How much for Mastering

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by kb7, Mar 23, 2011.

  1. kb7

    kb7 Active Member

    So I am not at all ready to have my work mastered yet so please no PM's with offers. But I am wondering how much is a standard price to pay for having 5-7 songs mastered? I'm not sure if it would be best for me to find someone local to do it or just to find an online mastering service. Any info would be great. If there is another thread with this information then just link me to it and I'll leave this alone. Thanks!
  2. Herbeck

    Herbeck Active Member

    There are several ME's on this forum with good information on their web pages, check them out.


  3. acorneau

    acorneau Active Member

    You'll find lots of mastering studios in the $75/hr. to $150/hr range and then there are higher-end guys as well ($200-500+/hr). Below that range you'll get into lots of people offering "mastering services" that aren't really ME's.

    If you can find a good ME in your area then I'd recommend you go there as you'll learn a lot about the process as well as get some good feedback on your mixes.
  4. AToE

    AToE Active Member

    I wish the ME's I've found so far would offer hourly rates instead of by song. It drives me nuts when 10 songs costs 10 times as much as one, even if they're all in the same key and have the same mix. I get that more songs do take more time, but there's simply no way that each song after the first eats up more than a small fraction of the time spent on the first one!
  5. acorneau

    acorneau Active Member

    Mastering isn't about finding "the settings" for an album and cranking everything through. Having the same key and mixing setup doesn't really matter either. Every song gets individual attention to make it sound it's best while also making sure it fits in the album. The only exception is if you have two versions of the same exact song, as in a "radio" version and an "album" version.

    For me, the first song might take 45 minutes to an hour to get right, the second usually takes a little less and so on, slowly speeding up as I come upon the same issues and know where to go to make it right. Some songs may be "out of the ordinary" and might take more work to get it to sit right.

    I don't give exact quotes for mastering, just estimates. There is no way for me to know exactly what it's going to take until it's all done and the client gives his approval. Those that charge a flat rate are averaging out the amount of time they put into any given song. Some song may take more time, some less, but in the end they average out their time and charge what they think is right for them.
  6. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Gotta disagree on that for the most part -- But not for reasons of audio.

    (keeping in mind that I don't use "per song" rates either just for that non-audio reason)

    It's the administrative costs. I have a "single service" thing that's more or less a loss-leader. And there's no doubt that the longer the project is, the less it's going to cost per 'measurement of time' ("minute" for example). But that's not because of how long it takes to process one track -- It's because of the time spent on paperwork, QC, billing, etc.

    Occasionally -- OCCASIONALLY, the first song might be a "starting point" for others in the project -- But not as often as I wish that were the case. Every track is more or less a blank slate and every track (assuming no goofy anomalies and what not) will generally take a similar amount of time. More often, certain corrective measures might be common from one to the next, but even that's a crap-shoot.

    THAT ALL SAID -- Yes - I agree that if someone is charging (just for example) $100 for one track, charging $1000 for 10 tracks would seem a little weird as the administrative costs per track go down fractionally per additional track - but not on time spent per track.
  7. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Double-shot ---
  8. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Another point here is that most mastering houses are small companies - often one man businesses. If you have a situation that doesn't fit their "standard" model it doesn't hurt to ask if they will change their fee structure. Of course, you can bargain all you want, but don't expect the pros to compete on price with the guys with B!@#$ger monitors and a cracked copy of Waves - and there are plenty of them out there.
  9. AToE

    AToE Active Member

    Totally fair enough - I personally price (for tracking and mixing) on a steep sliding scale, because while tracking and editing will take roughly the same amount of time per song, mixing I know for sure will not. This is TOTALLY genre dependant, we're talking heavy rock/metal where almost all tones will be the same throughout the album from song to song. I try to play with that as much as possible to get some excitement happening in the mix, but the reality is that once I get the kick sounding good for the first song it will probably need only minor tweaks for specific passages for the rest of the album, same goes for every other instrument. The first song might take 15 or 20 hours total of individual attention (just random numbers, but I am pretty slow) but chances are the rest of the songs will eat up less than an hour or two each.

    If someone is going to spend similar amounts of time on each song then I am more than happy to pay the same rate per song. But in all honesty, that's not always been my experience with ME's (though as I move on to higher end ME's I'll obviously be trusting them a lot more and feel more justified spending the money). I know a lot of time CAN go into each track, but I do bellieve that some of the people I've been handing the money spend about 1/4 the time on each song after the first.
  10. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Two worlds: Fast Food or Fine Dining. What are you expecting?

    I don't know about the mid level mastering business but I do know a lot about the creative business , self employment and being successful. This is an art, not fast food therefore you are able to charge differently than the 9 to 5 providing you are the real deal and you are not desperate. It kind of promotes itself.

    When someone starts squeezing and questioning the time it takes to polish the corners, I don't waste my time on them. I price for the job, never by the hour. This way, if you need more time to make it perfect, you can do it and they can't complain.
    I generally charge enough so I am never rushed and never have to live a life of fast and cheap. It makes me feel good ,think clearly and produce excellence. I get more quality minded clients than I can handle. There are more people doing crappy work than quality and there is a reason why. So I choose the path where less travel :)

    Years of experience... providing you are worth your price... Set your price and stand by it. Work only for people that expect your quality, appreciate and promote good work and don't mind paying for it. Clients who question everything you do and measure you against price comparisons produce more of the same. Welcome to hell.

    My 2 cents :)

    Now, if you are simply looking for a deal, thats another story. It always gets me annoyed when I start hearing about how we are all being squeezed.
  11. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Our rates are substantially different for signed and unsigned artist. My feeling is that someone just starting out and needing mastering should not be charged at a higher rate since they are only learning the business. A lot of the people we work with started out as newbies with us and we continued to work with them as they matured. We have a lot of relationships, like this, that go back 5 or 10 years.

    I still get the weekly phone call from the person who is looking for bargain basement rates and thinks just because they see a lot of adverts on the WWW for $5.00 per song mastering that is what they want to pay here - unfortunately NO! I also get a lot of people that have been burned by someone posing as a "mastering engineer" who took their money (sometimes a lot more than we charge) and gave them crap in return. Most times by the time they get to me they are out of money and out of time. I feel sorry for them but I can only do so much for what they have left in their "mastering budget".

    (It always amazes me that people will try and go for the cheap route on mastering and then spend big bucks having a big blow out at their CD release party - HELLO!!!).

    Today there are soooooooooooooo many people doing "mastering" who have nary a clue to what is involved and the only mastering "trick" they know is how to make stuff sound loud and distorted. Sorry but anyone can make things loud - it takes a great mastering engineer to be able to do that and also make it sound good. A professional mastering engineer will also listen closely to what the client is trying to achieve and not immediately reach for the LOUDER than LOUD button.

    Many people today don't have the skills or take the time to do things correctly when they record and mix. They limit/compress/smash everything from the original tracking to the mixing and then want the mastering engineer to make it all sound GREAT with "lots of dynamics".

    The best people to work with are the ones that come to me early in the game and bring along some of their tracks for me to listen to. I can tell them where we will have problems and where things may need to be "modified" for better sound. Unfortunately these types of clients are few and far between. Our regular clients do this as a matter of routine. Many times someone comes to us with a looming deadline of a CD release party and needs to get the mastering done ASAP preferably today and when they bring in their material it is really not ready for mastering.

    I know a lot of people who do mastering will attempt to do as the client wishes and take all this mess and work with it and try and make something useful out of it - all on the clock. I understand their perspective but I cannot, in all good conscious, take someone's money for turning $hit in to polished $hit. Many times the client has no choice since they are literally out of time. I try and do what I can but many times it is a hack job because the underlying material is so badly recorded and mixed it is what is commonly referred to in military lingo as a "cluster fu<k" and there is no much I can do to salvage it.

    As to prices for mastering - it depends and the best way for the OP to get on with the mastering is to find someone in his area that is a professional mastering engineer - talk to him or her and bring in some material so they can get an idea from the engineer of how long it will take and what the cost maybe. IMHO most times well recorded - normal levels material does take less time to master.

    Best of luck and let us know what you finally decide to do.:smile:

    Lots of good feedback so far from some people who really are pros in the truest sense of the word!
  12. AToE

    AToE Active Member

    Hey like I said, fair enough.

    I personally agree with the idea that pricing by the job let's you spend more time if needed without the customer having to pay (that's how I price too, if I want to spend 10 extra hours then it comes out of my pocket, because I like making it the best I can). My comments were very situational to MY experience.

    Maybe I should rephrase this whole comment as - I feel that I'm the one who has been squeezed and even screwed by local ME's, and due to this I have now given up on most of them entirely and am moving on to proper mastering studios.

    When it's real artists doing the mastering I have NO ISSUE paying by whatever scheme they want. NONE. My problem was all the local schmucks eating up massive amounts of my (by "my" I mean my clients') budget when I am SURE they are just copying and pasting settings from song to song. (Read: I'm not complaining on my own behalf, but for my customers)

    I'm actually a nice guy and don't begrudge anyone making a living, didn't mean to offend the real ME's!
  13. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Interesting question... How to charge. I offer both ways and 90% of the time it comes out to be about the same. The other 10% of the time the hourly is cheaper due to the nature of the project, a live concert for example. Only a conversation will determine what will be best for the project. If you're using local guys, why not attend the sessions?
  14. AToE

    AToE Active Member

    My wording "local" is maybe a bit misleading, I'm in Canada so we can get some pretty vast distances in before we stop calling it local! The one guy in particular I'm thinking of is about a 4 hour drive away.

    You're right though, attending would be not a bad idea at all for me.

    Honestly I'm just going to send my next clients to Metalworks for mastering and see how they do, at $100 per song for indipendant bands they're more than competitive with the "local" guys, and they're a well respected name in mastering (around here anyways).
  15. kb7

    kb7 Active Member

    Hmmm, this is interesting. I'm not seeing too many examples for rates lol. The reason I ask is because the replication companies I've seen seem to offer mastering at $350-$400 for 5-7 songs (which is the range in SONGS I'm looking at, not necessarily price...) but I wasn't sure if that is a good deal or not.

    Also not sure who here does mastering and where to look for good places so that changes who I would go to and such. I can tell who masters on here now from this thread though...
  16. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    most ME's on here post their rates on the their websites. The forum is more for discussions on the mastering process, but you're in the ballpark for prices for good mastering houses.

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