How much should I charge???

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by straticus, Oct 27, 2004.

  1. straticus

    straticus Member

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    I've been recording myself for years and recording my band for the past year or so. People seem to like what I do and I've gotten good feedback. One comment I get from musicians is that my mixes sound better than a lot of the local "higher end studios" in the area.

    So, here's the deal. A friend of mine would like to record 5 or 6 songs with his band and he'd like me to record and mix it. I've been toying with the idea of trying to turn my love of recording into a business for quite a while. The problem is, I'm not sure what to charge while I'm getting started. This would be my first paying gig. So I thought that if I listed my basic set up I could get some advise about what I should charge for a 5/6 song CD.


    Mics: 57's, AKG D112, Rode NTV, Oktava MC 012's.

    DBX 163x (2), PreSonus ACP22 (1).

    Aardvark Direct Pro Q10 > Samplitude Professional 7.22 (BTW, absolutely a kick @ss program!!) > Lots a' plug ins including Waves Gold Bundle, UltraFunk bundle, Anwida bundle, TC, Timeworks, Izotope Ozone Mastering (latest version), and more.

    I also have a Yamaha S80, Aiken Tomcat, Fargen Bordeaux and some nice high quality stomp boxes available for use.

    We'd be recording in my front room so it wouldn't be very formal.

    Thanks for any advise!
     
  2. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    Someone asked this same question in a recent issue of Tape Op. Someone responded that he should do a few projects for free – but make sure he gets full credit – to get his name spread around.

    I don't necessarily feel it's a good idea to work for nothing, as people value what they pay for and everyone can afford something. You don't want to send the message that you don't place any value on your time. However, I think it makes sense to go very low relative to your market at first, if you let your clients know that it's a special one-time-only price because you're starting out. If you don't make that clear up front then they might feel that you're gouging them next time when you raise your prices. I've even made a note on my invoices, "Special price one time only" when that's been the case.

    In Nashville a reasonable rate during slow times for a small studio or a decent engineer (or both) might be $30 - 50 an hour or $300 - 500 a day. A young engineer I know who was starting out a year ago used to charge $20 an hour. That's in a VERY competitive environment. I think if you figured $200 - 250 a day that would be reasonable.
     
  3. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    Instead of charging by the day, hour, or minute, you might simply set a price for the entire project.

    Talk to the band about what they had in mind to spend for the entire EP. You might be surprised in a good way. Or not...

    But either way, you want to be able to relax, not be under the gun in case you make a mistake they have to pay for, etc.

    I often charge by the project, and I like doing that very much. As to the going rate, most smaller studios around here with good equipment wind up averaging about $1500 per produced song when it's all said and done. If the band is self produced, or tracks the whole thing live, the rate is less.
     
  4. Bryan T

    Bryan T Guitar Owner Silver Supporting Member

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    I've been thinking about your question, as I think it is an interesting situation to be in. I don't record bands and have no interest in doing so, but I thought I'd throw in my eighth of a penny.

    Are you going to enjoy recording the band? Do you like their music? Is the CD going to get heard and get you more studio work?

    How involved is the recording session going to be? Are we talking overdubbing each track or recording the band live and adding vocals/guitar solos later? How much time is it going to take to do it the way that the band wants it done?

    Are you going to need to rent any equipment? Microphones, preamps, compressors, etc.? Are you going to need someone to help engineer?

    The ideal situation for me would be recording a band that I liked whose CD was going to be heard, leading to more studio work. They'd record quickly (live with some overdubs) and I'd enjoy recording them. The people in the band would be easy to get along with and they'd be willing to help with any engineering tasks - including going out to get Thai food.

    In the ideal situation, I'd see the time spent recording the band as a great investment in getting the word out about my studio. I'd probably be willing to work in the ideal situation for a few meals of Thai food. Any deviations would raise my price - and there will be lots of deviations. In the real world, it would probably end up looking like Les' or Michael's figures.

    Another idea is to price it by the song. Perhaps try doing one song with them with the option to do more songs at a discount if they like the work that you do.

    Good luck,
    Bryan
     
  5. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    >> Instead of charging by the day, hour, or minute

    I don't see anything above about charging by the minute, smartypants. People often come in to a studio just to cut a few tracks or mix a few songs, and in those cases a daily or hourly rate makes sense.

    >> I often charge by the project

    So do I... and I base that to a large degree on how long I think it will take me.

    Case in point: a working pro (and good friend) wants to record himself singing a few songs while he strums his guitar, and wants me to "mix" (i.e. throw a few FX on it and bring it the levels up). I figure the whole thing will take me the better part of one day and I know it's coming out of his own pocket, so I base my project rate on about 80% of what I feel is fair for one day's work. It somes out great, he's happy, I'm happy.

    Case 2: an amateur band with deep pockets wants me to produce their CD. I hear their first CD and figure out how I'd like to produce: how many days tracking, overdubbing, mixing, etc. I factor in the above-mentioned deep pockets and come up with a figure that I feel is fair to both of us. I pitch, they whine a little, I tell them I can do it cheaper but it won't be as nice, they're sold. Still in progress and going well.

    Case 3: an amateur band with considerably shallower pockets wants a project rate to produce their CD. I listen to their first CD, a 4-song demo that they did live in the studio at considerable expense. They sound pretty competent so I can't figure out why it cost them so much, but when I ask I get only vague answers. I figure out an inexpensive way to capture them live in the studio and mix over just a few days, and base my number on that. When I explain the plan, the lead singer tells me he's thought it over: he wants to produce & mix (he had produced the last one) and would like me to engineer. He loves the idea of live in the studio, wants to do 7 or 8 takes of every song (no click track - they don't do that) then sit down with me to edit. He tells me how much he LOVES the editing process, hovering over every beat and choosing the best milisecond out of the 8 takes to edit into the master. He tells me how he did this for weeks when they made their last CD and can't wait to do it again he loves editing so much.

    I tell them I'll either need to go to a daily rate or they'll have to let me produce, adhere to the recording schedule I set and let me mix - alone. Undecided as of early this week, but they think they'll go for the latter because they like my work and I'm saving them money.

    Yeah, project rates are great! :D
     
  6. Chiba

    Chiba Gold Supporting Member

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    My drummer (who runs his own small studio) is dealing with somebody very much like this right now, and he's ready to kill one - or both of them (himself &/or the guy). Two weeks ago he finally told the guy, basically - "Look, we've been working on this for TWICE as long as it would take me to do this if you left me alone, so as of right now, your project rate has expired, and we're moving to $30 an hour, period." Hands-On Man(tm) didn't bat an eye and said, "How much do you want up front?"

    I've heard the tracks where they were at that point, and where they are now, and to my ears there's no perceptible difference - but then again - they're not my songs.

    But anyway...just a little derail. I have nothing substantive to add to the pricing discussion, as I don't feel I'm good enough to charge anybody!

    --chiba
     
  7. straticus

    straticus Member

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    Thanks for the input guys. I really appreciate it.

    A few people that I've talked with, here and elsewhere, about this have recommended doing the project for free. While that would relieve any stress I might have about the projects results I'm not willing to do that. When I started my woodworking business I remember working for very cheap but never for free. After all, I feel my time is worth something. I just want to be fair.

    Yes, these guys are friends and are very cool people and fun to be around. Recording them "should" be fun. However, the drummer definitely has a tempo problem. I don't think they're too worried about it though. I've seen them play live and it seems to be part of the rough and raw charm of the band and the music. But, if after hearing playback they want to do retake after retake it could get nutty.

    So after digesting your feedback here's what I think might be a very fair deal. 5 or 6 songs recorded and mixed for $300.00 with a maximum of 20 hours. Anything over 20 hrs would be $15 per hr. I'm also thinking about just telling them my situation and letting them give me what they think the finished project is worth.

    Wadda' ya think?

    Here's another question. Do most studios allow the band set up time before the clock starts?

    And one more question. Regarding the recorded material, what does the client get to take with them. Do they just get the 2 track mixes or do they get all of the audio tracks too?

    Thanks again for the replies!

    BC :)
     
  8. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    >>5 or 6 songs recorded and mixed for $300.00 with a maximum of 20 hours. Anything over 20 hrs would be $15 per hr. I'm also thinking about just telling them my situation and letting them give me what they think the finished project is worth.

    Wadda' ya think?<<

    Too cheap. You're going to cut and mix a 5 song CD for what, 60 bucks a band member? You are not only going to invest your time, you have already invested your money.

    They want to cut a CD. Presumably, they will sell it at gigs. Don't work for free, and don't work for a pittance. If they went to any other studio, they'd be charged at LEAST 500 a day. That would be an eight hour day. A lockout would be more.

    I have paid rates of $1000- $2000 per day for studios I had to book when I didn't want to track here. Granted, the gear was more expensive, but 20 hours is 2 1/2 days, and $133 per day is just nasty.

    >>Here's another question. Do most studios allow the band set up time before the clock starts?<<

    No. Most studios charge for it.

    But if they're pals, go ahead and let them set up. There's a favor you can do them.

    >>And one more question. Regarding the recorded material, what does the client get to take with them. Do they just get the 2 track mixes or do they get all of the audio tracks too?<<

    They get a backup of the audio tracks, and a 2 track mix, but only, repeat, only, after they've paid the bill. In full.
     
  9. Greggy

    Greggy Member

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    Reminds me of a scene out of "Boogie Nights"
     
  10. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    I'm sure the screenwriters knew a little bit about that whole scenario.

    "Can you make it faster?"
    "You said you wanted it to be a ballad."
    "Yeah, a fast ballad."
     
  11. straticus

    straticus Member

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    Yeah, I agree it's pretty cheap but I think that's what I'm going to do this time. I'm going to base my charges on $15.00 per hr. That way I don't feel stressed, my friends band gets a good deal and I know they'll talk me up so my name gets out there. I'll raise my fee to $20.00 per hr for the next (fingers crossed) project and leave it there until things get rolling. That's the plan right now anyway.

    Thanks again for the advise. It does help!

    BC :)
     
  12. Bassomatic

    Bassomatic Silver Supporting Member

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    That seems really reasonable, and like a wise approach to this first $$ project. You're probably going to be putting a lot of time into making a 5 song CD sound decent (as i'm sure you well know). It's too easy to underbid a packagfe price on a deal like this, imo. And cats can get unreasonable with a fixed price scenario (unless there's a clear time cap).
     
  13. straticus

    straticus Member

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    Thanks. I want everyone to feel comfortable and stress free ........ including me:D
     
  14. enharmonic

    enharmonic Old Growth Gold Supporting Member

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    $100 a song or $500 for 8 songs.

    I applaud your desire to get into recording. Personally, I do not step foot in a studio as an engineer for less than $20 an hour, and even then I have to like what I am doing.

    When I open my own room, I'll be $30 an hour, or $250 per day (10 hour day).

    I'll be undercutting many rooms at that price, and offering quality that runs between $60-75 an hour in these parts.

    There's a perception of quality that comes with any price tag. If you start low, you can always work your rate up...but the inverse could actually hurt ya. You don't want to start too high and then have to come off of your rate.
     
  15. decay-o-caster

    decay-o-caster Member

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    Do NOT do it too cheaply. Sez me, anyway.

    I've never done recording, but I used to do commercial photography, and by far the most unreasonable people I dealt with were the ones I gave free or ridiculously low rates to because they were friends, or because it would be good experience, or to get my name out there, or just because I was too chicken to ask for my price. I always ended up having to do so much extra work for them (at their insistence), and we ALWAYS ended up hating each other by the time it was over.

    Biggest shock of my professional life was the first time I told a real live grownup professional art director "$1000/day plus actual expenses", and he nodded without a second thought. And gave me no $h!t whatsoever about "would you mind just redoing this and then letting me look at it and decide whether we need to shoot it a third time, and why do I have to pay for the Polaroids anyway?"

    People appreciate what they pay for. They despise what they get for free.

    But do what makes you feel comfortable. If this first gig goes well, you'll get satisfaction beyond the few extra bucks. So congratulations, and have a great time with it!
     
  16. straticus

    straticus Member

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    Thanks for your thoughts.

    I've already talked it over with the band and we've settled on a flat $15.00 per hr. So the final price tag is up to them. We can stop whenever they want to or go as far as they wish with the project. Everybody is gassed about getting started and feels good about it. Lets hope it stays that way.

    The session is scheduled for a week from this Friday and Saturday. I'll let you guys know how it goes.

    BC :)
     
  17. Scribe

    Scribe Guest

    There's a name for it--overworking the production. I've never heard it actually improve anything either.
     
  18. Bassomatic

    Bassomatic Silver Supporting Member

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    Agreed, assuming he is. He could be, say, moving around crappy drum hits (without trashing the vibe, as is woefully common in these days of overly anal, soul robbing quantized PT 'perfection'). Or fixing crappy intonation (again, without overdoing tuning fixes).

    I wouldn't pass judgment on the process unless I could hear for myself. The cat just might know what he's doing (although it sounds questionable based on Cheebs' assesment).
     

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