Re: Stan - Mix Engineer Pricing

Re: Stan - Mix Engineer Pricing
0

#21

The less someone pays, the more likely they are to be a pain in the ass. Especially once you get below the floor. Your value is what you charge. There’s no way around that other than through rationalization.

Enjoy, Mixerman


#22

Some people might accept that kind of offer. That’s not what I do. I mix. You want someone to make it sound better. As a mixer, I try to maximize emotional impact so as to cause the listener a reaction.

Enjoy, Mixerman


#23

That’s the desired end result. In order to achieve that, you have to make it sound ‘better’. Although ‘better’ is subjective.


#24

One, you can’t possibly define good sound because, as you pointed out, it’s subjective. Two, sometimes bad sound is desired, but if it causes the right reaction, then at that point it would be good sound. Three, a reaction isn’t subjective. If people react to a song, you know it. Not one of those people will care about the sound. And if I can make myself react, then I can get many other people to react similarly. I like to focus on what’s going to give me the best chance at success.

Of course, we do manipulate sound. But really, it’s all about balance, and frequency is part of that balance. But if you think musically, you already think in terms of frequency.

Enjoy, Mixerman


#25

So we’re in agreement on that.

Also subjective. You can’t define bad sound either.

Not sure what you mean. If they don’t care about the sound they won’t be reacting to it.

I agree with the philosophy (i.e. you can’t expect people to get excited with a recording if you’re not excited about it yourself), but it’s not guaranteed that people are going to react, even under those circumstances. I’m sure we’ve all experienced that moment when you play your new killer recording to a friend who says 'meh, it’s OK I guess." As we’ve said, it’s all subjective.

For contrast, that’s not how it works in my world. I charge by the hour, and I definitely mix. I take the client’s wishes on board, including reference tracks, then I mix. If the client wants to get involved in a bigger way, I agree, that is not mixing, it’s engineering, but I would point that fact out to the client in order to readjust expectations. If they want me to mix, I mix. If they want studio time, I give them studio time. All charged by the hour.


#26

Ok. So I have a question.

Dave Pensado says “When they hire you to mix, they’re really hiring you for your ‘taste’…” it appears you draw a semantic distinction between someone hiring a mixer to “finish their project…I complete what they began” (Dave Pensado again) vs ‘I do whatever until the client runs out of money’. Is that a relatively fair summary of the difference between mixer and a guy selling studio time under the terminology you prefer?

… so you’re contrasting your ‘work’ in its completed finished sense of the project VS whatever someone else might or might not be able to do in the $800 that you would pay studio A,B,C or D in Nashville to hack out in 5 hours?

Is THAT where you’re drawing the distinction between a ‘mixer’ and a PayMeForMyTime type of service? So really the difference is the mixerGuy’s approach to the business metrics of the project?

…I think I get what you’re saying. I imagine what someone else here doesn’t like is that you refrain from acknowledging the latter as a ‘mixer’. lol. If this is the case, the logical implication is that it challenges the notion that any ordinary Joe who mixes per se ought to be called a ‘mix engineer’.


#27

[quote=“Jonathan, post:26, topic:3805”]

Ok. So I have a question.

Dave Pensado says “When they hire you to mix, they’re really hiring you for your ‘taste’…” it appears you draw a semantic distinction between someone hiring a mixer to “finish their project…I complete what they began” (Dave Pensado again) vs ‘I do whatever until the client runs out of money’. Is that a relatively fair summary of the difference between mixer and a guy selling studio time under the terminology you prefer?

Sure. If you hire me for my taste, then why would you start to direct me as to what your music needs?

I don’t let a client run out of money. We set a price, and then I do it for that price.

Mixerman wrote: On occasion, I might even be cheaper to hire me for my work than for someone else’s time.

… so you’re contrasting your ‘work’ in its completed finished sense of the project VS whatever someone else might or might not be able to do in the $800 that you would pay studio A,B,C or D in Nashville to hack out in 5 hours?

Is THAT where you’re drawing the distinction between a ‘mixer’ and a PayMeForMyTime type of service? So really the difference is the mixerGuy’s approach to the business metrics of the project?

Well yeah, but it’s way worse than that. Someone who is unable to mix, but is somehow qualified to direct a mix from the back of the room probably won’t be taking 5 hours. It could be more like 10 hours. And it might take more than once, and we all know that it’s more expensive to do something twice than it is to do it right the first time.

If an Artist goes into a $50 per hour local studio, and takes 10 hours to direct the engineer how to mix, that cost you $500 for a mix that’s probably not all that great. You’d be better off seeking a bona fide mixer that will accept your project for $500 per mix.

…I think I get what you’re saying. I imagine what someone else here doesn’t like is that you refrain from acknowledging the latter as a ‘mixer’. lol. If this is the case, the logical implication is that it challenges the notion that any ordinary Joe who mixes per se ought to be called a ‘mix engineer’.

Even as a mixer there’s a Notes process. Once I get the mix to a certain point, I require input, and the mix often improves from the client input. But if the client starts to ask me to do stupid shit that doesn’t make a difference, or worse yet, that is detrimental to the mix, there will be push back, and in some cases an absolute refusal. So, it’s kind of like hiring an Artist to paint your portrait. Some things might not come out quite like you imagined.

I’m not really saying that it’s not mixing if you charge by the hour. But it puts the onus on the time, and not on the work. The mix isn’t done until I’m happy with it. If it takes me 2 days so be it. All I care about is the mix and how it works, and I know that there will be other simpler mixes that will make the extra time a wash. If I charge for a mix, and I deliver a mix, then the mix becomes the product that I deliver, and not my time.


#28

Ahhhh! That’s the wording I was fishing for!

lol… that’s a great analogy I shall be using in the near future when sending quotes!

ps… Sorry I didn’t make it up there this week. My wife and her side of the family ended up having to make the trip out there without me - I had some festival gigs, a label release, and a broadcast deadline I couldn’t shake. Still on planning on getting together soon though!!


#29

Mixerman:

Two, sometimes bad sound is desired…

Also subjective. You can’t define bad sound either.

Actually, what I wrote was: “Two, sometimes bad sound is desired, but if it causes the right reaction, then at that point it would be good sound.”

Good and bad sound can be defined based on the reaction.

Mixerman:

Not one of those people will care about the sound.

Not sure what you mean. If they don’t care about the sound they won’t be reacting to it.

They care whether the music causes them to move and sing. Punters don’t talk about sound. They don’t care about MP3s. They only care about the music.

Sound and frequency are the building blocks of music. They’re the building blocks of a fart too.

Mixerman:

And if I can make myself react, then I can get many other people to react similarly.

I agree with the philosophy (i.e. you can’t expect people to get excited with a recording if you’re not excited about it yourself), but it’s not guaranteed that people are going to react, even under those circumstances. I’m sure we’ve all experienced that moment when you play your new killer recording to a friend who says 'meh, it’s OK I guess." As we’ve said, it’s all subjective.

There are no guarantees where it comes to reaction. The point isn’t to make a song in which everyone reacts precisely the same way. That’s not possible. The point is to make a song in which many people react a certain way. Where it comes to Art, you want to make something that lights as many people up as possible, but you still need to go out and find them. One friend who reacts with “meh” isn’t enough of a sample to judge the reaction. And there’s also a learning curve.

Mixerman:

When you charge for your time, then you’re not actually charging as a mixer, but rather as a studio selling time. The client could direct your every move on a mix, and take as long as she likes on it, so long as the time is paid for, you’re happy. This is a service. It’s not really mixing.

For contrast, that’s not how it works in my world. I charge by the hour, and I definitely mix. I take the client’s wishes on board, including reference tracks, then I mix. If the client wants to get involved in a bigger way, I agree, that is not mixing, it’s engineering, but I would point that fact out to the client in order to readjust expectations. If they want me to mix, I mix. If they want studio time, I give them studio time. All charged by the hour.

I don’t accept reference tracks. I judge the tracks the client gives me only.

There’s nothing wrong with charging by the hour. But you will find an obvious change in perception by the client when you charge by the mix. All of a sudden, your time matters, and you are accepted as the expert.

Enjoy, Mixerman


#30

I like the Artist viewpoint. I’d also relate it to a Tour Guide in a sense. That person is there to make sure you have a great, fun, interesting, and entertaining journey based on their extensive experience. But if you ask “what’s down that alleyway” they’ll likely say “let’s go see” as they don’t know everything. Each journey with each participant can be different. Every expert is constantly gaining new knowledge. But it’s essential that your Tour Guide first have the prerequisite ‘taste’ that you’re looking for in your journey, as there are many different possible approaches.


#31

Very confusing. You stated earlier.

Sound/noise/music/frequency - for me, it’s all the same thing in the context of whether what has been recorded is regarded as good by listeners - or not.

Either way the goal is the same for me, and the formula to reach that goal is relatively simple: Shit hot songs + shit hot performers + shit hot recording = many happy listeners. Yes, it’s all subjective and there are many outliers but generally, we all instinctively know when something is ‘good’ - or indeed ‘bad’, otherwise music wouldn’t be the global phenomenon that it is today - there is a general concensus of ‘good’.

Yes, a judgement call must be part of the process, of course.
I look upon reference tracks as a means of communication. Instead of saying “I want the snare to sound warm and crisp, with some air” or some other meaningless bullshit, a client can simply refer to an already-existing track and say ‘can you make the snare sound like this, please?’ It gets me from point A to point B as quickly as possible.

I’ve done both. That’s how I know that charging by the hour works better for me. I don’t see any change in perception from clients when I charge by the hour. However, I do see:

A better attitude from myself because I am not begrudgingly working ‘extra’ unplanned hours on a mix. (I might be working extra hours, but I wil be paid for them).

The client is better informed and more appreciative of what I do. (“Yes, we can go down that route but it will probably mean a couple of extra hours.”)

Multiple reviews and adjustments are no problem for me. (Although I will, of course advise the client if it gets to a point where the mix is going nowhere).

All of the above culminates in a better relationship with the client, and - in my experience - a better understanding and appreciation of the service I am providing.


#32

Either way the goal is the same for me, and the formula to reach that goal is relatively simple: Shit hot songs + shit hot performers + shit hot recording = many happy listeners. Yes, it’s all subjective and there are many outliers but generally, we all instinctively know when something is ‘good’ - or indeed ‘bad’, otherwise music wouldn’t be the global phenomenon that it is today - there is a general concensus of ‘good’.

If I got paid on every record that was supposed to be a hit, I’d be a very rich man right now. The general consensus of what is good, is precisely what I’m talking about when I use the term reaction. It’s the reaction that we measure, not the quality of the sound.

From Musician’s Survival Guide to a Killer Record:

"Now, let me just address this whole “hit record” concept because I know that some of you just can’t fathom why I’m making this about hits and not quality. I mean, there have been lots and lots of terrible songs that have been hits, right?

Put simply: Quality is subjective. Hits are quantifiable.

You see, whether a hit record is even feasible is almost irrelevant, because surely your goal is to cause a reaction. You want people to respond to your music, even if it’s only 100.

Hits are just songs that got a huge reaction. The quality is irrelevant. When you think about it, the only difference between a hit record and your record is scale. If the masses love a song, it’s a quantifiably great song, because it got a reaction that converts into sales, spins, and streams.

There are all sorts of songs that you or I might believe to be great that aren’t hits. But what if we disagree? What if you think my favorite unknown song is shit? Then what? Who’s right?

Whereas the quality of any given song is debatable, the popularity of a song renders the quality irrelevant. If the goal of a song is to generate a reaction, then it can only rightly be judged by the size of the reaction it causes.

Let me put it this way to you, because I walk the talk on this. If somehow I manage to produce the worst piece of dog shit record known to man, and it becomes a major hit? That track will go prominently on my discography, forever amen, and mother fuckers will hire me because of it. There is no blame to be appropriated for one’s participation in a hit song. Just credit.

So, let’s not pretend that this whole record-making shit is about quality. It’s about tapping a vein."

Mixerman:

I don’t accept reference tracks. I judge the tracks the client gives me only.

Yes, a judgement call must be part of the process, of course.
I look upon reference tracks as a means of communication. Instead of saying “I want the snare to sound warm and crisp, with some air” or some other meaningless bullshit, a client can simply refer to an already-existing track and say ‘can you make the snare sound like this, please?’ It gets me from point A to point B as quickly as possible.

And I view the recordings as their method of communication. And if a client asked me to make their snare sound like this or like that, I’d tell them that’s not how it works. Because it’s not. I may choose to mangle a snare, or boost it with a replacement if the tone of it seems out of place with the record, but I’m not playing this game of fashion plate snare tones as directed by the Artist or client because it’s nothing but a wank and that’s not my position. People who come to me want me to mix the record the way that I hear it. Those who want something else are referred to someone who does something else. I’m in that position because I have my name associated with numerous records of note. That’s not bragging. That’s just the reality. Much, if not most, of this business is based on perception.

I already know how you do things, and what you must endure, because I’ve been in your position. I’ve been in nearly every position there is in this business. Which is why I can talk about them all. But for some strange reason, you seem to think that you’ve got all of this shit figured out. And you might be really talented and have a ton of potential, but if you want to charge more than $12 per hour sooner than later, then you might do well to drop the defenses a little and open up to some information from someone who has seen a thing or two.

I’ve done both. That’s how I know that charging by the hour works better for me. I don’t see any change in perception from clients when I charge by the hour. However, I do see:

A better attitude from myself because I am not begrudgingly working ‘extra’ unplanned hours on a mix. (I might be working extra hours, but I will be paid for them).

My first record in LA as a recordist was Bizarre Ride to the Pharcyde. I was paid $10 an hour to record that album, which went Gold but was also beloved by the industry in general, and that record quickly put me in a position to charge by the track. By 1995 when I mixed Ben Harper’s Fight For Your Mind, I was charging $1000 per mix. I was no longer mixing for Delicious Vinyl because they didn’t want to pay that much money for a mix. They wanted to hire someone young and upcoming that could do a great job, and who would charge them relatively little. I was that in 1993. I was not that in 1995, and so I basically had to cut them loose as a client. In general, you don’t grow with your clients, you grow out of them. Food for thought.

At the peak of my mixing career and the music business as an entity, I was paid $2500 per mix. I really didn’t give a crap whether a mix took me 12 hours or 6. All I cared about was delivering the best mixes possible so that I could continue to charge that kind of dough. When you charge by the track, you charge more than you would have made by the hour. Not less.

Of course, those days are long gone for most everyone because the music business fully shit the bed. But everything is still relative in terms of position and pricing. Prices are depressed from the bottom to the top and have been for nearly a decade now. That just puts my price closer to your price, which doesn’t make things easier for either of us.

If you want to make better records and charge more for them, then you can’t leave the trajectory of your career purely up to chance. You have to proactively parley one success with another, and you would do well to mimic how the most successful people operate and charge. In the early nineties I wanted to charge by the mix because the biggest mixers charged by the mix. The way I figured it, if I charged what the big boys did, then I would be perceived differently and taken more seriously despite my young age. That was true.

In general, you want to mimic what successful people do. Not discount it.

Enjoy, Mixerman


#33

`Mixerman Wrote

If you want to make better records and charge more for them, then you can’t leave the trajectory of your career purely up to chance.

To clarify, if you want to be a part of better records (that’s what I meant), then you can’t leave the trajectory of your career purely up to chance. The thing about charging more, is you get opportunities to work on better records. But you need to get on better records in order to charge more. It’s a bit of a conundrum. So, here’s what you need to do. The moment you are asked your price by someone who is of higher profile than your usual work product, you quote a price that is appropriate for someone of that stature. You don’t quote your usual price. If you do, they will then question whether you’re good enough, because if you were good enough, then you would charge more. It’s fucked up I know, but there was a time when you wanted to quote a higher price than your competitor, because those A&R numbskulls always figured the most expensive guy had to be the best. I’ve quoted and gotten $4000 a mix (a one time event, just to test the theory). Insane, I know! Those were the days. Like I said, this is an industry in which perception is everything. And the perception is, you charge your value. In order to prove your value, you must have the chutzpah to claim it.


#34

Question. How do you accurately size up your work? I can’t go off the prices I use for my primary body of work because its not even in the same field of audio services. I’m having some difficulty adapting my flat rate mix quotes lately. My main work is service contract based (meaning a corporation pays me a yearly contract as a retainer guaranteeing them x number of hours per week or month). Sort of like how an I.T. admin bills or a corporate lawyer is retained.

“Can I ask what the last producer/mixer/studio charged you guys?” has been my default question, and “were you pretty happy with their work”? I’ve been using that to probe at their potential budget. And if they liked the work, I usually want to know why they aren’t going back. Sometimes the answer is that the guy moved away. Sometimes they’ve retired, sometimes they died, sometimes they sold all their gear and decided to sell real estate.

Again, what would you say is the best way to size up the value of your services?


#35

I’m happy charging what I charge, thank you. That doesn’t mean I need your advice, or that my knowledge and ability are lacking in some way.

No client ever asks you for a remix or a review of any kind? No client ever queries anything you have mixed in any way?

People come to me because I give them what they want. It’s a basic business principle which has served me well over the years.
.


#36

That’s a basic business principle, the “golden rule” of pricing: price at whatever the market will stand. It’s not specifically related to mixing or to the recording industry.


#37

Good luck, AJ.

Mixerman


#38

@Paul999, I don’t know if you’ve seen this thread yet, but give it a good read when you have a chance. There’s definitely some stuff in here worth your time looking over! :slight_smile:


#39

I just ask straight up, what’s your budget? If they balk, I explain, that just tells me what’s possible.

If a band tells me their budget is $1500 for ten songs, I ask the why they’re doing ten songs in a world where people listen to playlists and singles. And yes, some people still listen to albums, but currently, it’s far better to constantly release product than it is to put out product every two years or more.

As a producer, you have to reveal your budget or there’s nothing for us to discuss anymore, because I have to take complete control of the funds. As a mixer, if the client would rather not disclose their remaining budget, then I just quote them my top rate. Usually, that gets them to open up. And if they accept my top rate, we’re good.

This is why I never post rates. The rate changes based on the situation. In regards to rate, there is only what I will accept to mix your record.

You don’t judge your value based on how good you are. Your value is based on how much trust you can instill in your potential clients, which maxes out when they hit the ceiling of their budget.

Enjoy, Mixerman


#40

Ahhhhhhh! Thanks! :slight_smile:

I noticed you mention that earlier… but I just now connected where and how that applies.