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Flat rate vs. hourly vs. day rate. Some advice?
Old 22nd October 2013
Deleted f4b0007
Post Flat rate vs. hourly vs. day rate. Some advice?

I know, another thread about studio rates, but I've gone through past threads and haven't really found any pertinent advice to my situation. Anyway...

I work out of my home studio. A small space, but very comfortable. It's one tracking and mixing room combined, but the space is clean, has a built in kitchen area, bathroom, etc. Basically, it's not a hole in the wall. I work mainly ITB, with not much outboard. PT10, waves plugs, steven slate plugs, etc. Standard stuff to get the job done. HS80M's, KRK sub, nice selection of mics, house drumkit, the room sounds decent, etc.

Honestly, I'm not worried about factoring the gear into my rates. People care about the end product, and that's all I'm worried about.

In the past, I've always charged flat rates for projects. Usually per song. This isn't really working for me anymore. I'm wasting a ton of time waiting for bands to finish recording, waiting for them to make it into the studio, etc. I'm throwing WAY too many hours into projects and making next to nothing for it. Charing 100 a song to record, 50 to mix, and 25 to master, all while spending WEEKS with bands to finish a couple of songs is not an efficient use of studio time.

I've been investigating on how to charge hourly/daily, but I have some questions that I need advice with.

Before I go any further, I'll provide links to some of the work I've done in the past. I mainly work with rock/metal/punk bands. My work is some of the better sounding stuff in the area. There isn't much competition and my name and work is spreading rather well.

Here's some links to some recent projects:

For the quality of work I'm putting out, I figure I can get by at a rate of $25/hr. Seems modest enough. I figure I'll charge hourly for tracking/editing, and then flat rates for mixing and mastering. Maybe $50/song to mix, $20 to master.

Here are some of the main questions I have about hourly work:

1. If I want to offer day rates, for 8 hour full days, should I consider discounting that amount? Should I just offer to book full days for convenience, and not so much for a discount?
2. Should I charge for the setup time? I probably won't charge for load in, but once the band and I start setting up drums, tuning, mic placement, etc, I think I should charge for that. It's still work, after all. (I usually spend a good while with the drummer prepping/tuning their drums. Should I put this time on the clock as well?)
3. If a band books a full day, and they end up finishing early, what should I do about those unused hours? Refund them?
4. What sort of deposit should I require? Should I require a few hours worth of a deposit for each day and then bill the rest later on? When should I be billing the bands? End of the week?

It would be great to hear what other people with similar home studio setups are doing for these situations when charging hourly.
Old 22nd October 2013
Lives for gear

Your mixes need some work, with that aside, its your studio so you can make the rules. Give a band 30 min to set up and that's all. Start charging for time they go over from a pre set time limit for what they pay you for.
Old 22nd October 2013
Lives for gear
1) $25/hour is very modest. When I was rapping at other studios.. I normally paid $30 an hour.
2) No, I wouldn't charge for that. That's part of your "courtesy".
3) Book in advance. Think of it this way... if someone tells you they need your studio for 6 hours, and then only uses 3 hours... they just prevented you from booking someone else for 3 hours after them. So... set the time, and that's the estimated cost. Tell em how much it'll be for the day, you book that block in advance, non-refundable. Don't sound like a ****** lol.. just figure out a professional way to say that when the time is booked, that's the price, including your hourly rate. they can go over... just not under. If they don't need that much time, book em for less.. and just let them run over. They know what your hourly is, remember?
4) Personally... as an emcee, i paid the same day. I couldn't imagine not paying on the day I recorded. That can easily be taken advantage of. Even if you don't give out the tracks... that still gives room for delaying.

They are either going to pay you.. or not. So.. you might as well receive payment the day of. Why delay it?
Old 22nd October 2013
Lives for gear
Oh... also.... I would definitely still consider projects here and there, if you feel it'll only take 1-2 days.

For example, if you're doing a quick demo for someone over a weekend. Things of that nature. That would be sort of like a discount. Makes it easier for peopel to hand over their money
Old 23rd October 2013
Gear Addict
DSPDiva's Avatar

I was having the same problem. Telling a band a rate for the whole project and then things started getting out of hand. They'd take weeks to finish a 4 song ep. It was a waste of time. For tracking I would just charge them a day rate. For some reason, the bands I was working with didn't like hourly rates. They sounded too expensive, so I would just charge them $100 a day, whether we worked 4 or 10 hours. Some days, that means I'm working for $25/hr, some days I was working for $10, but they usually never went over 8. Mixing, I was charging like $150/song because I could work on it on my own time, not necessarily taking time out of my paid tracking time and mastering I would send out to my mastering engineer friend.

At the studio I work at now, we have a flat hourly rate, unless you want to pay for the day rate, which is cheaper than if you were to pay the $40/hr for 10 hours(that covers the room and the engineer here and I get half as the engineer) If you use less than 10 hours, there's no refund, i couldn't book someone for the rest of the day. Mixing, I'd rather do at home anyways, same rate $150/song and I still use my friend to master.

It's your studio tho, so you make the rules. Good luck.
Old 23rd October 2013
Deleted User
I charge an hourly rate but require up front that I bill a minimum of four hours. So, if all I do is turn a single fader for a second, you get billed for four hours of work.

This is very generous on my part because I don't want small assignments. I want assignments that total days or even weeks at a time. You have to draw the line somewhere. But hourly plus a minimum is what works for me. And if a client wants a project estimate, I give them the best honest total estimate I can, erring on the high side. And I will always tell them as we work that they are in danger of blowing the estimate when they start adding extra things we didn't agree to up front, meaning I force them to be responsible.

I like clients who don't worry about blowing estimates who have lots of money to spend. But you get both kinds. And I never undercharge because doing that derails the perception in the marketplace that your services are excellent. Many clients are willing to pay more for excellence, or even the perception of excellence.
Old 24th October 2013
Deleted f4b0007
Thanks for the replies. I'm very much considering just booking full days and getting whatever done with the bands in that time. If it takes 4 hours, so be it. If it takes 8 hours, that works too.

The one thing that pops up is editing time. When I go to edit drums, I'll usually tell the band to take off for a couple of days while I edit drums. Now if I have a band booked for a whole day and we finish drums and need to edit, what should I do with them then? Tell them to leave and then start editing later?

Should I refund them the time they don't use that day? Should I keep the money for that day even if they end early?

How should I charge for major editing like drum edits and vocal tuning? Should that be hourly or should I just include it in some sort of package with the mixing? I hate having to sit and edit with the band breathing down my back and it's nice to just end a session, edit the next day, then pick up again.
Old 24th October 2013
Deleted User
Originally Posted by Deleted f4b0007 View Post
Should I refund them the time they don't use that day? Should I keep the money for that day even if they end early?
You do what you need to do. BUT MAKE SURE YOU STATE IT UPFRONT. They clearly need to know these things beforehand. If the band was not clearly made aware at the onset that you were going to pocket the change for yourself when you ended early, many people would consider it a form of stealing.


(1) Make the rules.
(2) Communicate the rules.
(3) Then play exactly by the rules.

A written contract is a great way to communicate the rules. Be aware that some people don't like contracts which is OK if you trust and know they will pay the bill, or if they pay upfront. Of course, you need to communicate your way of doing business orally as well in clear terms.
Old 24th October 2013
Deleted f4b0007
Originally Posted by Frank_Case View Post
You do what you need to do.
Okay, but what do you or other people do? I need some perspective here. I don't wanna go blind into this.
Old 24th October 2013
Deleted User
Ten people will have ten different ways of doing it. A good practice is to canvass all of the recording studios in your area to document exactly what they are charging and doing. Either call them up for a rate schedule or visit their web sites. Then sort the list from high to low and figure where you fall on the list. Remember to factor in your skills and equipment in determining if you charge more or less.

In your case, if I was booking a full day, I would charge for 8 hours if I got done early. But I'd tell them that was how it works at the time of the booking before the work started. Keep in mind that an exclusive booking for the entire day gives rise to an opportunity cost by the fact that you have locked out other paying clients that day. It's a real cost that you bear that needs to be compensated for.
Old 24th October 2013
Lives for gear
Joao B.'s Avatar

We offer day (10 hours) or half-day (5) rates. Minimum booking is half-day. If the session goes past whatever was booked, client pay overtime charges.
If the client books 3 days and the project is completed in 2.5 days we don't refund the extra time.

We require that clients pay for 50% of the booked sessions in order to secure them, and the rest of the invoice is payed during the last session (we are a bit more lenient with regular clients though).

The clock starts at whatever hour the session was scheduled to begin at. We welcome clients to arrive 30m earlier to load in, etc, but setup is definitely part of the session.

The rates are the same for recording, editing and mixing, but we do offer discounts if they book more than 5 days. For editing, we either offer our B room (which is cheaper) or we do it during the mixing session.
Old 26th October 2013
Here for the gear

what are you worth?

I've been doing nothing but my own studio for 35 years. In the beginning, we gave away a lot of time, but I was getting my own act together. Once I started getting a good sound, fast, with the greatest of ease, every time, people relaxed a bit when it came time to pay... just about anyone will gladly pay for a product that is way better then they had hoped for... it feels like money well-spent.

Nowadays, we still give away an hour of setup time before 'downbeat', and hard-drive backup time at the end. I still grit my teeth at this, but it's our practice and always has been. Also, I give downtime if I make a time-consumning mistake, or my equipment or computer breaks down and costs time.

If something blows the entire gig, I give the client the option to erase the work and leave without paying. Example: I had a classical music violinist using very hot mics who complained when my wooden room creaked once during her performance, which happens when the temperature changes sometimes. I can't control that, so I gave her back her empty hard drive and said 'bye and didn't charge anything. This is also how I handle clients that give me too much of a hard time, say, for reasons that I didn't have anything to do with or can't control. I just say 'I'm sorry we don't have what you need..' and move on. I never have problems with pro's, just amateurs.

If your clients aren't smiling at the end of the gig, they probably won't come back. You MUST have them want to come back, and you have lots of studio time to use to make that happen, so don't begrudge a few free hours now and then.

It's not your fault if a band is unprepared, lame and indecisive, so don't make flat-rate, open-ended deals. Give a good day-rate, 10 hours for whatever, and then pro-rate for overtime. They will almost NEVER finish early, but will usually need some extra time. If they do finish early, you can make brownie points and clients for life by giving them some money back.

It's all about making life-time associations. Some of my clients from the eighties, even the seventies, still come back.
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