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Let's talk rates & money
Old 2nd May 2007
  #1
Let's talk rates & money

MIXING - ENGINEERING - PRODUCTION

How does y'all go about rates and getting paid these day? Do you still charge as much as let's say 3-5 years ago? Or do you follow the market trend which today I'd say is less paid. Budgets has been shrinking.

Myself founds it harder to charge what I used to do. Clients wants 'more for less'. A solution lately has been to mix more songs per day rather than lower my daily rate.

What is your trick to get paid what you're asking?
Old 2nd May 2007
  #2
I learned a long time ago that booking sessions by the hour just simply doesn't work very well because you have to be at the studio setting things up prior to the client arriving and tearing things down (and cleaning up) after the client leaves. More often than not you end up not being able to book more than one client per day (or at least if you work only an 8 hour day) and thus I started booking by the day with block rates beginning at one week (5 days). My rates for hours outside of my "day", and for weekends, go up.

A lot of people who call and say something to effect of "I only need an hour or so" go somewhere else (which is fine by me). The other, more serious clients that want a quality result book the time and are thankful that they have all the time they need during the day to come and go as they please and just relax. I've found that I get much better results from the clients when they aren't concerned about the clock factor.
Old 2nd May 2007
  #3
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
Nice points Joshua.

Lindell, I am finding the rates are lowering, and worse, the work is disappearing. I can deal with less per hour. It's hard to deal with no work out there to look for. Everybody's an engineer now. No need for a professional. Actually, the clients that I work for still need and desire a professional, but their budgets are being cut so bad (Down 70% from what they were a decade ago) that they have to end up doing a lot of the work by themselves without a legit engineer. Or they get college interns to help them "mix". (If you can call it that.)
Old 2nd May 2007
  #4
Lives for gear
 
Protools Guy's Avatar
 

I just say no to low-ballers. My minimum rate is just that: my MINIMUM. I don't get talked down like a used car salesman. having said that, I agree that people have many more options these days. We all need to continue to produce top quality work to give people a good reason to spend a little more than what the other guy is charging.
Old 3rd May 2007
  #5
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numrologst's Avatar
I think bands and artists are starting to realize that they can't make a radio ready album with their mbox's. Not saying that a good engineer can't, but most bands can't. There are some bands that are making nice sounding records on their own, but it seems that is like 10% of bands.

If you record to 2" that gives you even more. Most would come to me just to record to 2".

I haven't done much work outside of my own stuff for the last year. But when I was, busines was dwindling. But lately I have been getting more and more calls for bands that are wanting full albums or mixing.

I do see alot of bands tracking on their own and going to the studio for mixing.

Anyhow, when I do work on stuff that isn't mine, I don't charge by the hour anymore. I lose money that way, and it always hurts the production.
Old 3rd May 2007
  #6
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Plush's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lindell View Post
MIXING - ENGINEERING - PRODUCTION

How does y'all go about rates and getting paid these day? Do you still charge as much as let's say 3-5 years ago? Or do you follow the market trend which today I'd say is less paid. Budgets has been shrinking.

Myself founds it harder to charge what I used to do. Clients wants 'more for less'. A solution lately has been to mix more songs per day rather than lower my daily rate.

What is your trick to get paid what you're asking?
BOO-YA-KHA-SHA!!!!!!!!!
Old 3rd May 2007
  #7
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hogo's Avatar
 

The starting artist buys pro-sumer stuff to track on, and thus takes away business from the pro's mainly because there is no such thing as artist development anymore. We don't even get a listen until we've been over our tracks countless times with countless rewrites. Try that on a zero budget in a pro studio. Labels want near-finished products now. Of course this probably directly correlates with the decreased quality in todays music.
Sorry about the rant.
All that being said, studios in my area seem to be keeping their rates pretty consistant to years past. I think that if they reduce them too much their percieved value may decrease as well. Kinda you get what you pay for mentality.
my 0.82cents
Old 3rd May 2007
  #8
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doorknocker's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by kittonian View Post
I learned a long time ago that booking sessions by the hour just simply doesn't work very well because you have to be at the studio setting things up prior to the client arriving and tearing things down (and cleaning up) after the client leaves. More often than not you end up not being able to book more than one client per day (or at least if you work only an 8 hour day) and thus I started booking by the day with block rates beginning at one week (5 days). My rates for hours outside of my "day", and for weekends, go up.

A lot of people who call and say something to effect of "I only need an hour or so" go somewhere else (which is fine by me). The other, more serious clients that want a quality result book the time and are thankful that they have all the time they need during the day to come and go as they please and just relax. I've found that I get much better results from the clients when they aren't concerned about the clock factor.
Excellent points!

I still post an hourly rate on my website but that's just a means to 'explain' the daily rate.

How do you guys go about 'extras'? CDRs, Backups and so on. Is that part of the daily rate (it is for me) or do you charge for that seperately?

In the older days it was pretty clear that you payed for tape,etc and that booking a session doesn't mean walking out with a mastered vinyl album by the end of the day.
Old 3rd May 2007
  #9
Lives for gear
We work with the artist and explain how to go about getting the best results for the least about of money. We try to keep their tracking times down, so that they get as much done in as little time as possible, rather than footle about all dy over a few bars. We send them to the fastest editors around, rathger than waste their time in the studio. We get the editor to do stem mixes to same time if it is the right thing for the project. We do mastering as part of the package to save them money. We also act as CD brokerage and as cover design studio and even do 'making-of' videos. This gives us additional revenue, keeps the costs for the customer down.

Our next venture is making the websites for the customer including the addition of download of their music.

The customer does not want to end up with bits and pieces and magic explanations about why this that and the other is not possible. He or she wants to come into the studio, record for a few days and then come away with a finished, mastered, replicated CD with a good cover design and a website that has downloadable examples of their music.

And above all, many, many customers want a FIXED budget for all that.
Old 3rd May 2007
  #10
Lives for gear
 
Tony Shepperd's Avatar
For me the problem is not what I'm charging, it's actually getting paid.
I have two tiers of pricing: major label and indie pricing.
My major label fee went up this year.
And because the majors are taking longer and longer to pay, I look more to the indie clients, who 9 out of 10 times, pay upfront.
Old 3rd May 2007
  #11
I am going to track some drums soon for 1 x day as a freelancer.
I will start at 11am want to leave at 11pm with $400 in my pocket.

It would be nice if they buy lunch & dinner
I will also pay cartage of about $50 to get my outboard delivered

If the UK pound / dollar rate wasnt so bad that would be about $360
Old 3rd May 2007
  #12
The thing I found is less clients booking by the day, instead shorter sessions. And like Dr Bill there is less work, afew of my steadies relocated,I used to do a ton of dance mixes, that's over, my business was always word of mouth, so I'm trying to get the word out about my place, but even advertising has changed, and I'm trying to figure out the most productive way to let prospective clients know about this place. In January- February and March of 2001 I had 6 days off in that 3 month period, it was so busy. Every year has been abit lighter, but this year the same period was dreadful.

The thing that saves me is in 2001 I had to move and I had an opportunity to buy a house, did so and gutted the basement and built a place. I have no leases, I own everything outright, so my monthly nut is not too bad. Being a mid level place my rates were never too high and I've been able to to hold it for now.
Old 3rd May 2007
  #13
Lives for gear
 

I get 500 a day for my place with me, plus people can sleep over. It's a very good value and also works for me because I own the place (a guest house on my property) and I own most of my gear.
Some people tell me I charge too little for what it is (not the people paying) but for now I'm cool with it. Flymax has been booked about 25 days a month this year.
I also rent the place without me for 300. This has been very popular with producer/engineer friends and indie labels. There are alot of musicians/bands who are also decent engineers (contrary to popular views around here).
People pay, I dont get stiffed, just takes a while sometimes..
I do need to work shorter day tho'
Old 3rd May 2007
  #14
I have 2 rates these days:

1) My full rate for the projects that i am not really that enthused about but pay my bills.

2) The discount or half my full rate for projects that i really like but there is no money in it because its music that is not part of the "commercial" scene.

I try to balance the 2 to keep things interesting and still be able to eat.

Earlier this year it was all the first and i considered quitting but lately i've started looking out for the second so its becoming fun again.
Old 3rd May 2007
  #15
Gear Addict
 
Thebassist's Avatar
 

Perpetually have people trying to get lower rates. One guy offered to trade me a car for studio time! How many times have you heard this: "I got a buddy with a real nice studio in his house, with an iso booth and everything, and he charges 20 per hour, plus he's got this real nice CAD vocal mic..."

LMFAO.

Then I ask the "engineer" in question to send me stems, and spend the next two days on the phone with him explaining how to consolidate regions.

You wouldn't go into any other business and try to negotiate price, so why us?!!! There has to be a limit to the downward spiral in this field. Eventually people are going to start demanding quality again. I hope.

For what it's worth, I'm charging flat rates more and more for remote work. 400-500 per day, depending on whether I need an assistant or a visit to the chiropractor the next day.

Old 3rd May 2007
  #16
Gear Maniac
 
Windtaken's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by FLYMAX View Post
I get 500 a day for my place with me, plus people can sleep over. It's a very good value and also works for me because I own the place (a guest house on my property) and I own most of my gear.
Some people tell me I charge too little for what it is (not the people paying) but for now I'm cool with it. Flymax has been booked about 25 days a month this year.
I also rent the place without me for 300. This has been very popular with producer/engineer friends and indie labels. There are alot of musicians/bands who are also decent engineers (contrary to popular views around here).
People pay, I dont get stiffed, just takes a while sometimes..
I do need to work shorter day tho'
how do you prevent theft?
Old 3rd May 2007
  #17
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thebassist View Post
There has to be a limit to the downward spiral in this field. Eventually people are going to start demanding quality again. I hope.
One can only hope......
Old 3rd May 2007
  #18
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Windtaken View Post
how do you prevent theft?


Theft Prevention






On a serious note, a setup like that works as long as you have an office or studio B on the same premises... I've heard of folks just setting up what's needed for the session, then sliding over to studio B to work on mixes or to do any office work that's needed. So, you're right there if they need anything and you're also right there with a bat if they try to walk with anything.
Old 3rd May 2007
  #19
Gear Nut
 
bschigel's Avatar
 

I like to charge by the day, and sometimes by the song, I think you get the most value for your time. I also like to charge a certain fee per song to mix, lets say $500 a track and then spend about 8hrs or so workin on it and divide the time up few hours here few there. Most times I mix the band isn't present, so you don't have to work one long ass day, and you still get a days wage. It really helps with ear fatigue! Mixing other peoples home recordings is good work as well because most of that market doesnt have good outboard gear and experience so you can really make a HUGE difference on their recordings.
Old 3rd May 2007
  #20
Lives for gear
 
Improv's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thebassist View Post
Eventually people are going to start demanding quality again. I hope.
my boss hasn't lowered our rates for quite some time, and at this point we're on the higher-end of rates for the area. People still come back because of certain key points of quality including our piano, our drums, our front-end gear, our PT systems, our back-end gear, our flexibility, and most importantly, our staff!

We've had people come from other studios and stay. We've had people go to other studios and come back. We have people who try to lowball, but we stand firm. Quality is still a better asset than lowest rate in this business, no doubt.
Old 3rd May 2007
  #21
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Windtaken View Post
how do you prevent theft?
I live on the same property and I always deal with professionals..
It's usually a producer or engineer with creds...plus there are cameras..
Old 4th May 2007
  #22
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
What is your trick to get paid what you're asking?
Fair Value. It's always been that way and always will be that way.
Old 4th May 2007
  #23
Gear Maniac
 
Windtaken's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by StevieRaveOn View Post
lol, it should be law to allow convenience store owners to set up turrets in their shop
Old 4th May 2007
  #24
Gear Maniac
 
Windtaken's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by FLYMAX View Post
I live on the same property and I always deal with professionals..
It's usually a producer or engineer with creds...plus there are cameras..
That's good to know. I really don't want to hear about another homicide in a studio.
Old 4th May 2007
  #25
Lives for gear
 
Fibes's Avatar
 

Yeah, the climate sucks.

What do you do?

Stop focusing your pitch on the gear and focus it on the people. That to me is what makes the notable difference, someone who people WANT to work with that knows they have their best interest in mind.

On a less important (to you) but just as importnat note to them is perceived value. If the place LOOKS the part it seems worth the scratch.

I just lost a great engineer because of money but any business owner knows in this climate you can only charge so much and you certainly can't pay the AE 4X your billable rate and stay afloat.

At 650 per day, we're at the top of the rate game in town; i wish it was different but if we do half the work of the other guys we're still ahead. Our AE pay is 5 dollars less than most of the room+AE rates in town. Personally at 30 per hour (for the whole shebang) I'd rather open a hair salon given the capital expense of a studio.

So, if your people are worth it (or you) the only ways to prove it is by charging what your worth and making audio that reflects that.



BTW for people that call immediately looking for a "deal" chances are things won't go smoothly down the line because you just proved your self worth by discounting your self.

Pick a rate and stick to it. If you're excited and want to go the extra mile at the end, do it, but don't give it away before you've proven your worth. There is no perceived value in free unrespected service.
Old 4th May 2007
  #26
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
Nice points Joshua.

Lindell, I am finding the rates are lowering, and worse, the work is disappearing. I can deal with less per hour. It's hard to deal with no work out there to look for. Everybody's an engineer now. No need for a professional. Actually, the clients that I work for still need and desire a professional, but their budgets are being cut so bad (Down 70% from what they were a decade ago) that they have to end up doing a lot of the work by themselves without a legit engineer. Or they get college interns to help them "mix". (If you can call it that.)
So Cal is awful. I have friends that worked on HUGE records there and literally can not pay bills. And to top it off, they are in $50k plus debt for gear purchases.
Old 4th May 2007
  #27
Gear Guru
 
kafka's Avatar
I'm not an audio pro, but I am a consultant in a field where there are a fair amount of part-timers and wannabees. I see a lot of similarities between what I read here and other businesses. Maybe some of what I have to offer will ring true with some of you.

I charge top $$, and if someone doesn't want to pay it, I wish them well and move on. And when I do get in, there's always some "professional amateur" looking over my shoulder who says I charge too much because they think they can do it themselves. In the end, their management pays my bill, and doesn't question what I charge.

Why would they do that, then, when they've got someone in their office who might have up to 75% of my understanding of the subject? It's a question of risk. If my customers' s**t don't work, their business will fail. They pay me so they can know it won't fail. It also helps that they never call me until things have really started to fall apart. I spend most of my time cleaning up for people who should have known better.

In any professional endeavor, your ability to charge will depend on your customer's ability to say "no" to your prices, vs. your ability to say "no" to theirs. If you want to make anything more than tips, you have to be working for people who can't afford to fail. If they're just doing the project for fun, there's no way you're going to get a dollar out of them. And if you want to charge a living wage, you need to make sure they know they can't do without you.

For those who can pay, how do you make sure they do? You're here, right now, ready to make their project a success. If they don't get it out the door right *now*, and make it perfect, the timing will be lost and it will fail. Keep your discounts to a minimum - any by a minimum I mean $0. You're worth every penny you charge - even more. They want to be a success or they don't. If they're not serious, you don't have time to talk, because you have to go take care of some serious people.

Never charge less, but always give more. Finishing early is for quitters. If you usually book for an 8 hour day, stay for 10; but never book for 6 and stay for 8. Never book for 4 days - always get the whole week. Why? Because at the end of the week, there should always more that you could have done if there were more time. Is this recording going to guarantee them superstardom? If not, there's more you could have done - and more they could have bought from you.
Old 4th May 2007
  #28
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by CorkyTart View Post
So Cal is awful. I have friends that worked on HUGE records there and literally can not pay bills. And to top it off, they are in $50k plus debt for gear purchases.

True, one of my buddies is a well known engineer that has ton's of gold & platinum records, grammy's (plural) and top ten hits for major groups, and he couldn't find work for 4-5 months while waitiing on a project to start. When a guy like that can't find work....

I'm experiencing the same thing on a different scale. I work mostly in feature films and some TV. My clients have all cut back drastically in their use of outside engineers/editors/mixers/orchestrators/programmers/etc.. Things aren't looking well in LA right now....
Old 4th May 2007
  #29
Gear Nut
 

Well I'm new to being an engineer and mixing but when I do get equipment

I'm going to charge
1,000 for a Demo(6 songs) all produced by me
3,000 for a Mixtape 12 songs max
5,000 for an Album 25 songs max

and to master a Demo 500, Mixtape 1,000 and Album 2,000

because I will only need about 15,000 a year max to cover bills
Old 4th May 2007
  #30
Lives for gear
 
Tony Shepperd's Avatar
Actually I think work is getting better in LA.
For a while, there has been this transition between the commercial rooms closing and the private/project rooms picking up the slack.

But it seems as if now, people don't care, they just want their projects done.

Of course, most of my time these days is spent mixing.
At first, I thought the indie guys would not be able to come up with the funding for me to work on their projects.
But it seems as if most of those clients went out, put the funding together and doing their album projects right from the start.

In the last year, the indie total project budgets have ranged between $50k and $150,000.
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