents house right now in Minneapolis, MN (they aren't charging rent as a way of helping me buy gear).

Gear:
Imac for mixing/editing and macbook pro for tracking
Logic studio
Melodyne editor
Apogee duet (the original)
Apogee Ensemble
m-audio profire 2626

UAD quad satelite
Plugins:
Cambridge eq
Pultec pro
EMT 140
EMT 250
Lexicon 224
1176
LA2A
LA3A
Fairchild
Precision Maximizer
Precision De-Esser
Precision Enhancer hz
Moog Filter
Little Labs IBP
Little Labs VOG
Studer A800

Waves Renaissance bundle
Waves C4
Slate digital Trigger
Dr. MS
Sonnox Supresser

Mics:
shure
sm7b
sm27
sm81
sm57
sm57 modified (took out the transformer)
beta 52

rhode
(2)nt5
nt1-a

Studio projects c4 (2)
Audix D6

Headphones
3x shure shr440
3x Extreme Isolation headphones
Behringer headphone amp (8 headphone outs)

2x Little Labs redeye phantom di/reamping boxes

mogami cables
dr pro mic stands

for mixing I have a pair of krk vxt8s and krk rokit 5s
my mixing room is a bedroom with auralex foam and random pillows and bags of old clothes as makeshift bass traps.

I track drums in an open kitchen/dining room area with wood floors.
Here are some links to a few recent things that I worked on. On all these I engineered and mixed. I also produced them to varying degrees depending on the project.

josh clutter
"Lego House" -Ed Sheeran (cover by Josh Clutter) - YouTube
You and I - Josh Clutter - YouTube
Josh Clutter - Always Love You - YouTube

Farsighted (only the first song though, it was mastered kind of bass heavy :-/ long story, but I did a full length album with these guys that never really got officially released)
Farsighted - BandPage | Facebook

Handsome Midnight (currently working on a full length)
Handsome Midnight - Music/Shows | Facebook

Cynth (Turn Back Time and Believin)
Cynth - Music | Facebook

The Drive
The Drive- Somewhere(Acoustic) - YouTube

The Phoenix Philosophy (these guys have me credited as mixing a few songs that I didn't mix for some reason, but I did the original mixes of their self titled ep and their burning down the dance club ep)
Flirting With Disaster - The Phoenix Philosophy - YouTube

What do you think I should be charging given my equipment list and samples of my work. Also, do you think I would be able to make more if I moved to Los Angeles or Nashville? Should I try to work in a real studio instead of trying to keep building my project studio? I'm just trying to figure out what my next move should be towards doing this for a living. Any input or other business advice would be greatly appreciated. Mix/engineering/production advice welcome too.

Thanks
-Aaron
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9th November 2012
Old 9th November 2012
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Just my opinion. I wouldn't charge based on the equipment you have cause you chose what you needed/wanted for your client so I guess it plays a role but its minor I think. It should depend on the quality of the work. I would think someone in your position knows if their knowledgeable or not and if you feel you know you bring everything they need/want to the table, then charge a good sum. I didn't answer your question but I thought Id give an opinion anyhow.

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9th November 2012
Old 9th November 2012
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None of that gear list matters.

You can only charge what people are willing to pay you. Set it high, and see what you can book. Adjust from there. Now is not a great time to be a "studio owner" but let's not kid ourselves, every studio engineer wishes they had a place to do their freelance work. Don't try to sell studio time, just sell yourself... "and oh yeah, I've got a place we can work."
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9th November 2012
Old 9th November 2012
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You could expand that to "I know a place where the music is fine and the lights are always low."
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9th November 2012
Old 9th November 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson View Post
You could expand that to "I know a place where the music is fine and the lights are always low."



Also, you're gonna need a lava lamp. Matched pairs are not necessary, but a variety is nice.
Aaron Giese
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9th November 2012
Old 9th November 2012
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Thanks for the responses so far! I know results and reputation are more important than gear lists, but I felt like that would help give an idea of my setup. I'm still wondering on an actual dollar amount. I just feel like I would be more confident negotiating with a band If I knew I had a solid number thats reasonable, but a good representation of what my time is worth in the eyes of other professionals. My weakness is that a lot of times, I just want to do it because its fun, so I let people just take advantage of me and before I know it, I end up with more work than I can handle and I'm not making any money. And I still enjoy doing it, but if I could quit my job and make enough money just doing music, that would be awesome! and I'd be able to get things done quicker for bands and my schedule would be more flexible.

Another weakness is that I feel a little insecure about recording out of my parents house vs a real studio. It definitely helps financially, but I wonder if people will take me seriously. I mean, are my mixes good enough? Shouldn't that be the only thing that matters? What are your thoughts on that?
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9th November 2012
Old 9th November 2012
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Let's role play.

I'm the client that wants to record a new record. I know just enough about it to track my guitar and vocals in my apartment, and a friend of mine has a basement where we record drums. I have an SM7b, the cheap audix drum mic kit, and maybe a couple of MXL mics. I use M-audio monitors and have an 8 channel interface working with cubase or reaper. We recorded the last record ourselves, and it came out "pretty good", but we have a little bit of money from our tour and want to buy some studio time to track drums for the next album. We'll probably just overdub everything else in my apartment, because our budget isn't very big. We usually self produce and self engineer everything ourselves to save money.

You're the engineer, looking to get hired to help an artist take their efforts to a new level. Go.
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9th November 2012
Old 9th November 2012
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I'd probably start by asking them what their goals for the record are. What are they trying to accomplish? Use this to shop for labels or management? Just to record an album to sell to fans? Maybe take things to the next level and increase their fan base? Are they trying to turn music into a career? or is this just a hobby? Based on their answers, I would start laying out a plan to accomplish those goals with my help. I would have done my homework before I even got to the point of talking to the band about working with them and have an understanding of their music and live show. And I would give them ideas and examples of other bands who have done what they are trying to do. We'd make a plan and schedule a day to start working on it.

In the past, I would just ask what their budget was, and whatever they said, I'd take it. The position I'm in now, I'm almost too busy working on current projects to take on anything new, let alone seek out new business. and it seems like people just call me and ask me if I will do a project for x amount of dollars, or money won't even be mentioned and they will just ask if I want to do the project. And I'd just take it because I wanted to do it without thinking of money. Then, since i didn't say anything at the start I would feel bad if I tried to get more out of them than they were expecting to pay. Hence my dilemma.

Or, a few times other people have gotten referred to me that I'm not that interested in working with and I'll throw out a price because they will call and ask how much I charge. But the times that has happened, either they said it was too much and would go to someone cheaper, or they said they'd talk to me in a couple months when they were ready to record and never got back to me. In any of those instances, since I know the people who referred them to me, I heard back that those people pretty much flaked out and never recorded at all.
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9th November 2012
Old 9th November 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron Giese View Post
I'd probably start by asking them what their goals for the record are. What are they trying to accomplish? Use this to shop for labels or management? Just to record an album to sell to fans? Maybe take things to the next level and increase their fan base? Are they trying to turn music into a career? or is this just a hobby? Based on their answers, I would start laying out a plan to accomplish those goals with my help. I would have done my homework before I even got to the point of talking to the band about working with them and have an understanding of their music and live show. And I would give them ideas and examples of other bands who have done what they are trying to do. We'd make a plan and schedule a day to start working on it.
This is all good but remember these guys are coming to you and expecting you to know the answers to questions they haven't even thought of yet. Think about it this way, all of the questions you asked probably arn't going to change how much effort you put in. Or it shouldn't. Bands that come in sometimes don't have answers or a direction they just want to record. Be careful not to question them to much!

But on the same note it is good that your thinking about all of those things. My last session I just did the guy said hey, I set up the mic and session then he went to the booth. After the session he said it was by far his favorite studio to work out of because of the sound and how efficient I was. I found creative ways of asking him all of that during the session after it had already started.


Cheers
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9th November 2012
Old 9th November 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron Giese View Post
...Another weakness is that I feel a little insecure about recording out of my parents house vs a real studio. It definitely helps financially, but I wonder if people will take me seriously. I mean, are my mixes good enough? Shouldn't that be the only thing that matters? What are your thoughts on that?
I guess you can only attract clients with the quality of your work. Additional to what recordinghopkins just said, look from a clients perspective. What can you offer that they can´t achieve themselves?

This should be no means be offensive, but your gear list is not that impressive for the average musician these days, where everyone seems to have his little home studio or rehearsal room, equipped with a PC or Mac, a multichannel interface, a bunch of plugins, some Shure mics and 1-2 LDCs. And you don´t have a dedicated studio with an impressive tracking room.
Again, this should not be offensive, but I can imagine a lot of people would think “oh, I´ve got the same stuff he has got. No big desk, no fancy outboard gear I saw on pictures of big studios, no soffit mounted speakers that´s half the size of my bedroom. Why should I pay money?” – you get the idea.

I know it´s not about the gear in the first place, and you can get great results with stuff like yours. But I know only since I started getting into recording myself. Some years ago when I started doing music, impressive gear and a big studio would be some of the first things I would have looked for when choosing a studio to record at. And I guess those things have an impact on a lot of potential clients, too.

So you have to feature yourself, your work, the skills and experience you can offer them. Try to convince them that they can get better results working with you. And also, feature the advantages of having someone record for you, that they can concentrate on the music and don´t have to deal with the technical aspects of recording, that it can be an advantage of having an “outsider” around, with an unbiased view.
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9th November 2012
Old 9th November 2012
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Originally Posted by T.V. Eye View Post
I guess you can only attract clients with the quality of your work. Additional to what recordinghopkins just said, look from a clients perspective. What can you offer that they can´t achieve themselves?

This should be no means be offensive, but your gear list is not that impressive for the average musician these days, where everyone seems to have his little home studio or rehearsal room, equipped with a PC or Mac, a multichannel interface, a bunch of plugins, some Shure mics and 1-2 LDCs. And you don´t have a dedicated studio with an impressive tracking room.
Again, this should not be offensive, but I can imagine a lot of people would think “oh, I´ve got the same stuff he has got. No big desk, no fancy outboard gear I saw on pictures of big studios, no soffit mounted speakers that´s half the size of my bedroom. Why should I pay money?” – you get the idea.

I know it´s not about the gear in the first place, and you can get great results with stuff like yours. But I know only since I started getting into recording myself. Some years ago when I started doing music, impressive gear and a big studio would be some of the first things I would have looked for when choosing a studio to record at. And I guess those things have an impact on a lot of potential clients, too.

So you have to feature yourself, your work, the skills and experience you can offer them. Try to convince them that they can get better results working with you. And also, feature the advantages of having someone record for you, that they can concentrate on the music and don´t have to deal with the technical aspects of recording, that it can be an advantage of having an “outsider” around, with an unbiased view.

I think this is a very good response. I'll put it into a comparison. I have a little home studio, probably very similar to yours. Running PT on a PC, I am using some Sound Workshop channel strips I racked up as pre's and EQ, have the basic dynamic mics, some Rode stuff, a couple cheaper Neumann's... some Dynaudio BM6A monitors.

Here's the thing, my best buddy who makes a living off music, started on a very similar setup to this. (Probably influenced me to make the choices I did). However, even when he was running this setup, he would charge $500 for someone to come with their buddies to record a single. He would set them up in his loungeroom throughout the day, get them to play their parts. He'd spend a couple hours and do a bit of editing, mixing..and pretty much be done to hand it over. My point is, the results he could get with his gear, I can't even come close to. Would I charge someone $500 to do a song...no way. I'm still a rookie, and if a friend or acquaintance asks me to record them, I'm more in the vacinity of $150. Same gear, but I know my experience and skill is not up to par. Now, I have access to all his gear and his studio...would I charge what he charges these days.....Not even close. Same gear...but its his skills that he is charging for.

The only reason I even really charge something is for the sheer fact to not devalue the industry for those guys that do make a living off it, so that every artist out there doesn't shop around looking for someone to record their album "so they can get engineering experience". The whole "musicians should play for free" syndrome.

-Rob
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9th November 2012
Old 9th November 2012
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Aside from my gear list, i did also post links to examples of my work. Take a listen and let me know how my stuff compares to the stuff your buddy did that he charged $500 for. Do you think my stuff is in that price range? Higher? Lower? I'm just trying to figure out where i stand. I won't be offended no matter what anyone says, I'm just looking for honesty. And thank you everyone for the responses so far, it has definitely given me some things to think about.

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9th November 2012
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To each his own, but I'm not a fan of true hourly rates. I prefer to give the client a flat rate so there is no pressure to stay within budget if there is one. However, my flat rate is usually based on how much I think I'm worth hourly multiplied by the number of hours I estimate a project will take. If it takes less time, great, if not, oh well, but after awhile you can usually make a fairly accurate estimation and it evens out in the long run.

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9th November 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron Giese View Post
Aside from my gear list, i did also post links to examples of my work. Take a listen and let me know how my stuff compares to the stuff your buddy did that he charged $500 for. Do you think my stuff is in that price range? Higher? Lower? I'm just trying to figure out where i stand. I won't be offended no matter what anyone says, I'm just looking for honesty. And thank you everyone for the responses so far, it has definitely given me some things to think about.

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Given your gear, I actually think your results are pretty impressive - I've certainly heard a lot worse from some so-called "pros"! The balances are pretty good, drums no more triggered sounding than a lot of other tracks in the same genre..there's lots of little improvements to be made, but hopefully you'll figure that out as you do more...we all do.

What lets you down in just about everything I've heard here is sloppiness in the performances - I was listening to a polished-sounding pop/rock tune (eg the 2nd josh clutter tune on your list), and then there's an obvious timing flub which just wouldn't get through on a "pro" recording. From that point on, my mind kinda switches to "oh - I'm listening to a demo" mode, and I start hearing all the flaws.

Also the "handsome midnight" material exhibits the same issues (good balances/poor timing) - whilst it's in the hands of the musos to an extent, if you're "producing" and not just mixing, it's down to you too to make a product you're happy with!

I can't tell you what to charge, but if you're "too busy" as it is, just raise your rate for each successive project until you hit the right level of time commitment.

Given your minimal recording setup, I would focus your "charging" on mixing projects for others, and for the production side, do projects you really want to do (and take the care in the editing to get them really pro) - that can then be your calling card to be able to charge more.

Like it or not, you're unlikely to attract serious clients (by which I mean label, or the upper end of the self-funders - the guys who're happy to pay for a "proper" studio) to record drums in your mum's kitchen. But if you're good, you might get them to hire you to record them at a "proper" studio then mix them yourself.
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10th November 2012
Old 10th November 2012
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Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
Given your gear, I actually think your results are pretty impressive - I've certainly heard a lot worse from some so-called "pros"! The balances are pretty good, drums no more triggered sounding than a lot of other tracks in the same genre..there's lots of little improvements to be made, but hopefully you'll figure that out as you do more...we all do.

What lets you down in just about everything I've heard here is sloppiness in the performances - I was listening to a polished-sounding pop/rock tune (eg the 2nd josh clutter tune on your list), and then there's an obvious timing flub which just wouldn't get through on a "pro" recording. From that point on, my mind kinda switches to "oh - I'm listening to a demo" mode, and I start hearing all the flaws.

Also the "handsome midnight" material exhibits the same issues (good balances/poor timing) - whilst it's in the hands of the musos to an extent, if you're "producing" and not just mixing, it's down to you too to make a product you're happy with!

I can't tell you what to charge, but if you're "too busy" as it is, just raise your rate for each successive project until you hit the right level of time commitment.

Given your minimal recording setup, I would focus your "charging" on mixing projects for others, and for the production side, do projects you really want to do (and take the care in the editing to get them really pro) - that can then be your calling card to be able to charge more.

Like it or not, you're unlikely to attract serious clients (by which I mean label, or the upper end of the self-funders - the guys who're happy to pay for a "proper" studio) to record drums in your mum's kitchen. But if you're good, you might get them to hire you to record them at a "proper" studio then mix them yourself.
Wow, seriously this definitely helps. About the timing thing, you totally just opened my eyes to it. Somewhere along the line I got the idea that you don't want things to be too perfect sounding, so don't mess with the timing. I think this may be true for some productions that call for it. For example, Handsome Midnight just wants to be a rough sounding rock band. agree with it or not, it really is subjective I think. But Something more pop, I definitely should have tightened it up.

What you said about focusing on mixing and producing makes so much sense too. Its still nice to have the ability to track things if need be, but If I'm going for the bigger fish, I think it would definitely be better to go to a proper studio to track.

Seriously, thank you! I just picked up that jack robert hardman album and am listening to it now! Very well done! :-)
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10th November 2012
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If you know what you are doing, charge an arm and a leg.
If you don't know what you are doing, charge an arm and a leg.
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10th November 2012
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Originally Posted by Aaron Giese View Post
Wow, seriously this definitely helps. About the timing thing, you totally just opened my eyes to it. Somewhere along the line I got the idea that you don't want things to be too perfect sounding, so don't mess with the timing. I think this may be true for some productions that call for it. For example, Handsome Midnight just wants to be a rough sounding rock band. agree with it or not, it really is subjective I think. But Something more pop, I definitely should have tightened it up.

What you said about focusing on mixing and producing makes so much sense too. Its still nice to have the ability to track things if need be, but If I'm going for the bigger fish, I think it would definitely be better to go to a proper studio to track.

Seriously, thank you! I just picked up that jack robert hardman album and am listening to it now! Very well done! :-)
Thank you

I don't think you shouldn't promote yourself as an engineer/recordist, just that it's easier to maintain a pro image/rate doing the mixing thing remotely....no-one needs to know where you are or what you do.

Plus you should still charge for the recording part - but do the projects you want, and concentrate on the results being a calling card. You won't have your parents' kitchen forever!

For my money, even "rough" rock has to be rough in the right way. Feel and being out of time are different things...not everyone can get it right!

But you're on the right track
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10th November 2012
Old 10th November 2012
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Originally Posted by Aaron Giese View Post

Seriously, thank you! I just picked up that jack robert hardman album and am listening to it now! Very well done! :-)
Yea,it does sound good.

I may have to start listening to him...

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10th November 2012
Old 10th November 2012
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Originally Posted by NotchontheRocks View Post
To each his own, but I'm not a fan of true hourly rates.
I can understand this perspective, but I don't like flat rates. I remember one of the things that I learned working with the mythtical Joel Patterson is to charge an day or half day rate and then, on a day to day basis, you can go over, work longer if you choose. Eliminates any awkwardness that could come from a flat rate. With a flat rate, there's the chance that you or the band could feel taken advantage of. Joel, sorry if this isn't something that you want credit for.
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10th November 2012
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I'm more concerned by the "mythical." Are you saying I'm "mystical" but I have a lisp???
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10th November 2012
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I'm more concerned by the "mythical." Are you saying I'm "mystical" but I have a lisp???
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10th November 2012
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A lot of people who are big names in radio ,tv, film ,recording industry started out working for free. I call it paying your dues. If you love what your doing and learning all the time then for now just keep at it. If your getting great results then you'll get a reputation and from there. Take Jon Stewart from the daily show. That guy used to work at a radio station for hours every day just to get his foot in the door. Look where he is now. I know he's not a engineer but its about his ethic. Dave pensado lived in his car when he first moved to the big city.
If you love it and your getting good at keep going. Try to get as much money as you can. Maybe after a project ask the client to pay you what they think its worth. If they give you $10 then maybe your not as good as you think. On the other hand if they are happy with the result they might give you what they got in appreciation. If you get the results you'll get the recognition.
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11th November 2012
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11th November 2012
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Originally Posted by Tashez View Post
A lot of people who are big names in radio ,tv, film ,recording industry started out working for free. I call it paying your dues. If you love what your doing and learning all the time then for now just keep at it. If your getting great results then you'll get a reputation and from there. Take Jon Stewart from the daily show. That guy used to work at a radio station for hours every day just to get his foot in the door. Look where he is now. I know he's not a engineer but its about his ethic. Dave pensado lived in his car when he first moved to the big city.
If you love it and your getting good at keep going. Try to get as much money as you can. Maybe after a project ask the client to pay you what they think its worth. If they give you $10 then maybe your not as good as you think. On the other hand if they are happy with the result they might give you what they got in appreciation. If you get the results you'll get the recognition.
There's working for free, and being taken advantage of though....work for free/cheap on the projects you REALLY want to do (and make it clear that you're doing it for that reason, not because you don't value your time) and charge for the rest. There is absolutely NO point working on music you don't like, that hasn't been well recorded up to that point, for people who don't appreciate you, whatever your skill level. The end result won't be worth the effort, and you'll cheapen your image.
Aaron Giese
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#25
11th November 2012
Old 11th November 2012
  #25
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That brings up a good point. Sometimes if you work for free, the people you are working with just don't take you seriously. I feel like at least charging something gets people to not want to waste their money by not taking it seriously. And if there aren't any paying gigs, who says you can't write your own song and record that? Thats actually what I did to get the attention of one of the first bands I started working with. Plus, playing and recording every instrument helps you to understand better how to record those instruments (drum tuning anyone?) and how to deal with those musicians and know what they might want to hear in their headphones. Not to say that I'm not willing to work for free. I've had projects on a budget that I really wanted to do where I just said name your price, pay me whatever you can afford.

I just feel like I'm at a point now where I'm trying to buy gear, I want to take on more projects but I don't have time because I'm still working a day job, and I feel like my recordings are turning out decent enough where I need to figure out what I'm worth and take the business side of this more seriously. I feel like not taking the business side of this seriously is starting to hold me back from moving forward. I can't just do the "pay whatever you can afford" jobs forever if I ever want to take this to a more professional level.

The price that I have charged hasn't really changed from when I started, if anything its gone down. Yet my skill level, equipment level, results, and experience have all gone up. So thats why I'm trying to figure out what I'm worth and whats going on with the business side of this.
#26
11th November 2012
Old 11th November 2012
  #26
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Looking at your gear list I would say to start at $10/hr.

If you get busy, then raise your rate.

Try not to fall into the trap of quantity over quality. Especially with mics, pre's, comps and EQ.

Best of luck to you.
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#27
8th December 2012
Old 8th December 2012
  #27
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tc_live is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by toneguru View Post
Looking at your gear list I would say to start at $10/hr.

If you get busy, then raise your rate.

Try not to fall into the trap of quantity over quality. Especially with mics, pre's, comps and EQ.

Best of luck to you.
I was just writing on another 'what to charge' thread and saw this one.

$10/hour? Are you nuts? I know people who get more than that working in supermarkets and warehouses.
#28
8th December 2012
Old 8th December 2012
  #28
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jroode is offline
Quote:
Also, do you think I would be able to make more if I moved to Los Angeles or Nashville? Should I try to work in a real studio instead of trying to keep building my project studio? I'm just trying to figure out what my next move should be towards doing this for a living. Any input or other business advice would be greatly appreciated. Mix/engineering/production advice welcome too.

Thanks
-Aaron
You should seek out and surround yourself with talented and successful people with good business sense that have an idea where they are going... and people you enjoy working with... wherever that might be. The rest will take care of itself.
#29
8th December 2012
Old 8th December 2012
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tc_live View Post
I was just writing on another 'what to charge' thread and saw this one.

$10/hour? Are you nuts? I know people who get more than that working in supermarkets and warehouses.
Not nuts... just realistic.

Besides the OP does state "What do you think I should be charging given my equipment list"

BTW, there is a demand for people to work in supermarkets and warehouses... jobs to fill.

I would love to see the OP flourish. What he charges is greatly dependent on his market. Honestly though, given the gear list, in SF or LA it would be a very tough sell.

PS. I meant no disrespect. If $10 an hour is too good a deal for the client than he will be super busy, while building a client base and building a track record... instead of working in a grocery store. Then he can raise his rates down the road. Or he can ignore me and charge $25/hr get busy and prove me wrong, that would be great.
#30
8th December 2012
Old 8th December 2012
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron Giese View Post
What do you think I should be charging given my equipment list and samples of my work.
One BILLION dollars...

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