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Rethinking my rates..
Old 25th August 2012
  #1
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Rethinking my rates..

So… I am re-thinking my rates and would love to get some input from various engineers around the world. I am a Freelance producer/mixer with credits and top shelf gear.


I am between studios right now and have two projects that require live tracking coming up and I am trying to figure out my day rate. Most of the “proper” studios that have what I need start at $500.00 a day. I have been talking to bands and most of the $500.00 a day local studios seem to spend two days and get five songs tracked/mixed…. (and it sounds like it)!

If I set my day rate at a modest $300.00 a day ($30.00 an hour) plus the studio ($500)
I worry that the clients won’t be able to afford $800.00 a day to track.

I can do whole song in 2.5 days. (Tracking/mixing.) So with these rates I would need to charge about 2k a song. 20k an album!
25 days of work:

I make $7500.00

The studio makes $12500.00

This is not good!



I know I am worth $50.00 an hour and $500.00 a mix, but without a building it's hard to sell it. Plus the added expense of using an outside room seems like it will drive clients away.

Mixing rates??
Flat rate for E.P/Album

Thanks..
Old 25th August 2012
  #2
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RickS's Avatar
 

Are the rates that you are quoting for the studios include engineer or is it just for the facility?
Old 25th August 2012
  #3
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Usually the $500.00 a day rate includes a staff engineer. The rates typically drop to $400.00 a day without an engineer, but some studios don't let outside engineers touch the gear.
Old 25th August 2012
  #4
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I have made accommodations for outside engineers many times in the past so it's a win-win for everybody. It seems to me that it should be possible to approach the studio that you and your client want to work in and work out a rate that your client can afford. The band will have to stretch a little but if they really want you to record them they should see the value in this arrangement.

In my studio I am selective as to what engineers I will allow in this type of situation but you seem like a reasonable guy that should be able to approach a studio owner and convince them that you are a reliable, responsible pro.
Old 25th August 2012
  #5
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Yes, sir you are correct. My only issue is if the client ever thinks "hey, if I cut out Joe I will save money".
Old 25th August 2012
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Haze View Post
My only issue is if the client ever thinks "hey, if I cut out Joe I will save money".
You can't stop them thinking that, and they probably always have. But..... the value you bring to the session is why they would pay you in the past, and why they should keep paying you in the future.
In a way, the cheaper you make yourself, the more likely the bands will think you aren't worth hiring and possibly dial you out of the recordings anyway.
Old 25th August 2012
  #7
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Yes, I am trying to come up with a day rate that is serious and reflects my skill level, but isn't out of every potential clients budget.
Old 26th August 2012
  #8
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Anybody want to throw some numbers at me?
Old 26th August 2012
  #9
AyA
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6
Old 27th August 2012
  #10
I'm not an engineer, so wanted to stay away, but no one else is chipping in.
I guess because day rates in LA, or London are going to be very different from Utah.
Maybe American engineers can guess, or advise, but no one knows your local market better than you.
$300 a day doesn't seem much to me, but then the studio game is in crisis. So every one is having to cut back to almost uneconomic levels.
Old 27th August 2012
  #11
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Thanks, Actually $300.00 a day is workable. I am also wondering about charging a flat mix rate or charge by the hour. It's funny I can never find a rate that works.
Old 27th August 2012
  #12
This has always been a constant battle for me.

I have the luxury of owning my own studio, so its not an issue for me personally, but when other people want to rent it out, then decisions need to be made. I've charged $75 a day (to close close friends) up to $200 a day.

Neither of these prices include any assistant engineer or outside help. My studio is midsized, with a 1000 st ft tracking room, 400 sq ft control roon, and 300 sq foot lounge. Plenty of high end pre's and mics.

The studio i got started at charged $550 a day, but that included a producer and an engineer. I would think if you were just renting out a studio and didn't need any assistance from the facility at all, you should be able to negotiate something

as far as mixing... I currently charge a flat rate to appeal to clients, but screw myself in the end because in the end i up spending ridiculous amounts of time on the mixes for almost no money
Old 27th August 2012
  #13
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Hey Joe. Something that i learned from a studio next door to mine that i adopted & it seems to work:
Give the client 3 choices for a mix. 1) Rough mix=really basic w/ some comp, EQ, & some reverb. Basically a good blend. (I have found that many people r ok w/ this). Total time 3-4 hours. 2) Mid-level mix=obviously a more sophisticated mix w/ lil more bells & whistles. Total time 4-7 hours. 3) Radio-ready mix=full-on commitment to perfection & ur best work. Total time, whole day to day & a 1/2 or wutever it takes.

This is black-n-white for the client & there's no surprises. Set ur prices for each of these. If they talk u down on price slightly, take it!

Sent from my HTC Sensation 4G using Gearslutz App
Old 27th August 2012
  #14
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These rates all seem quite low to me. Most of the good studios in new york where i record are around $250/hr with engineer. less without. They're half that here in FL but the rooms aren't as good or plentiful etc....

In LA there's one high end room I love working at and the day rate with an assistant but no main engineer was $800 last time I used the joint. A top LA engineer gives me a bro rate of $500/day.
Old 27th August 2012
  #15
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Interesting. I am talking my personal day rate (comes with my producer rig), but no fancy room or SSL console. I know rental on my gear alone would be $500.00 a day. but...
Old 27th August 2012
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Haze View Post
Yes, sir you are correct. My only issue is if the client ever thinks "hey, if I cut out Joe I will save money".
well the explanation from there is then you get the staff guy, who in a large facility is a 2nd engineer, you're not getting the A guy who would be me, with my discography and what I bring to it. In a smaller facility it might be more of an owner /operator type who may be really good, and might be more of a competitor for you. With the way this business has gone unless you have a large client list of people who have funding, it's tough going. I worked at a place in NYC and saw the writing on the wall long ago. Since then I built my own place with my own gear. These days basically the client pays for me and gets my gear for free.
Old 27th August 2012
  #17
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Yes, that is what I do (the gear comes free). My only issue is a band affording me and the outside studio. I need a large mix room with a tracking room so tracking at a different place would be optional not necessary.

I am trying to keep my overhead down. I really don't know how people do it these days? What is the typical price for an album in a smaller setting?

I think 3-4k for an EP and 8-10k for an album would be the budget deal. In the large studio it was 15k for mixing 20-50k for an album/

I see freelancers mixing prices range from $500-1k a mix.
Established guys 2k+ a mix.
Old 27th August 2012
  #18
.

There's a saying in the real estate business that a piece of real estate is worth what someone will pay for it.

Supply and demand 101 - combined with a bit of intangible voodoo.


Some exceptions and qualifications include:

1. You're good at tricking people into paying more than market value.

2. You provide superior service value, and can convince people to pay more,
because you're a decent business person - and clients like working with you.

3. You're great at everything, but are terrible with clients, so people won't pay you more.

4. You provide lower value, or are not good with clients, so people won't pay you more.

5. You provide good value, but you're a terrible business person, so you get less.

6. Your market is saturated, so prices have to come down for everyone.

7. Your market is broke, so nobody can afford very much.

8. Potential clients know they can do a lot o this stuff at home - no matter the quality,
so they don't see the value in paying so much money to studios and professionals.

Etc.

Chances are, the likely answer is a combination of factors above, and then some.

Again, clients will pay you what they think you are worth, and/or what you or the market has convinced them you are worth.

It's pretty simple.

As Chrisso says, though - we are in the throes of a declining studio industry - combined with a lousy economy.

And the biggest threat to the industry, is that you can't compete with "free". When too many professionals and amateurs are willing to work for free, it becomes tougher for the rest of us. And the quality argument goes down the drain, when you see what consumers are listening to now.

To sum up, I often find that it's difficult to get answers when business models vary so much, and when the industry in general is not doing well. Many of us can feel very alone in this industry at times - confused about marketing, pricing, business models, trends, etc. And then we realize years later - after much struggle - that most of our peers are going through the same thing. People who seemed so successful were actually not making very much money at all - or perhaps made decent money, but then outspent their earnings, etc. It's similar in many industries, actually. And in many economic cycles, and in most areas.

That said, a business person is a business person. They're constantly aware of business and income potential. They constantly think about and try to create broad, specialty, niche, and alternative products and services, as well as alternative and fusion marketing and branding, etc. They take calculated risks, and keep a tight rein on unnecessary expenses. They use other people's money, or cheap money for investment. They know how to efficiently manage debt and when to cut their losses. So, if you're in this head, you'll figure something out.

The 'build it and they will come' model works occasionally. And sometimes for a few years. And often doesn't work at all.

So much of these questions depend on who you are as a person, and what you want your life to be.

Best of luck!

.
Old 27th August 2012
  #19
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Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Haze View Post
Yes, that is what I do (the gear comes free). My only issue is a band affording me and the outside studio. I need a large mix room with a tracking room so tracking at a different place would be optional not necessary.

I am trying to keep my overhead down. I really don't know how people do it these days?
Do you really need that?

Why not make a small mix room from your gear (in your house even?) and find a local, good value studio with good rooms to record bigger things than vocal etc overdubs in. Do a deal with them somehow, depending on what you can offer them to get the recording time cheap. Bring some of your gear to record to get the quality. Mix at yours. = Almost zero overheads and if you get the balance right still quality throughout.
Old 27th August 2012
  #20
Gear Addict
Definitely don't mix in the rented studio! Especially if it takes a day or two to mix one song. Karloff is right.
Old 27th August 2012
  #21
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I would love to buy a house and build a couple nice rooms, then for other things like piano ect.. go elsewhere.

Cool idea on offering mixes at different price points.. I am ok, with a flat rate (loose money, but perhaps make it back in points or publishing..

Despite my experience I am fighting the “perceived value” issue. Can you say good publicist??


5. You provide good value, but you're a terrible business person, so you get less.


8. Potential clients know they can do a lot o this stuff at home - no matter the quality,
so they don't see the value in paying so much money to studios and professionals.

If I actually had an investor I could make something. I have clients flying in and locally the state is lacking high end mixing (I am going to burn for saying that)..sorry guys

Plus remote mixing.
Old 27th August 2012
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Haze View Post
..... locally the state is lacking high end mixing (I am going to burn for saying that)..sorry guys

Plus remote mixing.
You better get in there and fill the gap in the market then.
Old 27th August 2012
  #23
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Yes,! Having a nice room would do wonders!
Old 27th August 2012
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Haze View Post
Yes,! Having a nice room would do wonders!
Why do I get the sense that you have removed the 'nice room' picture from your achieveable grasp by attaching an idealistic scenario and hence steep price tag to it. I believe you could put it together for very little and if you know what you're doing still pull great mixes out of of there.......just saying. It seems your tendency is 'spot the obstruction' instead of 'spot the solution'......
Old 27th August 2012
  #25
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Well, I am just thinking about what a modest room would cost to put together + the monthly overhead.
Old 27th August 2012
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Haze View Post
Well, I am just thinking about what a modest room would cost to put together + the monthly overhead.
Joe, don't overlook the possibility of partnering up w/ somebody where u r located now. I'm talking as far as finding a really nice spot to rent out. There is a lot of opportunity in that. The problem I see here is the same problem that I had a while back which is trying to do everything yourself. Find a nice location, maybe even something that's already built out as a studio (this is what I just did & found a colleague of mine willing to share), & see if another engineer is willing to split the place & rent w/ u. It's too much for one person. Get other people involved cuz u'd be surprised how much $$ they can bring to the table. Work out your days between the two of u as far as when the studio is available. The place I'm relocating to has two studios in it, both w/ live rooms & control rooms. One setup is slightly smaller than the other & my friend actually prefers that one. They happen to be completely isolated from each other too. Go figure, life is good! A pro like yourself doesn't have the time to build a studio. If ur like me, u'd rather be tracking/mixing, whatever.

Instead of being stuck w/ a smaller modest setup, think a lil bigger & spend some time telling some people about ur plans. I'm telling u, it will pay off. Plus having someone else around will help w/ technical issues that come up, etc. Try to create a facility not just a lil workshop. Set something great up & they'll come.
Old 27th August 2012
  #27
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Yes, I am looking into some things like that. I have actually been trying to find a production partner, but somebody with the required skill set is tricky to find.

Building are cheap here compared to L.A, but I miss all my L.A friends.
Old 27th August 2012
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Haze View Post
Yes, I am looking into some things like that. I have actually been trying to find a production partner, but somebody with the required skill set is tricky to find.

Building are cheap here compared to L.A, but I miss all my L.A friends.
I hear u. It's hard for professionals like us to count on other people & we're so picky cuz we kind of have to be. But you'll never find the perfect person. Just find the best u can. Don't expect them to be on your level or you'll drive yourself nuts. Music excites everyone. Find a motivated person willing to listen & learn from u & let u kind of lead the whole thing cuz of ur experience. Even if they're really not good, it's OK cuz they'll pick up better ways of working from being involved w/ u. Stay open to their ideas too, I'm telling u, u will learn some stuff too. I didn't think I could learn anything from a lot of people I'm around now but I do, every day. Respect what they say & think too & let them know it. Us engineers can be a lil snooty sometimes (me included) but you're in a place where it really doesn't make sense to be. I know I'm preachin to the choir here tho. Haahaa sorry man I'm just really feelin positive today.
Old 27th August 2012
  #29
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I look at people like Butch Vig & his crew out practically in the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin just killin it & running an awesome studio (Smart Studios). Think everyone involved there was a true pro & knew everything? I think not. Create a story where you're at & people will find out about u & u won't even have to advertise.

I went to visit Radiostar Studios in Weed, California, Sylvia Massy-Chivy's studios. Guess what? She has no competition there & rules the land.

Us engineers need to get smarter as business people, people who can persuade & get money for things & facilities worth having. We do need to be nice as far as dealing w/ clients, but as business people we need to learn to be more aggressive sometimes. The aggressive ones are ones who eat in this game. Thank God for the hitmakers around me. I don't always like their music they do but I get to see how the do business & it makes me mad how nice & gullable & mediocre I allowed myself to be at certain times.
Old 28th August 2012
  #30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Haze View Post
Yes, sir you are correct. My only issue is if the client ever thinks "hey, if I cut out Joe I will save money".
I'm not trying to criticize you but I wanted to really point this out...

If you think a band could cut you out and go with the house/staff engineer and get the exact same quality product... then you are putting no value on yourself. If you do not put any value on your services then nobody else will.

You are not an orange or a banana. You are not identical to the next piece of fruit sitting next to you. You are not a commodity, so do not treat yourself like one.

Let me ask you a question... next time you see someone driving a Porsche, Mercedes, Maserati, Audi, Bentley or BMW just walk up to them and ask them why they purchased that car when they could get a Kia for $13,000~$19,000 that has a lot of the same features. See what they say...

Do you know what the most profitable car company is? Not the company that pulls in the most gross revenue, but the one that makes the most net profit per car sold? Take a wild guess. It's not Toyota or Honda or Kia or Hyundai or Nissan or VW... Honda makes around $1000 profit per car sold. Toyota makes around $800. VW makes $300 per car. BMW and Mercedes make around $3000 per car. The most profitable car company is Porsche, they makes $28,800 per car sold.

Think about that... one of the most expensive car brands in the world makes the most money per car and is INSANELY successful. Why?

The answer to that question will help you realize what you should charge clients, it will help you determine who your target clients should be, and it should also give you an idea as to what to say to someone who says they will go get it done cheaper somewhere else.

What do you think a Porsche salesperson will say to you if you walk into a dealership, look at a 911 and then say... "well I can get the new Scion sports car (FR-S) for $25,000 instead of the $160,700 you are charging for this 911 Turbo S. Can you match $25k? If not I'm going to Scion."

I strongly urge you to literally go into their nearest dealership to you and say that and take special note of what they tell you...

One person could say a car is a car just like an orange is an orange. But they aren't. Most people would rather buy a porsche or a ferrari or an Audi or a Mercedes or a lexus if they could afford it. Why? Mercedes is owned by Chrystler and a lot of the new MB's are pretty much Chrystler cars. VW owns Audi and most Audis are identical to VWs. Lexus identical to Toyota, they are the exact same cars with a few minor cosmetic differences.

So why would most people still prefer the more expensive car if they had the money? Why do people who drive these expensive cars have them, instead of opting for a cheaper alternative?

Once you fully realize how this relates to what you do, you'll start to understand how to value your business (what you do) and market your business to clients.
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