Freelance Post Production Mixing Rate?

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This topic contains 17 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Art Munson 9 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #29145 Reply

    Alan
    Participant

    I have done a few freelance location recording gigs for a large, full service production company near me. Yesterday one of the producers asked me if I would be interested in doing any freelance mixing and if so what would I charge.
    I told him I was interested but held off on quoting a price because there were too many unknowns.

    Do any of you know what the pay scale is for this kind of work? I don’t know if I would be mixing in my studio or theirs, mixing music or VO with tracks etc. I’m just looking for a ballpark figure to start negotiations if they call me. Freelancers on Upwork.com go from $30-$80 per hour with $50/hour most common.
    If it matters, they are well established with locations in 4 cities, 800 employees and have several reality TV shows in development.
    Any insight would be appreciated.

    #29147 Reply

    UpFromTheSkies
    Participant

    I generally do $50/hr to mix anything I didn’t write.

    #29153 Reply

    BEATSLINGER
    Participant

    I would be upfront with the guy, and say “I really want to work with you, and build our business tie”.. What are you normally paying for mix work?

    Keep in mind, you get to see what he’s thinking, and you get yourself in the door. You can always raise your rates once you have established your “rapport”…

    #29162 Reply

    Michael Nickolas
    Participant

    Don’t know if it applies to this opportunity but mixing and mastering is often done on a per song basis, not an hourly rate. Something like $250 per song would reasonable (five hours at $50).

    #29163 Reply

    Alan
    Participant

    Thanks guys

    #29164 Reply

    Mark_Petrie
    Participant

    Sought after mixers in LA charge $600 – $1000 per track, at least in the trailer music world.

    #29170 Reply

    LAwriter
    Participant

    In my experience (LA) once you set your rates, you rarely get to raise them. At least short term. It also paints who you are and your relative value to those you are quoting. That’s something quite important if you plan on working with this company again.

    To a company that big, they will not blink if you come in high. They may not like it, but they will be used to hearing/seeing those sorts of rates.

    Personally, I’d start high, and possibly negotiate down on some sort of quid pro quo deal. I charge between $65-80 per hour. No project rates.

    #29171 Reply

    Alan
    Participant

    Sought after mixers in LA charge $600 – $1000 per track, at least in the trailer music world.

    Ha, I’m definitely not that good

    To a company that big, they will not blink if you come in high. They may not like it, but they will be used to hearing/seeing those sorts of rates.

    Agreed, my most recent gig with them was a live multi-track audio capture only. Literally plugged a usb cable into the provided house PA, hit record/pause for a few hours then delivered the raw audio track files 2 days later. (Yes, there was prep work, plus plans B and C with outboard gear in case my laptop couldn’t connect to the house, no fun there). It was 4 hours away and I REALLY didn’t want the gig so I quoted them such a high price I was sure they would refuse. They probably could have found someone local to do it for less than half what I charged. I can only assume they were willing to pay rather than risk using an unknown engineer.

    Here is a side note worth sharing. I put a link to my website it in my signature line for this gig (I rarely do that) and the production company visited it a few times and listened to my tracks. I assume that is why they asked me to begin with.

    I charge between $65-80 per hour. No project rates.

    So I assume you work in your own studio and bill them based on your hours? Do they generally have a rough idea on how many hours you will need? By “project rates” do you mean per song, per album, etc?

    #29172 Reply

    Alan
    Participant
    #29174 Reply

    LAwriter
    Participant

    So I assume you work in your own studio and bill them based on your hours? Do they generally have a rough idea on how many hours you will need? By “project rates” do you mean per song, per album, etc?

    Yes. My own studio. I charge $0.00,per hour for studio time, and between $65-80 per hour for my engineering. That makes sure people don’t try to get me for cheaper because they are providing a studio. I had to cut that off early on as everyone started putting in their own studio’s. Plus, it cuts way down on the commute times which can be brutal in LA/So Cal. All of a sudden, when they figured out they can’t get me for 1/2 price when working in their studio, and when they realized my studio was significantly superior in many ways, they are back – wanting to work at my place instead of theirs – or their brother in laws.

    I’ll generally talk through the budget with a client, the deliverables and the estimated idea of how long it will take, but I make it clear that it could easily come in higher – or lower. There are SO may variables in how a project is delivered, how much editing is needed, how well it’s recorded, if there is tuning involved, if there’s a dozen takes to sift through and make comps out of, etc. that it’s impossible to quote “project” rate without SOMEone getting the short end of the stick. An hourly is fair – and if they trust you, it should be no problem. My clients are generally long time clients / associates who trust me. Or people who have been referred by long time clients. Developing trust – both musically and budget-wise – is key.

    And yes, by project rates I mean anything that’s not hourly. When people look for project rates they are looking for one of two things or both :

    1. A way to cap the budget where they can afford it.
    2. A way to get you to do it for cheaper than your hourly would cost them.

    I understand the first and will work with them in helping them understand why it takes so long : 1., they didn’t choose the final takes, they didn’t tune vocals, they didn’t comp the orchestra takes, etc.. and 2. The quality of the recordings themselves, and 3. the complexity of their deliveribles, etc.. Once they understand that, it’s generally fairly smooth sailing. That and I hold communication as KEY in the process. I always give them running updates both budget wise and production wise so they can see where the time is going, and whether or not they can try to do things that will help cut down the budget and make things go faster.

    As for #2 – trying to get me for cheaper than my hourly would cost them, well….those are the clients I don’t want to work with. Occasionally I’ll give someone 37 hours of time for 32 hours of payment, but my HOURLY never changes. Once you take that step, you’re sliding on a slippery slope….

    #29175 Reply

    LAwriter
    Participant

    Here is a good article on the subject:
    https://www.izotope.com/en/community/blog/tips-tutorials/2017/08/how-to-figure-out-your-audio-engineering-rate.html

    There is some good stuff in there, but also some paths to limiting your career in significant and often hazardous ways. I’d take it with a grain of salt.

    In that big long list of “how to charge” clients, the only FAIR and VIABLE (long term career-wise) way is “per hour” – or perhaps per day (with limited hours). That sets a concrete cost to your services, but not to their project. That leaves you as the constant, and them as the variable – which is how it should be. You have no control of what they will hand you to work on.

    If you are fast enough, they are happy and will hire you again – you are worth your wages. If you are too slow, they won’t as you are not worth the cost. But either way – you get paid fairly for your time – which is as it should be.

    To complicate the issue : Some people hardly care about what their product sounds like – as long as they can recognize it. Others was to meticulously micro manage every minute detail. How can you flat rate charge either? One benefits from your expertise at a cost to you because they wanted more than they paid for, and the other gets overcharged because you quoted too much in order to protect yourself without knowing exactly how long the project would take.

    Both of the above scenarios are legitimate ways of working, and once you can discern a clients habits, you can push that direction. The first gets his project done is less hours (even if it’s not as good as it could be), and therefor gets a smaller budget. The second takes longer and he has to pay more. Both get their fair value. And you get paid fairly.

    Win/Win.

    It’s a tricky business, and the only way to survive long-term is to protect and take care of yourself. Building a studio, maintaining it, honing your skills, developing clients, etc. is a COSTLY business. And at this point, one that doesn’t want to pay fair wages.

    It’s up to you to offer and convince them that your hourly is more than fair, and that you provide good value for their dollar, along with exemplary production skills for their music.

    Do that and you will succeed. Good luck.

    #29176 Reply

    LAwriter
    Participant

    PS – honestly, compared to other industries, we should be charging $150 an hour minimum for a real studio + engineer. Recently, a friend who is a musician but not professional one – yet professional in another industry – hesitantly approached me as asked how much I charged per hour for my studio and myself. I kind of laughed and said “you probably can’t afford it – what do you think it is?” He thought for a second and hesitantly said “$400 an hour?” I laughed, but you know what, Capitol, Conway, Sunset Sound, The Village, etc. SHOULD be charging that much in order to make a profit. So what’s so expensive about $80 for a modest room + engineer?

    Can you tell I’m passionate about this? Haha!

    #29179 Reply

    Alan
    Participant

    Thanks LAwriter, I was hoping you would chime in because I know you are passionate about this stuff. I definitely fall under the “modest” room (home studio) and engineer category and I’m in Virginia, so $80 is probably a bit high for me.

    If they do call (big if) I’ll probably ask them exactly how they expect the process to work. i.e. they give me xx number of tracks (music or VO with underscore? video to sync to?), based on their experience how long do they expect it to take. etc.

    I’m thinking to start at $40-50 per hour because I’ve never done this kind of work and I’m sure there will be some growing pains involved. But I will tell them up front if they like my work and want me to do more then my price will go up as I get better and faster.

    I had planned to apply for work with them years ago if my writing was a total failure. It’s nice that I am already on their radar.

    It may never happen, but I think this has turned into a useful thread for others on MLR.

    Thanks again everyone.
    Cheers!

    #29181 Reply

    LAwriter
    Participant

    I’m thinking to start at $40-50 per hour because I’ve never done this kind of work and I’m sure there will be some growing pains involved. But I will tell them up front if they like my work and want me to do more then my price will go up as I get better and faster.

    I’m going to make a suggestion – and that’s all it is….

    – how much does your mechanic charge, and how much investment does he have in tools?
    – how much is it for a plumber to come out, and again, how much does he have in tools?
    – how much does a handyman charge in your area, and what tools do they bring?
    – how much is the shrink per hour that you need to see after you’ve been in this biz awhile? 🙂

    Bottom line, if you’re a professional, and your’e dealing with professionals (this is a BUSINESS you’re dealing with, not a teenage band), you shouldn’t be charging much if any less than what each business member pays for their services. If you do charge less, they will take that as an omen that you are not a professional and probably won’t do a good job. That’s my experience chiming in.

    So….how do you accommodate for the fact that you’re just starting out and maybe not that fast? You still charge a fair rate, your card rate, and cut back on some of the hours. I’ve done this many times. You get into a project and you’re a bit over your head or you don’t have the proper gear to make it go fast or whatever it is…. if that happens, you cut the number of hours you bill them. You bill them for the number of hours that it would take you if you’ve done it 10X’s before.

    That keeps your initial image totally pro – you charge pro rates. It gives them their product at a fair price – you cut down the number of hours it took you, and you still look fast and totally pro, AND – you get to earn while you learn. Again – Win/Win.

    Take it or leave it. I’ve learned this stuff the hard way. I could have been retired @ 50 if I was a quick learner. 🙂

    #29203 Reply

    Michael Nickolas
    Participant

    Others was to meticulously micro manage every minute detail.

    When I was doing a lot of session work I used to call this “being chained to the bench”. 🙂

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