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What’s a reasonable price / pricing schedule for mixing + mastering work?

tmm

Senior Member
hey all, just looking for some guidelines

all the paid work I’ve done so far has been either composing or sound design (or both), and all have been just as a % of the total song sale price + royalties.

I have someone asking me for mixing / mastering work. They’re asking me how much it would be. I’d like to try my hand at it, but have no idea what’s reasonable to charge, or how to charge (by the song? by the hour?)

Any tips / guidelines?
 

chillbot

Sock Muppet
I have absolutely zero experience with this. So let me give you lots of unwarranted advice. Seems reasonable?

If you're not established/experienced, hard to charge per song.

The problem with hourly is, are you quick or are you slow? Let's assume you are in the middle, neither cheetah-quick nor sloth-like slow.

Then, how good are you? Are you tops in your field, or an amateur looking to make a quick buck? Let's assume, again, you're somewhere in the middle.

If I were to hire you, as a reasonably quick reasonably competent person, I would happily pay in the range of $50/hour. I would expect to pay a bit more if it was a one-time one-track thing, and I would expect to pay a bit less if it was a bunch of tracks, receiving a discount in bulk.

Maybe someone more qualified will chime in...
 

Gerhard Westphalen

Scoring Mixer
I would charge a fixed rate based on how long you think it'll take.

Having said that, that can work against you. I normally end up charging less than other people would because I work faster than a lot of people. At the same time it often takes longer than I think because I want to finesse things more. Lose-lose situation for me.

I'd be careful with comparing with prices you see other people offering. Especially for mastering. Some mastering engineers will charge $150 per song and spend multiple hours working on it (I think this is good). Others will charge $300/hour. Worse yet, some (particularly the guys who only work over the internet) will charge something like $100 per song and only spend 15 minutes working on your music (and act like it was a lot of work). I normally charge $50/song because I know that a song typically ends up taking me an hour to do and that's my normal hourly rate. It ends up being a lot less than what most mastering engineers (even the low end ones) get but I think it's a fair hourly rate and I'm not going to rip people off by making that much for 15 minutes of work.

Edit: It might be worth adding that I do offer discounts for multiple tracks. If I'm mastering an EP, I can get some momentum and after the first one or two tracks, the rest of the tracks go by quicker. I price that accordingly.
 

wst3

my office these days
Moderator
First rule - even without do-overs - it will always take longer than you think.
Second rule - some folks prefer to pay by the hour, some folks prefer to pay by the track, ask.
Third rule - do-overs will kill you, create a rule, such as you will remix once for the per-track projects.
Fourth rule - even it you are just trying your hand it is entirely possible that clients are in the same boat - regardless of your experience level it is safer to assume they aren't all that experienced, and don't really know what they are looking for.
Fifth rule - (in the same category) make sure they know the difference between mixing and mastering.
Sixth rule - sometimes things just don't work out. If you find yourself unable to create a mix that the client approves don't be afraid to shake hands and walk away, without charging. I've had to do that a couple times when I was mixing a genre I just didn't understand. It happens.

I charge $65/hour, I will work on a per-track or per-finished-minute basis, but I tend to charge more than my hourly rate because I just never know. When I do charge per hour I do offer a not-to-exceed amount.

The people that I do mix for are familiar with my work, and I am familiar with theirs, so it works out pretty well. And I seldom offer a discount for multiple tracks. And I do not offer mastering, I have neither the ears nor the gear for that. And I will quickly lose my objectivity. I have, on very rare occasions, a long time ago, taken on mastering projects - for tracks I did not mix - and I thought they turned out ok, but they would have almost certainly turned out better had they gone to a competent mastering engineer.

That's a lot of caveats, and maybe unnecessary emphasis on mastering vs mixing, but expectations have changed so much over the last too many years, and the thing that will bite you most often is an inexperienced client.

That said, Chill isn't wrong about $15/hour, but he isn't necesarilly correct either - I hate to see audio work being priced that low, even for someone starting out. It makes it that much more difficult for others to charge more reasonable rates, the infamous race to the bottom.

And while I dislike discounted rates, if this is really the first mixing project for an outside client consider doing it for free with the provisio that if they are really happy with the work they will pay you the going rate - which puts them in a position of control, but somehow it seems safer than charging them and offering a full refund if they aren't happy. If you do that (I am conflicted) don't do it more than a couple times or clients will expect it.
 
OP
tmm

tmm

Senior Member
Thanks for all the tips everyone! It's really helpful!

@chillbot I'm a perfectionist, but I've been working with my tools / DAW long enough that I'm generally very quick at perfecting :) There's quite a lot of mixing involved in my regular work, I've just never been paid for that, specifically. It's kind of a, "I'm not supposed to be doing the mixing / mastering part, but at the same time I have to get a semi-mixed / semi-mastered sample of it to demo that's good enough that the listener can get a feel for how it would work as a finished product (ie mixed / mastered good enough to sell the stems, though what I get paid for is my raw stems that someone else will ultimately mix / master)"... not sure if that makes sense.
 

jneebz

Senior Member
First rule - even without do-overs - it will always take longer than you think.
Second rule - some folks prefer to pay by the hour, some folks prefer to pay by the track, ask.
Third rule - do-overs will kill you, create a rule, such as you will remix once for the per-track projects.
Fourth rule - even it you are just trying your hand it is entirely possible that clients are in the same boat - regardless of your experience level it is safer to assume they aren't all that experienced, and don't really know what they are looking for.
Fifth rule - (in the same category) make sure they know the difference between mixing and mastering.
Sixth rule - sometimes things just don't work out. If you find yourself unable to create a mix that the client approves don't be afraid to shake hands and walk away, without charging. I've had to do that a couple times when I was mixing a genre I just didn't understand. It happens.

I charge $65/hour, I will work on a per-track or per-finished-minute basis, but I tend to charge more than my hourly rate because I just never know. When I do charge per hour I do offer a not-to-exceed amount.

The people that I do mix for are familiar with my work, and I am familiar with theirs, so it works out pretty well. And I seldom offer a discount for multiple tracks. And I do not offer mastering, I have neither the ears nor the gear for that. And I will quickly lose my objectivity. I have, on very rare occasions, a long time ago, taken on mastering projects - for tracks I did not mix - and I thought they turned out ok, but they would have almost certainly turned out better had they gone to a competent mastering engineer.

That's a lot of caveats, and maybe unnecessary emphasis on mastering vs mixing, but expectations have changed so much over the last too many years, and the thing that will bite you most often is an inexperienced client.

That said, Chill isn't wrong about $15/hour, but he isn't necesarilly correct either - I hate to see audio work being priced that low, even for someone starting out. It makes it that much more difficult for others to charge more reasonable rates, the infamous race to the bottom.

And while I dislike discounted rates, if this is really the first mixing project for an outside client consider doing it for free with the provisio that if they are really happy with the work they will pay you the going rate - which puts them in a position of control, but somehow it seems safer than charging them and offering a full refund if they aren't happy. If you do that (I am conflicted) don't do it more than a couple times or clients will expect it.
Very generous of you to share these insights...thanks
 

Henu

Senior Member
It's also depending on what you are mixing and what your clients are.

I am able to choose who I work with as my economy is not dependant on the income. When I do freelance mixing at my spare time, I tend to charge 20-30 € per hour + taxes due to the fact that I pretty much only work with projects which are interesting and within my "comfort zone". I also want to help my fellow musicians out to make the best out of their sound, especially if I really like the music and want to give it a sound it should deserve. If it's not going to be fun or I don't like the music, I usually give the price estimate so high that an average band doesn't want to pay it anymore. :D

Also, wst3 had really good points. Concerning #6, I'd also add that don't be afraid to tell your client before you take the job that "this genre might not be your special expertise" so they can provide you some useful references, tips and guidelines.
 

Henu

Senior Member
That said, Chill isn't wrong about $15/hour, but he isn't necesarilly correct either - I hate to see audio work being priced that low, even for someone starting out. It makes it that much more difficult for others to charge more reasonable rates, the infamous race to the bottom.
There's nothing wrong asking that $15 per hour in case you do it "under the radar". When I started doing freelance mixing, I first did stuff for free for friends, then I started to charge something small from them and a bit more from the "friends of friends" and now I'm currently sitting in a price range that feels comfortable for both me and my clients. Those old friends still have "friends"- prices and that won't change- after all, they are the ones who believed in me in the first place. ;)
 
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