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Old 6th August 2005
1) Depends on what they charge - $75-200 an hour isn't out of the ordinary.

2) For a fairly "standard" job without a lot of bodywork, 5-7 times the program length is a decent way to estimate the length of the session. Obviously, the more cooks in the kitchen, this can easily triple or quadruple going back and forth over multiple sessions.

3) That almost depends on the nature of the session - If it's attended, it might be easier to dial it in. I find some projects to be "obvious" (for lack of a better term) about what they're asking for - Especially if a lot of care was taken from the start. Other projects that require more extensive processing and "body work" can take several rounds of of listening and tweaking.

The big key is to make sure the mixes sound as close to what you're looking for as possible - I hear people (even other M.E.'s) that say that the "mastering should blow you away." I see the point, but that's not really the way it should work IMO.

Sure, if the project needs a lot of nip/tucks or is really anemic and in need of "body" or power that essentially needs to be manufactured at the mastering stage, yeah. Hopefully, it'll blow you away with how much potential was realized during the session. But that's for mixes that really aren't where they should be in the first place.

In a perfect world, the MIX should blow ME away. The M.E.'s job should then be to maximize the project's potential, changing it as little as possible. A lot of mastering gear isn't chosen for how it sounds - It's chosen for how it doesn't sound.