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I've posted a similar topic a few weeks ago about how to charge musicians who want separate recordings of their projects, of which most of you were leaning toward the $/hour method.

Slightly different - I wanted to record a large orchestra this weekend, but one of the musicians, also a board member, said he was going to record it and they were all set. He followed up saying there was a Chamber music concert later in the month and wants to know if I wanted to record that, and if so, what are my terms and fees to present to the other board members.

I've seen engineers' websites where they offer these services and charge $1000 for a day of recording and post production, of which, no way I'm going to charge that amount given my experience with this and other factors. This would be the first time a group would directly pay me, versus an engineer who payed me to help him record a group, so can anyone who's done this recommend a figure to start with. As far as terms go, there's a few 'products' I could offer them, from providing them with 256/320kbps MP3's, to the full res AIFF/WAV files, and also burning CDs.

Thanks again for all your help with this type of music and these ideas.


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Boswell Fri, 03/04/2016 - 08:32

What's involved in the chamber concert? If it's a string quartet playing a usual diet of three quartets in an evening concert, then you can get away with a single stereo pair and a 2-track recorder - easy, no real trouble, so it's a matter of charging for your time in setting up for the afternoon rehearsal, doing a couple of trial takes to set levels and adjust mic positions to take visibility into account and then record the performance and transcribe to CD with top/tailing and level normalisation.

The other end of the chamber scale is a concert consisting of half a dozen very different pieces performed by up to a dozen players, each piece needing specialist miking and an overall multi-track recording. This takes a lot of effort during rehearsals, and then there is considerable mix time to be added after the performance. The taximeter has to keep clocking up.

This is just an illustration of what you may have to deal with. If you have to give a fixed price in advance, go through all the stages in your head and multiply the number of hours by your rate per hour. Add in travel costs plus a nominal usage cost for the gear you need for the type of gig. The file delivery type only crops up in the number of hours used.

Good luck!

Aaron Fri, 03/04/2016 - 09:07

They don't have the program listed yet but the recording will be 2-track setup. I'm still waiting to hear back regarding the program, room, and other specifics but it should be pretty standard.

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DonnyThompson Sat, 03/05/2016 - 19:59

I can't tell you what to charge, because I don't know their budget, nor do I know what the market for this is like n your region.

I can suggest that if you give them a fair price, you'll likely continue to get work from them. There are occasionally guys who are involved with the inner workings of these types of groups who will say or think that "they can do it themselves", but unless they have a background in audio recording ( and I mean a real background) then they'll either not be happy with the results - or they'll do it once, and decide after that they just don't want to bother with it again.

I think that, these days anyway, $1000 per day is pretty damned steep... unless you're Geoff Emerick, and have a history of recording the LSO... ( LOL)

Be fair to yourself; make it worth your time .... but don't jag them either. If you are reasonable with the rate, and provide a product they like, you'll probably get more work from them in the future. I would get a deposit, once the deal had been agreed to... just to insure that if the ball takes a funny bounce and they cancel on you at the last minute, that you haven't completely burned a day for nothing.

IMO, regular and scheduled money over time is better in the long run than one big paycheck one time; and the more you work with them, the higher the chances of you getting similar remote gigs with other orchestral groups, too.
It's no big secret that these guys do talk to each other. ;)

There's a lot worse things you could be than to be their reasonably priced "go-to" guy for this stuff. :)

IMHO of course.

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Kurt Foster Sat, 03/05/2016 - 23:55

be sure that whatever you charge it's understood what's expected of you and what you are to deliver at the conclusion. it's not unusual to be inundated with requests for multiple files, of different sections of the performance, for different individuals. if the project turns out well, everyone may want copies. many people don't understand how time consuming this stuff can be. cover your butt at the outset or it may be expected.

Aaron Sun, 03/06/2016 - 08:57

All great advice and I can't agree with you guys more. I'll certainly add that to the mix of my pricing.

I'm finding out how close-knit the music community is even if it's within a couple of hours. For example , engineers know these musicians who recommend other engineers to talk to, who recommend other musicians and directors to talk to. Those musicians are also part of this group an hour away who also know those people another hour from here.

Yesterday I recorded a group that had a couple of tenors from New York and were also part of a jazz scene and mention to me, 'Oh yeah, we know so and so who used to work with Gil Evans', which of course is a pretty amazing coincidence.

Although I've only just started helping engineers and doing my own free recordings for the experience and portfolio of it, it's now nice to see how that is paying off when directors and musicians are asking my rates after leading them to some other recordings I've done. The people who started paying me to assist are very appreciative of the help, which is easier when we're all dealing with people who love what they do and are willing to go the extra mile because it's just a part of us.

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DonnyThompson Mon, 03/07/2016 - 03:23

Aaron, post: 436936, member: 48792 wrote: For example , engineers know these musicians who recommend other engineers to talk to, who recommend other musicians and directors to talk to. Those musicians are also part of this group an hour away who also know those people another hour from here.

Over 70% of my business - over the course of almost 20 years of owning my own commercial recording facility - came as the result of word of mouth advertising... personal and business referrals, industry people talking to each other, etc.
And I did do plenty of commercial advertising, too... yellow pages, local entertainment rags, press releases in newspapers every few years... but none of that ever paid-off like W.O.M.A. did.

Of course, you have to have a reputation for turning out quality product, too... that's where it all begins.

Freebies aren't necessarily a bad thing in the beginning, because it's not easy to break into the business as a "new guy on the scene", and you need to start developing a reputation for your work somehow... ( I'm sure it's even tougher now than when I first started out because now everyone has a recording rig of some kind)... BUT... don't gain a reputation of being "that free guy" either, Aaron... because that rep can travel, too... lightning fast... faster than your rep for quality does.

If you do too many of those "freebies", at some point, you'll eventually end up getting a call from a "client" who then expects that of you - or at the very least, a very low-ball rate - simply because he heard from a peer that you work for nothing, or for dirt cheap... and if you then quote that guy a competitive rate, you could get a response like, "WTF? Why are you charging me that much when you did my buddy Joe Blow's orchestra for ( this much) ?"

Yeah, it may sound silly, but it can happen. Ask me how I know. ;)

Don't ever sell yourself short. It's okay to give "discounts" to get in the door, but at the same time, you don't want to do enough of them to where you build yourself a rep for having an "I record for free!" sign hanging on that door, either. ;)

IMHO of course.

Aaron Mon, 03/07/2016 - 06:19

DonnyThompson, post: 436946, member: 46114 wrote: don't gain a reputation of being "that free guy"

Yes I do know the importance of this but always good for a reminder. It's the same thing in the photo business or any (freelance) business. When I was starting out reading business books and articles,etc, that is certainly one of the things that's stressed. Extended free work dragging the value of the industry down, then clients are expecting us all to give 'em everything for free. Like, hello Ms. or Mr. Client. Some of the well established pros feeling cushy with their paychecks already would shun even the beginner against doing ANY free work to start, which I thought was quite extreme.
But yes, I'm finding now that having a decent amount of 'free' work as a sort of portfolio, I could start charging for this, even more so now that people are asking my rates.

Which leads me to my next question for anyone. What's a good way to find new paying clients? Should I continue contacting new musicians and organizations as I've done, only now explain in my wording the fee structure and terms for whatever 'products' they'd want to purchase. It seems like a fine line of those words to use contacting strangers asking them if they want to pay me to record their concert, then even more so to continue that to be their goto recording engineer.

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paulears Tue, 03/08/2016 - 00:48

Nowadays, certainly in the UK, we do two years 16-18 after school, usually either more general education but pointed towards a chosen pathway, but sometimes 100% towards the chosen career, then we do 3 years at university doing it at a deeper level. In all that time, it's common to ignore or just cover superficially the concept of earning a living - and how life works with taxes, pensions, insurance etc. They then leave university and their only way in to their chosen profession is to work for free or crazy money, that undercuts the people who have gone before. In their final year at uni, they also try to work in the real world as part of the qualification, and almost expect help from the very world they're undercutting. A final year student contacted me to explain about the costs of his final project, the super high professional level he was going to insist on for the production, and essentially wanting me to contribute - with money. Clearly this was not going to happen, but his project was interesting, and had considerable technical difficulties to overcome - in particular audio, and grip kit. The sort of project that needed radio system, booms, shotguns, really good windshields (as the main location was a desolate beach), power - which he'd totally forgotten about. So I offered him the free loan of loads of stuff, sitting in the store. He took none of it, as "getting it there would be difficult".

I just don't get how building a proper business plan and considering how to get business is not covered properly? Price is critical for some areas, but what people normally buy is value for that money. Doing a five hundred pound job for fifty quid just to get the work is just stupid, and does the industry as a whole a severe disservice. I kind of get doing it for free, because paying nothing gives no expectation of quality to the client. £50, to an uninformed client may actually sound a lot - if they have no knowledge of the real costs.

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DonnyThompson Fri, 03/11/2016 - 03:05

Aaron, post: 436951, member: 48792 wrote: What's a good way to find new paying clients? Should I continue contacting new musicians and organizations as I've done, only now explain in my wording the fee structure and terms for whatever 'products' they'd want to purchase.

Well, contacts are going to be your greatest asset, so you may want to consider joining your local chamber of commerce. Also, it might not hurt to contact your AFM local and check to see what their dues are; being that you are currently targeting these orchestral groups, most of those guys are in the AFM - in fact, they're probably some of the last members of the AFM - other than theater musicians and session musicians in the bigger metro areas.

But, all it takes is one good job, ( meaning good paying job and that you do a great job on your end) and your name will get around. It won't happen over night, but it will happen.

IMO, I don't think you should ever quote a set fee structure, because what applies to one project hardly ever applies to another. When asked how much you charge, you need to ask the client questions first; like location, ( distance from you, there and back) the venue, the size of the orchestra, how many songs they want to record, guaranteed access for set up and recording of run thru's, and, what they expect in return.
You don't want to quote a price similar to that of a 2 hour recording project you did with a string quartet, located 10 miles from you, and which took only 2 hours of post production time and with the client wanting just one master CD - to a client who has a day long project, 100 miles away, which will require 3 days of post-pro, and wants 500 CD's...

Aaron Mon, 03/21/2016 - 08:35

DonnyThompson, post: 437042, member: 46114 wrote: But, all it takes is one good job, ( meaning good paying job and that you do a great job on your end) and your name will get around. It won't happen over night, but it will happen.

I was talking with a music teacher at a conservatory last week(who I initially wanted to record for one of his recitals), and he proposed having me make posters to hang around the school. He and one of the concert directors will help me advertise recording services to students for their recitals. Although he can't give out student contact information directly, I was looking for more direct ways to contact the people who would surely want me to record for them, other than hoping they would see my poster. He said not to worry about it too much because, like you said, all it takes is one great job and people would start talking about it and things would all lead to the next job and so on.

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Kurt Foster Mon, 03/21/2016 - 19:53

posters never work. not on campus, not on bulletin boards in music stores. they just don't work. you would have better luck running a free ad on craigslist. the best way to go about what you are trying to do is to personally reach out to musicians / groups at performances or rehearsals.

Aaron Tue, 03/22/2016 - 07:39

I haven't posted anything yet so I'm not sure, and I do think each situation various between the people, places, and methods involved, and maybe a few dashes of good luck, but yes I agree and imagine that they aren't as effective as contacting the people directly. I'll throw some up anyway because it won't hurt, but will try some other ways too.

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dvdhawk Tue, 03/22/2016 - 08:47

A few well-placed, well-designed posters can be effective. The generic alphabet soup approach won't get their attention. You have the distinct advantage of knowing exactly who your ads are targeting, so you can design something that will visually draw them in. Good recital and audition recordings can be instrumental (no pun intended) in the next step in their career. They've probably all tried to do it themselves with their smartphone perched in a music stand, or were lucky enough to borrow a Zoom. You're selling them the peace-of-mind of a quality recording, so that they can concentrate solely on their performance.

If you do posters I would recommend they be legitimate poster size (11x17, 12x19), and professionally printed on good glossy, heavy paper-stock. Full-color edge to edge, minimal text over some very evocative (high-res) photo that a young, aspiring, music conservancy student will relate to. They're going to cost a couple bucks each, and you may decide to buy a stock photo online. All in all, pretty cheap advertising.

As Donny says, contacts will be a great asset, but I think your most valuable advertising tool will be a portfolio of work you've done for others.

Aaron Tue, 03/22/2016 - 16:31

Before I was recording audio I was taking photos and designing print so I'd like to think it'll be okay. Basically it'll be a big business card, full-frame 13x19 print with a simple service message and contact info. No glossy paper though. Luster photographic paper looks better ;) ( I get the message though). I've got enough photos of musicians and one I have in mind to print on my Epson. So basically the only direct expense I'd have is ink and gas to drive around.

And yes I agree that maybe some of these people would be interested because like you mention I've seen both video being recorded on a cell phone from 50 feet away pointing at who-knows-what, and also the zoom recorders just as far away. There is the rare occasion where those zooms sound good in a fantastic sounding hall, but that's not very often and of course these people are musicians and not necessarily recording engineers.

thanks again for the advice