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What's a Good Starting Point?

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by BigTrey, Jul 18, 2007.

  1. BigTrey

    BigTrey Active Member

    Hey Ro'ers, need some advice on this scenario:

    I have been operating my own studio/label for the past few years now and have even gotten a few albums under my belt. For the past few years I have been doing a lot of work for free (recording,mixing,and some mastering), and not charging artists to use my studio in order to get a name out there for myself as a studio/label/producer. But what I have run into is that a lot of the cats that I work with only want to do work when things are free, basically I mean, they only want to record and none of them want to actually do what is necessary to actually get themselves out there as artists (shows, promoting, etc.). I feel as though I have been wasting my time (to a certain extent) the last few years, working with artists that really aren't as serious about the business as they proclaim to be. They just do a song so that they can have their friends listen to it, and waste my time in the process. Now I am in the process of charging for studio time, because I would like to really get my label and studio up and running. Most cats don't want to sign with my label because they feel as though I am not "major" enough for their time and it's gotten to the point that it's really tickin me off. I feel as though I am good enough right now in the studio to do demo's for artists (check out: http://www.myspace.com/battlegroundrecordz and make your own opinion, and these are the rates that I would be charging in the beginning:

    $40.00 per hour
    10 hour block rate - $30.00 per hour
    20 hour block rate - $20.00 per hour

    Standard Mix – 1 to 24 tracks - $150.00
    Standard Plus Mix – 25 to 48 tracks - $250.00
    Premium Mix – 49 tracks or more - $350.00

    Single Song: $50.00
    5 songs or more: $40.00 per song
    10 songs or more: $30.00 per song

    1. Choose the package(s) that best suites the needs of your project (categories: recording/mixing/mastering)
    2. Once you have decided on your package(s), you will be required to pay half of the project cost upfront.
    3. Once I receive your songs, I begin to mix; during the mixing process you will get mp3 formats for your approval.
    4. Once you have approved the final version of the mix, you will be responsible for paying the remaining balance for the service. At this point I will give you your final project on cd.

    *** Please keep in mind that recording, mixing, and mastering are three separate processes, which is why there are separate pricing categories for each. ***

    I know that these rates are kind of low, but I am trying to make it affordable, does anyone have any suggestions on a median pricing range? I've just completed construction of a vocal booth/sound room to separate my studio from other studios in the area, which I hope will attract customers my way. My control room is currently in my living room, and the vocal booth/sound room is in my basement. I have it set up to where while in the booth the artist can also track the session on a monitor to see what I am doing upstairs. Am I wrong for wanting to charge for my time, instead of continuing to do it for free? I just figure that since I am spending my own money on equipment, software, and other essentials, that it's only fair to start charging people for studio time. So I guess my question is: "Should I charge higher rates?" Also, "am I right for making separate pricing for recording/mixing/mastering?" I hope that this all makes sense, but please ask for any clarification. Thanks.

    BigTrey ~ BG Studioz/BG Recordz
  2. MadTiger3000

    MadTiger3000 Active Member

    "Am I wrong for wanting to charge for my time, instead of continuing to do it for free?"

    You have to let them know that your investment in equipment, and time to learn how to use it, are important to you. Good idea on getting half upfront.

    Those rates are low. They are like an emerging artist special, or something like that.

    Start hanging around other business-minded people. The ones who will give you support while you are trying to build your thing up. Cut off the people who are doubting, or who are not about business.
  3. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    Its a delicate balance I know, but can you really blame them? You gave them a free service. In their minds they were getting a great deal, now you want to charge, that is now no longer a preceived great deal. Madtiger3000 is right, be honest, let them know the rates up front, and be firm.

    You have every right to charge for your services. You have made an investment in equipment and time on their behalf. Compensation should be expected. You don't walk into walk into a resturant and demand a free meal do you? Everyone understands this, don't be afraid to ask.
  4. BigTrey

    BigTrey Active Member

    I think that I am just going to concentrate on these rates here, and cut off the haters. Let me know if you think they are too low. Thanks for the replies.

    $85.00 per hour
    10 hour block rate - $75.00 per hour
    20 hour block rate - $65.00 per hour

    Standard Mix – 1 to 24 tracks - $650.00
    Standard Plus Mix – 25 to 48 tracks - $850.00
    Premium Mix – 49 tracks or more - $1250.00

    Single Song: $100.00
    5 songs or more (up to nine songs): $95.00 per song
    10 songs or more: $90.00 per song

    1. Choose the package(s) that best suites the needs of your project (categories: recording/mixing/mastering)
    2. Once you have decided on your package(s), you will be required to pay half of the project cost upfront.
    3. Once I receive your songs, I begin to mix; during the mixing process you will get mp3 formats for your approval.
    4. Once you have approved the final version of the mix, you will be responsible for paying the remaining balance for the service. At this point I will give you your final project on cd.

    *** Please keep in mind that recording, mixing, and mastering are three separate processes, which is why there are separate pricing categories for each. ***
  5. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Around Northern Ohio most studios charge somewhere between $25 to $65 per hour for recording and most studios are not well booked. Conclusion if there is a market and the market will support your rates you will get business. If their is no market or everyone else is charging $25.00 per hour then probably no one will use your services UNLESS they perceive that you are worth the extra $$$.

    My mentor runs the most successful state of the art studio in the Ohio area. His rates start at $80 per hour and go sharply upward from there. He has a full time staff of 10 people and has 8 studios which are always booked. His secret is that he concentrates on one segment of the market (commercials) and he and his staff are very good at what they do. He has recently branched out into video and on location recording and is doing very well at those as well. His clients are willing to pay more because they perceive that they get more.

    You can only charge what the market will support so I would do some looking around and calling around and find out what others in your area are charging. If you can offer better services or better equipment or you have more experience you can charge more - the trick is to make people understand WHY they should come to you and pay you more. Just putting up a rate sheet and saying THIS IS WHAT WE CHARGE is not going to get you clients or ones that are willing to pay you more.

    We do a lot of work for non profit groups and have a different rate structure for them since they never seem to have any money. The good thing is we get lots of work from them and they pay promptly.

    We also get a lot of people who want to master 24 songs for $200. I politely tell them that I can do this and that for what they want to pay and if they want someone to do mastering for their entire album for that price then they need to look for a bargain basement operation - which we are not.

    Best of luck in your endeavors.
  6. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    MadTiger may be right - the rates *may* be a little low.

    However, I don't know.

    1st, I don't know your market.

    2nd, I don't know what *you* bring to the table. (In other words, I don't know what education you have and what experience you have.)

    3rd, I don't know what kind of facility you have.

    4th, I don't know what kind of gear you have.

    Tom's absolutely right - if the market won't support that, then you can raise your rates all you want, but you won't get any clients.

    I think your second set of rates is WAY too high. There are first class facilities here in the DC area and I don't know any of them that charge that much for services.

    Airshow Mastering is here in the area and Charlie Pilzer is a Grammy winning engineer. He only charges $125 per hour for mastering.

    Chances are, and I don't mean any offense by this, that you don't have the mastering chops nor do you have the mastering gear and/or room and mastering monitoring chain necessary to charge anywhere near that much.

    Your first set of rates may be a good starting point. If they turn out to be a little low, simply raise them. However, I'd bet that they're not.

    As for the label - there's a trick to running a label successfully.

    1 - Get good contracts. (Pay a lawyer $300 to have him/her draft some for you).
    2 - Be exclusive. In other words, make it seem like you don't want a lot of clients (only on the "label" side of the house, not on the studio side. On the studio side of the house, take anything and everything that comes your way!) The funny thing is, I don't even have a "label" per se. However, my company name - Sublyme Records - gives the impression that I do. I get no less than 1 call per week asking if I offer record deals. The funny thing is, I bet that 1 in 20 of those is actually a pretty good artist! I just don't do it. If you are going around trying to "hand out" record deals, people will think they're worthless.


  7. BigTrey

    BigTrey Active Member

    Thanks fellows, I think that I will keep with the first set of rates that I have, because based on the market here I think that is the middle of the crop. Some cats charge $25/hr others charge $50/hr, I've even heard of people who charge $25 and only have a computer with computer speakers and a usb headphone mic, so I think I will be okay. I will make some phone calls though just to make sure I am in the right price range. Thanks again.
  8. MadTiger3000

    MadTiger3000 Active Member

    "$25 and only have a computer with computer speakers and a usb headphone mic"

    Hhahaha LOL.


    That's like selling slices downtown out of a cart, but it's Digiorno's!!!
  9. BigTrey

    BigTrey Active Member

    That's funny MadTiger, but it's true, that's what cats do around here. I've done a little calling around to a few studios in my area and price ranges per hour range from $35/hr to $75/hr, so I think that I will be okay with a rate around $35/hr. It's a starting point and I can always increase if the need arises. Thanks so much guys, I really appreciate the input. Cucco no offense taken at all about the mastering stuff, but I do have pretty good contracts, I'm a pre-law student so drafting them was no problem, but I did have an attorney(my cousin) review them for any possible problems and it seems that I did a pretty good job.
  10. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    There are "mastering" studios around here that are doing mastering on computer speakers with only plug-ins and doing it in untreated rooms like their bedroom or basement and charging a lot for their services so it is not ONLY the recording people. Too bad that the profession of audio has been so trivialized that now anyone with a couple of speakers and some plug-ins can call himself or herself an audio engineer.
  11. BigTrey

    BigTrey Active Member

    That's very true Thomas, I run into a lot of people who call their setup a studio, and it's nothing more than a computer w/computer speakers. I've spent the better part of two-and-a-half years, just getting a mid-level studi up and running, and I am constantly trying to learn more and get better at what I do. As I said before I just finished completion of an isolation booth in my basement, complete with auralex deadening foam, bass traps, etc., and it wasn't a cheap deal for me. I really take the production side of the business very seriously, I just wish that other people in the area did the same. One of my most favorite spots I like to critique a song at is on my car stereo, and I've actually taken out cd's from local cats around here, because to me the quality just wasn't there. I guess you could say that I shoot for a good quality sound versus just something that I threw together. One of my buddies told me that I didn't know how to mix a song because I would rather spend a few hours on it (rghmix, bounce, check on other sources, etc.) just to see where things are sitting, but a friend of his "mixes" in about 25 minutes on computer speakers. I sometimes think that he misses a lot because of it. But you are right, the profession has been trivialized that anyone can call him or herself audio engineers, but I really take pride in learning as much as possible and trying to give people the quality that I think they are looking for. Some people around here just don't care about the quality of the product they are assigned to work on they just care about the hourly rate that they are putting into their pocket. I've spent a long time on this and made sure that I did a lot of research first before I decided that this was somethng that I wanted to pursue, and so far I have spent in excess of $9,000 just on the small setup that I have and know that I am no where completely set as far as a full-blown studio goes. But am I crazy for wanting to charge separately for mixing services, another friend told me that it should be included in the hourly rate, but I thought that was doing a little too much for $35-$40 an hour, which is why I charge separately for mixing. Thanks guys I really appreciate the input and advice.

    BigTrey~BG Studioz/BG Recordz
  12. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    With our physical plant and with the equipment we have we have well over 300K invested. I have been in pro audio since 1969 and in audio since 1957 which means that have 50 years in the business. I have about 200 albums out that I recorded, 2000 live concerts that I recorded for broadcast and about 200+ albums mastered and I still get calls from people wanting to know if we can master their album for under $200 for 24 songs. I am competing with the studio down the street that does recording, mixing, mastering, graphic design and arranging and producing and charges $25.00 per hour and has a lot less than $10,000.00 invested in his operation.

    People today are looking for the WALMART of audio and want to record and master their stuff for slave wages. When they get what the want (low prices) they also get what they don't want (shoddy or poorly done engineering). Unfortunately or fortunately they are blissfully ignorant of what their stuff might sound like if it is done by someone with good equipment and good ears.

    A great man, Dave Davis. once told me you can have things done well, done quickly or done cheaply the problem is that you can only chose two of them at the same time.

    I wish you well in your endeavors and hope everything comes out well for you. Best of luck!
  13. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member


    In fact, I'm willing to bet you're competing with some folks who have less than $1,000 in equipment! We do here all the time! We get people asking about our rates all the time and when I tell them $75/hour with a 4 hour minimum (on-location live recording) some of them freak out and insist that the other guy down the road does the whole thing for $100! Little do they know, he comes out with a Mackie 1202, a Sony minidisc recorder and a pair of SM57s whereas I drag out anywhere between $25K to $45K of gear for gigs! (Even High School Wind Ensembles.)

    That's also why I get customers who come back time after time and those that do stray for a cheaper deal often come back after one service.
  14. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member


    Yes and we lost a contract recently for a non profit to a guy who was doing the recording for $25.00 less than our total. The BIG difference the non profit did not count on is 1)we have been and are for them in the long term, 2) we are professional and 3) provide professional level results and 4) our rates are more than reasonable considering the experience level and the equipment we bring to the concert(s). The other gentlemen showed up with two SM-57s, a single microphone stand and X-Y stand adapter and a DA-30 DAT machine and the requisite MACKIE mixer. He lasted one year and was gone and with him all their masters and recordings that he had done for them. They came back to us and we have been doing them ever since.

    Audio is becoming a cut throat business and if you read Mix or Pro Sound news everyone is feeling the effects.

    What a lot of people FAIL to realize when they are shopping price is that it NOT the same when you are dealing with a professional audio person versus someone who spent their paper route money on buying some equipment and that person's only "training" is what they read on line or in the pages of one of the popular audio magazines or what their GC salesmen tells them.

    With a professional you get someone who genuinely cares about what they are doing, has the knowledge to do it properly and well and stands behind their product. With the "other" guy you probably don't get what you paid for and won't really realize the difference until you hear what someone who really knows what they are doing does your stuff.

    Too bad but I guess that is reality today.
  15. MadTiger3000

    MadTiger3000 Active Member

    Technological advances have caused several professional services to begin to get a "commodity" feel to them:

    Graphical Design,
    Website Design,
    et al
  16. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    And in all cases, you can recognize (quite easily) "Do it yourself" or "home-enthusiast's" work over that of a professional any day.

    By the way, photography should be added to that list.

    My wife is a photographer (and I'm her slave/back-up photographer at weddings). You should see the crap we have to deal with on location. We'll set up to do the portraits before and after the ceremony and anywhere between 5 and 15 people come over at the same time with some level of photo gear trying to hoard in on the poses. It gets so bad that people (getting their picture taken) will not know where to look and so many pictures have the bride looking to the left and the groom looking to the right (or much worse when it's a large group!) It's gotten so bad that my wife has now put a clause in her contracts that states that if anyone else shows up with a camera during posed sessions, there is an immediate fee of $50 per person with camera since it makes our job infinitely harder!

    Anyway - I digress...
  17. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    experience is the best teacher, that's why i try to do everything myself!

    recording, 3d modeling, photoshop...

    when you do the best you can with less than spectacular equipment, i think that you learn a lot, especially in the basics. then as you upgrade you will learn even more, and things will become easier. who knows? maybe this semester at school i could get an internship at a recording studio!
  18. BigTrey

    BigTrey Active Member

    Just reading the last few posts has made me realize that I still have a long way to go as far as equipment goes (300k?, wow). But I really do try to strive for quality when it comes to the work that I do in the studio, it's sort of something that I feel is lacking in my area, but we do have a few very good studios around here. I know a guy who has a computer, a $10 target mic, and the cakewalk plasma program, and he is charging about $25/hr for his services. I really try to use the best tool that I have which are my ears to hear what things sound like, not just turn everything up because it sounds good that way. I try to tell people that when I am working in the studio that the reason why I am so diligent is because I want them to return to me for repeat business and I hope to do a good job so that they will do that. Some people don't understand that good monitors are essential to get a good sound and that computer speakers alone won't just cut it. When I first started I used my home stereo for monitors and that worked just fine but I still felt as though things were lacking, then a friend of mine traded me a pair of Roland DS-50A monitors for a boost mobile phone w/a $50 card. I just couldn't pass that up, and now things just sound so much clearer. Although I don't have that $1000 mic yet, I have spent about $450-$500 on five mics that I currently use which are the MXL 990, MXL 991, MXL 2006, AKG Perception 200, and a Beringher B2 Dual Condenser Mic. I know that isn't a great deal of money, but because of budget constraints that's what I got on hand. People always ask me why I have so many mics, and I can only tell them that not evryone sounds good using the same mic, but that's just what I read somewhere, so I just stuck with it. I have one guy, who no matter what mic he's on he just sounds like he's eating it. With all the technological advances in audio it's no wonder that some guys just go out and buy the mackie mixer, a shure sm57, and cakewalk and call themselves having a studio. I have researched online as well as read many books on the subject of audio engineering, but the best thing that I have used is just working with the programs that I have and learning from experience, using my ears to see what sounds right and what doesn't, most cats I know won't even try to mix down just a beat, because they feel as though it's a waste of time, then they don't understand why that bassline is sticking out too much. (go figure). Well, just to let you guys know I am in this for the long-haul and evn though I have a small mid-level setup I try my damndest to get the best possible sound that I can get.
  19. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Yes you can do stuff with less than perfect equipment or software and the corollary is also true. You can have the best equipment and software in the world and if you don't know how to use it the stuff will still look and or sound terrible.

    We just upgraded our graphics work station. We added a new Samsung 24 inch monitor and a new graphics card with DVI out. My associate does all of our graphics and he has always been able to turn out very good work. Now that he can really see what he is doing he is turning out exceptional work. The old monitor setup included two LCD analog 17" monitors and the old card was analog only. This was a very acceptable combination but now we can see all the problems the other monitors were not showing us. The difference is dramatic.

    I think that the ONE thing good equipment does is it lets you see or hear into the project more and therefore you can do a better job of working with it. I know that is true in speakers, amplifiers, cameras and video equipment and is probably true about everything else. The better the equipment the better the results since you can really get a grip on what you are doing, seeing and hearing.
  20. MediaMurder

    MediaMurder Guest

    I'd like to add my two cents as an amateur, maybe it will help.

    I've heard finished products come out of studios after thousands of dollars and plenty of hours behind the desk and I cringe at the sound...

    On the other hand, I've been able to successfully record and mix my own tracks for my projects on an extremely low budget that sound as if I had been a producer for years.

    My point is this, and I say it in complete agreement with everyone above me. No amount of money, gear, or time can replace a good talented set of ears.

    Even the truly passionate will spend their entire lives attempting to master sound to no avail.

    But it wont be a wasted life!

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