Stan @Stan_Halen asked me about the prices I’d been quoted in the past from well known mix engineers… I sent him a p.m., as it would probably be a good idea not to just paste everyones quotes on the internet where anybody can see it. Stan asked me asked this follow up:
First of all, let me clarify that we’re talking about the differences between only the top mixers in the entire industry, as pertains only to stereo music mixing of recording songs designed to be delivered direct to consumer. Movies, game audio, audiobooks, SFX designers, field recordists, broadcast engineers, e-learning, theater production dubbing, etc… doesn’t apply here, and I’ll disregard variables that have to do with state worker union affiliation.
So what does NOT affect pricing is someones speed, technical competency, gear. Nor does education and training. Everyone has an equal skill set. Every one has equal gear. Education does not matter because it is a measure of your qualifications - every engineer at this level is equally qualified.
The best way I can think of to explain what’s going on here is to compare it to buying a house. You have some houses with amenities that help them sell easier but the updates don’t increase their value. The value of a mix engineers services are based on what someone is willing to pay, and what someone is willing to pay is most strongly correlated with 3 things: a) how recent their last successful records were b) how many successful records the mix engineer has published c) the level of success associated with their most recognizable work.
@Mixerman talks in his book about how he started positioning his EPK to sell his most notable projects, not the ones that he necessarily liked the most. He also talks about how artists weren’t necessarily as concerned with the relevance to a particular style as you’d intuitively think they’d be.
Availability, accessibility, bedside manner, stylistic preferences, that engineers taste are all things that do not affect price. They will affect if the engineer is hired by YOU or not, but they will NOT affect what they are are able to earn pr song on the open market. It changes what you will pay them or IF you will pay them, but it won’t change what they’re worth, because you are not the only individual in their market.
Another important thing to understand is that their financial thresholds are NOT determined by their mix price per song. In the same way that an athletes financial threshold as an incorporated or privately owned artificial person is not determined by the salary he paid by the team owner who contracts him. At this level in the industry, some engineers are clearly wealthier than others but that is not a reflection of their market price, its more of a reflection of their long term career strategy and financial planning. Really, that’s a reflection of their entrepreneurial chops.
To your last question, how do they adjust their pricing structures. This was an area I studied pretty heavily when I was in law school, namely because of a lot of entertainment lawyers become management agents. The pricing structures for these guys work similar to the way it does for an entertainer, though their fundamental roll is closer to that of a technical lead on a movie set. Some of them use the same management firms as artists. Their pricing structures often come down to how they want to position themselves within a context of a particular market and their corporate growth strategies. They have some say in this and some choice, and its ultimately a choice of who they do or don’t want to work with. Remember that the price per client is not the same. At this level. You will NEVER find a price list anywhere online and that’s because these prices fluctuate based on the client and the project. There isn’t any one thing that determines when an engineer can justify a price hike.
The genre basis seems logical… you’d think more money in the pop market, therefore pop mixers get paid more. However, I’m certain this is not true. Keep in mind those guys know how to mix ANYTHING. They’re not mixing pop and rap because ‘it pays better’. Its because there’s more of it on the open market. So its the sheer quantity of RnB tracks that need GET mixed which is the reason more of them find their way to Pensados desk than metal tracks. That’s confusing. Here… Lets say Andrew @ColdRoomStudio is the only mix engineer on this forum and everyone wants to have Andrew mix their track. Lets assume he will charge everyone the same price and will accept every song he’s sent. He’s gonna get more guitar centered rock/pop stuff here than he is string quartets because I think Boz is the only one here who even plays a stringed instrument. Its not because our IRD pop market is wealthier, its because the volume/capacity of the IRD pop market itself is larger than the classical market. In this analogy, Andrews price remains consistent either way.