Composing for indie projects – How much to charge?

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This topic contains 33 replies, has 15 voices, and was last updated by  Kubed 3 weeks, 2 days ago.

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  • #19558 Reply

    huge
    Participant

    I typically see 3k-7k for indie films. I’ve seen people do a whole film for 1k or even free, sadly. You have to negotiate for the higher end. Definitely be agreeable to lower fees, but say the only way you’re able to do it for that low a fee is to keep ownership.

    #19561 Reply

    MuscoSound
    Participant

    Does anybody know how much like the top Hollywood composers get for a film score? Think like Hans Zimmer, what do you think his ball park would be for a feature, or just the highest paid composer in general?

    #19562 Reply

    Mark_Petrie
    Participant

    Does anybody know how much like the top Hollywood composers get for a film score? Think like Hans Zimmer, what do you think his ball park would be for a feature, or just the highest paid composer in general?

    Well over 1 million, I’ve heard some fees go as high as 2 million every now and then.

    #19564 Reply

    MuscoSound
    Participant

    Thanks Mark, that is good to know. It really shows what is possible at the very top of the mountain. So basically you got composers scoring for zero dollars all the way up to 2 million. That is a pretty nice spectrum of possibilities and everybody is somewhere in there. It’s pretty inspirational to know that people at the very top can pull those numbers, and that is good for all of us.

    I am not really sure how you get to that level, but it is pretty sweet to know it exists. Personally I am having a pretty terrible sales month right now, and it’s easy to start to feel down. For me, hope is a big driving force. Reading that was kind of the shot in the arm I needed to hear to kind of snap out of it. I appreciate it Mark.

    I wasn’t planning on making any music today, but I think I will. haha I have got to expand my cinematic skills.

    #19560 Reply

    MuscoSound
    Participant

    So basically 40 hours of work for $500 equals out to like $12.5 an hour. If that’s ok with you that is what matters. For your situation it sounds like you’ve weighed the pro’s and con’s. Something to keep in mind though is it will be hard to move from that price the next time you work with them. For example say they liked the work you did and want to use you again and in reality you need $20 an hour instead of the 12.5 they might be like woo woo that’s a big jump, and you might have to negotiate to like maybe $15. I guess it all depends on what you need your margins are and how much potential business that person will throw your way. I wouldn’t say your a fool at all. You just need to make sure that it’s a win for you and not just a win for them. To me it sounds like your kind of feeling like you should of charged more because 40 hours is a lot of work time. If that’s how you feel then make sure next time you don’t quote that way again, and hopefully the job pans out good for you and it was worth it.

    Sometimes I get a little cynical in the sense that I’ve heard from a lot of people promising me things like oh if you do this music, I got a bunch of work lined up bla bla bla, or this is a small budget project but I got a large budget thing coming up next quarter. Which panned out to be just b******t, and I don’t know if it’s like they are being super optimistic or they were flat out lying to me. Maybe it’s the way they negotiate or whatever, but it’s something to be careful with because you can get caught up in that and think things are going good having all this prospective work but in reality it’s not there.

    My old boss was a very smart sales person and she always used to tell us that you quote a price for today (I was in wholesale sales) based on the quantity they are buying today, and the history of sales they have had in the past not what they are promising for the future. The thought behind that is people that purchase for companies have an invested interest in beating down a price.

    #19655 Reply

    David H

    Great thread! I am totally new to custom composing and in the dark on what to charge. I have been asked to compose for a short (8 min) thriller indie this year and told them $500. Music isn’t too complex, typical tense, suspenseful cinematic/electronic. I’m also in the bidding now to score a 17 minute educational video (not film), replacing the original music with something that will be theirs exclusively. Their budget is pretty low so at first I thought of $1000; but after re-thinking, I made a bid of $2500. I basically have to compose similar music to what’s in the video now which saves a lot of brainstorming time. Hey, at this point, I’m just trying to get my feet wet in this area. I’ve always felt if I could come away making roughly $30 per hour of my actual time that was good. I’m guessing in an hour I could compose several minutes of “typical” music….

    #20533 Reply

    MichaelL
    Participant

    @DavyDad…picking up your question from “Scoring: How to Charge”

    You need to agree upon a price before you do the job. You’ll have no way of knowing how long it will take, so how would you charge by the hour?

    Scoring to picture is very time consuming because: 1) it is detail intensive 2) you need to use good “film sense.”

    Two approaches:

    1) By the minute, as previously discussed (I’d ask for $150-$200 per minute if you keep the rights to the music.), or
    2) What ever you agree upon for the total project, which would include the cost of any additional musicians and studio time, etc, if necessary.

    If exclusive rights are involved, as in a typical WFH contract, you should charge much more.

    Unfortunately there are no PRO royalties on DVD sales. You could try to negotiate a percentage with your prospective client, but that is unlikely.

    If you are asked to score to picture, make sure that your DAW is designed for the task.

    Best of luck.

    Michael

    #20538 Reply

    daveydad
    Participant

    Thanks for the insight about charging per hour. Hadn’t thought of that. I just finished composing 10 mins of music for a low budget educational video; not extremely complicated music, 4-5 tracks each, took me about 8-10 hours total. I was paid $1000; so using that as a baseline, I’m thinking $100 per minute would be a good place to start. No other musicians are involved.

    I think they’ll be fine with me just composing however many tracks it takes to fit their video and not an actual score to picture. So if they need 40 minutes of music I would ask $4000. I know this is gonna blow their mind! Why? The client is a friend which can make it harder to negotiate… you know how that goes.

    #20539 Reply

    MichaelL
    Participant

    I know this is gonna blow their mind! Why? The client is a friend which can make it harder to negotiate… you know how that goes.

    Tough to negotiate if they think they’re doing you a favor, helping you get exposure, get your scoring career going etc.

    On the other hand, if they’re professionals and have done this before, they know what things cost.

    Good luck!

    #20540 Reply

    Mike Marino
    Participant

    I think this video sort of sums it all up:

    http://youtu.be/NHbUROGAGYQ

    #20544 Reply

    Paolo
    Participant

    Thanks for sharing that video – I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breath.

    Beautiful – that’s the way to handle horrible offers – have fun with it.

    “Is Art the name of your friend director?” LOL! I’m going to have to watch that video again 🙂

    #20545 Reply

    Mike Marino
    Participant

    I’m finding it harder and harder to even find films I want to pitch for no less finding anything that pays decent-to-well.

    #20547 Reply

    MichaelL
    Participant

    I’m finding it harder and harder to even find films I want to pitch for no less finding anything that pays decent-to-well.

    LOL!!! I came to that conclusion years ago. It would be hard to find a film that I wanted to watch ONCE, let alone the number of times that you have to watch it to score it.

    I prefer documentaries.

    #20549 Reply

    Marco

    a very interesting read and I am grateful for the opinions of those offering them. I have recently been asked to make the music for a fishing DVD so I have been wondering about these issues. This would be my first such project and I think I need to charge accordingly – but not to undervalue myself and others in the process. Thanks again and that You Tube from Mike was classic. The others that followed were good too 🙂

    #27555 Reply

    Corey Laury

    Hey everyone, I know its been awhile so based off of everything everyone said.

    It’s best to ask them how much they’re willing to spend.

    Charge per minute or flat fees.

    And don’t undersell yourself.

    I usually sell my music like this

    25 dollars for already existing music and 75 for customs. Both flat fees. I like doing flat fees but I’m willing to get into doing per minute as well. How much should I raise my prices if I’ve been playing the piano since I was 8 and have been producing music since I was 12?

    And what does it mean to decrease the value of the industry if you’re charging low?

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