How much should-I/do-you charge?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by baslotto, Sep 19, 2005.

  1. baslotto

    baslotto Active Member

    Jul 28, 2005
    Hi all. I know that probably this has been asked 1000000 times but I have been searching for hours and I couldn't find any posts about this topic.

    Let's say that I wanna start my recording career in a city like Boston, San Francisco, not New York or LA. Having a remote set up with PT LE, 10-16 channels available and a couple of very good mics and pres, I now have to plan the business. Also, I graduated from a good school and I basically know (never enough) my things about this job, including reading and arranging music, or fixing equipment.
    My first plan is to start recording local bands and soloists on location. I plan to do this to build experience and money for equipment, plus I don't know yet if I want to have a studio in the future or if I want to rent studio hours for my clients.

    At the last AES meeting I heard about "do not under-estimate yourself" meaning: if you ask $10/hrs people think "he sucks".
    The problem nowadays is also traying to be competitive on the market.

    So here are the 3 questions:
    - How much should I ask as a starting rate?
    - What is the usual rate for recording and mixing engineers that record on location and mix at their studio at home?
    - What do you charge?

    Sorry if I ask somthing that has been already discussed before, if you have the link for a similar discussion please address me to that.
    Thanks everybody!

  2. pr0gr4m

    pr0gr4m Well-Known Member

    Feb 9, 2005
    South Florida
    Home Page:
    AES is write. Charge as much as you can get away with! I do the same thing and there were many decisions I had to make that were considered when coming up with a rate.
    I charge between 40 and 75 bucks an hour...mostly 75. The 40 dollar deals are for the local punk bands where I'll just throw up a few mics, record a few tunes and give them a CD. Then I tell them when they are ready to really make it sound good, call me back. That's when I make more money. So far it's worked fairly well.

    Pro engineers get some nice cash. I don't know how much but I'm sure it's enough to make a living off of.
    There aren't any guys around here doing the "on location" recording. Most of that is done by the sound guys who supply PA equipment for clubs or shows. They'll offer bands a tape or CD of the performance for 10-20 bucks.

    I charge between 40 and 75 bucks an hour. The 40 dollar deals are for the local punk bands where I'll just throw up a few mics, record a few tunes and give them a CD. Then I tell them when they are ready to really make it sound good, call me back. That's when I make more money. So far it's worked fairly well.
  3. baslotto

    baslotto Active Member

    Jul 28, 2005
    Thank you for your input pr0gr4m, I really apreciate it!

    You say:
    I heard that many people do remote recordings like in other studios or in rehersal rooms, where the bands or the soloists practice (even schools, sports centers, churces). This would be pretty much my idea, I'm wasn't talking about recording concerts.

    If this kind of method is not popular I would actually try to promote myself for that. After talking to a couple of people I found out that they would love to be recorded with their piano or in their school's auditorium since they don't have to move to far and they have people there to play for them.

    What do you guys think? Is this the first time you hear about an idea like this? Do you know people that do this kind of job? (How much do you/they charge? :))

    Thanks again for your feedback!

  4. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Distinguished Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    Big revelation here..

    =You can charge what your clients are willing to pay=

    We have a couple of different rates.

    One for Non or not for Profit groups

    One for commercial clients and

    One for clients we really don't want to work with <just kidding>

    We do on location recording, mastering, restoration, forensics and small run duplication.

    I think in today's business climate it pays to have many different skills to offer potential clients. Sometimes our mastering business is going great some times it is our on location recording business sometimes it is all of them going full tilt.

    We base our rates on what the traffic will bear, what others are charging for the same services and what we can uniquely offer with the services we provide.

    A couple of years ago we lost some business to a company that seriously undercut our prices. We lost a good account to the cut rate operation but got it back a couple of months ago because the cut rate company went out of business after doing sub standard work and taking forever to get the product back to the clients.

    If you were looking at what they had to offer strictly from a money standpoint they were beating the pants off of us but if you look at the value received by our clients from our work then we were a clear winner hands down.

    We normally take to a recording session about six to eight thousand dollars worth of equipment and about 35 years of experience doing 1000s of recordings. The other company brought about one thousand dollars worth of equipment and NO experience with remote recordings.

    The other company also was trying to undercut everyone's prices so that they could build up a clientele over night and they were also trying to start a pyramid scheme where they would offer their current clients a discount if they brought in more clients and if they used their "other" services which included web design and graphic design for cover art which were not discounted. To them it must have seemed like an ideal way to get more business and for a while it worked. But they did not do a good job of recording and took forever to get the dubs back to the client so in the end they could not support themselves due to a poor performance/cost ratio.

    If you are going to do something then make sure you can do it well and hopefully better than your competition. If not find something else to do while you sharpen your skills to the point to can offer the service with no problems.

    One thing that we offer our clients is a good recording with no technical problems and we have been able to keep that promise for the whole time we have been in business. We also understand what the client needs and wants a provide that service at a rate they are willing to pay. We don't want one shot clients we want clients that will stay with us and provide repeat business and we work hard on providing the client with a good service/cost ratio.

    One last word of advice. Don't discount your offerings. Figure out what it cost to do what you do and build in an additional margin to cover extra expenses that you may run into. Also add money for a rainy day account and to purchase additional equipment that will make your job easier. Add in some profit and then stick to that price. If you fold under for a client and give them a "discounted" rate that information makes its way to other potential clients and you are stuck doing work for your "discounted" rate because everyone knows what you did for one client. If you are smart you will offer "value added" services instead of dropping your prices. This can include some free CDs of the performance, topping and tailing the songs for no charge and an assembly edit of the program for no charge. These are small things but they can mean a lot to a potential client. If you discount your services you will probably have to offer this discounted rate to everyone.

    Best of luck in your upcoming endeavors.

    Let us know how things are going.
  5. pr0gr4m

    pr0gr4m Well-Known Member

    Feb 9, 2005
    South Florida
    Home Page:
    For the recording end of things, most of my work is going to band rehearsal warehouses to record.

    A lot of bands like the idea of being able to record where they rehearse. They all pretty much know it's not going to be a grammy winning recording. They are aware of acoustics and isolation problems. For the most part, I'm doing pre production work, doing demos or getting the bands ready to do some real recording.

    One funny thing is that for a couple of the bands that have gone on to a studio to record, they ended up using a few tracks that I originally recorded because the just couldn't get the performace or sound right in the studio.
  6. Mr-Nice

    Mr-Nice Guest

    I think charging someone with what you can get away with means you dont know what your doing and you are just looking to make a fast buck! I am sorry to be real about this, but you should be fair to aspiring artists. Obviously if they are coming to me and you they dont have access to the bigger houses, so lets cut people in the same boat as us a break.

    I charge simply what the person can afford (bottom line), and if there finacial output is not enough then I have the option to simply turn them down. When me or you becomes big time like Quad or Sony studios then we can keep rates at a steady $400 per/hr minimum.

    It also depends on how good you are as an engineer and what kind of stuff you have and what you can do with it all. Face it if you have an 8 track analog cassette deck, a radio shack mic with no mic-pre dont think you can get $80 per hour on that. If you have potential clients in the making be fair, and you'll for sure have repetitious customers.

    Just ask anyone what their budget is? If they are willing to do a bunch of songs or just 1 or 2? Naturally if they want to cut an album you shouldnt hit them over the head with rates. Its best to sit down and neg the whole deal. Oh and tell them to be prepared before they come to your spot. I hate when mother f*ckers decide to write studio lyrics. That is triple annoying to me because they ask me for paper and pens and then they have to occupy a spot next to me where I have to work when recording. I actually kicked people out trying that sh!t after I specifically told them to "come prepared".
  7. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    Sep 4, 2004
    Indianapolis, IN
    Home Page:
    I let Supply and Demand determine my rate. This is a hobby, so I don't need to earn enough money to buy pizza and beer ...

    I started off at $25/hr. I've upped my rate a couple times and now charge $40/hr. I increase my rate when I have more work than I can handle.
  8. I'm based in Australia so I can't answer too specifically, but ...

    I've always charged by the song, and sold myself mainly on sample CD's, which I create for clients on a custom basis. My basic proposition is, 'you will get something that sounds this good or better for $x, and it will take as long as it takes - come in, play your music and relax'.

    This is much more appealing to musicians than the $y per hour deal - they don't know how long how long it will take, how much it will cost or what they will end up with.

    The other problem with charging by the hour is that you, the engineer / producer will have trouble recording something you feel 100% about, meaning your CD sampler will be thin, meaning you won't attract the more serious customers.

    Everything will end up being compromised by time and budget. I have hundreds of extremely well recorded songs that have had LOTS of attention lavished on them - THIS is what will get me my next job. Proof positive is that most of my customers never even visit the studio before booking dates.

    But it all depends on whether you are an engineer that records the band 'as they are' or a producer that ensure that every single act walks out with something worth playing on the radio, no matter what it takes. I pride myself on being the latter (or at least, doing my very best to be!!).

    If you 'produce' a band. you have a lot more control over how long a song will take, but bands will only give you that respect if they believe you know what you're doing. If they perceive you as 'the house engineer', they will take advantage and one song will blow out to ten days.

    If they believe you know how to give them exactly what they want (because they've heard it on the sample CD), when you say the lead vocal is nailed, they'll believe it.

    Now, I should also mention that when I started I was charging $1000 Australian for 4 songs, which generally took 7 or 8 days. That's stupid cheap, and I almost went broke. But then labels started taking interest in some of my bands, and word got around, and the work started flowing more regularly.

    One day I thought, let's push the envelope and raise the price to $2400 for 2 songs, that's a 500% increase. Surprisingly, I started getting more and much better work - more serious artists.

    BUT, by that stage, I had lots and lots of well produced music to my name - recordings that had been done for almost no money, but had been given the full treatment.

    Anyway, to break it down - build it and they will come. Bands put on sample CD's and say 'does it sound like my favourite artist or not?'. They might come in and check out your mic closet, but ultimately, they want to hear what's in your archives.

    Just my opinion ...
  9. FolkFandango

    FolkFandango Guest

    I guess it would just depend what you are working with really. I do real grassroots recording in south MS. While all of my equipment is digital and i have some decent mics I still don't normally charge more than $10 an hour. I do a lot of on site recording and record open mic for a few local clubs but mostley there just aren't people here I would charge more than 10 for because there is no way they can make it so i would never make them throw money away. In cases like that, 10 is fair. but if you have a studio and people have to come to you i would take no less than 30, for anything.
  10. krazykorg

    krazykorg Guest

    Hi All! This is my first ever post on this forum. I have found this to be a wealth of information and I send thanks to all who contribute.

    The majority of my clients are people who write a tune and come to me for arrangement and recording. Most of them are good singers who don't play any instruments or have any knowledge of recording.

    For them I charge $170.00 per song with a six hour cap. After six hours they pay a $20.00 per hour. This includes the arrangement, which I do on a workstation, recording of vocals and a sub-mix down which they can take to a mastering studio.

    I also do a lot of voice-over stuff for local drag queens (yeah, I live in Ft. Lauderdale) at $25.00 per hour. Actually, I love working with the drag queens because they are respectful, always come prepared, and there has never been a problem with payment.

    All of my clients have come to me by word of mouth. I have a reputation of being great to work with and I give them a good quality product in a decent amount of time. I also offer payment plans for regular clients on bigger projects.

    Another thing I have done is created a network of people who offer services that artists need. I farm out all the mastering to a guy in Miami who has forgotten more about audio production than I will ever know. He appreciates the business and refers people to me as well if he is overbooked or thinks I may be better suited for the project. If an artists needs a website then I refer them to a guy I found who does a fantastic job at a reasonable price. I have also formed relationships with duplication companies, photographers, and other musicians who can come in for a session job if my client needs an instrument I don't play.

    I'm not sure about everywhere else but this sort of networking does not seem to exist much but I would like to expand more on it. I think it's good business generator and promotes good will among other types of artists in the area.

    Sorry I got off topic a bit there.
  11. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Distinguished Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    Networking and referrals are always good ways of doing business.

    Getting back to how much to charge.

    You have to charge what the clients are willing to pay for your services given the level of those services.

    We have a lot of small recording studios around here that charge $20.00 per hour. These cater to first time recording clients and people on very low budgets. They have good equipment. a room to record in and many engineers are just learning about recording themselves. The $20.00 per hour is probably a good rate for them to charge.

    The next level is $40.00 to $60.00 per hour. These are people with more experience, have better equipment and a better place to record in (a real studio with acoustics) Many have block rates that makes them attractive to people with reduced budgets.

    The next level is $80.00 to $120.00 per hour. These are the professional studios with top equipment and people with years of experience. Their clients are also professionals. It is at this level that you see older Neve and SSL consoles being offered for use.

    There are also studios that charge more than this but there are not too many around this area. If they do charge more it is for special equipment or knowledge like video or commercials or ISDN remotes. These rates can go upwards of $300.00 plus per hour but are not being used by most musicians.

    I guess my only caveat would be charge what you can for the service offered at the level of professionalism you are at but don't overcharge for services that you cannot realistically offer due to inexperience or lack of knowledge.

    Best of luck
  12. JeffWeir

    JeffWeir Guest

    I've been doing remote recording for a few years, and just starting charging "by the track". For example, if someone has 12 songs ready to be recorded, I'll charge them per song (usually $75-$100/song). This usually defuses the customer's objection to the potential sticker shock of "per hour" rates. They get a fixed price, regardless of how long it takes to get the product done. Now, if the gig appears to be a tough one, or the client wants CD artwork and layout done, that $100/song might go up....

    Works for me...
  13. dwoz

    dwoz Guest

    Who the F**K do you think your fooling're not kidding at ALL!



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