Heres a fun topic. Lets talk about rates and what people charge and the many issues that make it complicated in the music industry.
For some reason the music industry as well as many creative fields has a very complicated relationship with compensation for work done or provided.
There are a vast amount of ways to set a rate, charge a rate, determine a rate, collect the rate, etc.
I have found what works for me is to stand pretty firm on my normal rate, 95% of the time, collect upfront, 95% of the time, and continually educate my clients on why I charge my rate, 100% of the time.
For years, I was flexible in my rate. I just wanted to work. I just thought if anyone wanted me to mix or master or produce and give me any sort of money, I would say yes. This left me extremely exhausted and usually frustrated as I was harnessing this idea that they had no idea how much of a deal I was cutting them. Every revision or mix tweak became a personal attack. (This is different then being an intern at a studio and working your way up.)
What I didn't realize was that I was creating a brand and a service that had no value, it had no standards, I had not determined my worth.
The appeal of charging next to nothing or undercutting your competition is in hopes of gaining clients, but the sustainability of doing cheap work is not there on a professional level. I did this for about 3 years before I moved to Nashville and I was doing great work, but I wasn't making anything tangible that a career could be built upon. I had a lot of clients, but they pretty much all were going no where themselves.
You truly are the company you keep.
If you always go for the low ball rate and work with people who want to negotiate your rate down, most likely that person is not going to be a great client to begin with and they don't understand the value of investing into themselves.
If you don't want to invest into yourself, then no one else will want to.
For a long time I thought this was a crap statement. The idea that no one will invest in you if you don't invest in yourself. I have found it to be so true 8 years into this musical journey. Its one of those statements that requires you to trust the process.
One of the biggest issues in the industry is that people cave too often to negotiation and don't educate potential clients enough on why it cost XYZ to do a project.
When I moved to Nashville, I raised my rates. It went from about nothing to just above nothing. I lost 99% of my clients I was working with.
I gained a whole new set of clients because I started having standards. These were better clients. They understood that making music cost money. They had most likely done it before. They had respect for me, they understood the limitations that their budget gave them and accepted that they were on step 1 of many steps. Album 1 of many albums.
I started to make some money that then allowed me to invest into myself. I started getting more gear and this started to allow me to provide a better product, a more valuable product. I worked at that level for a while. Then, over the last 2 years I have raised my rate to a more professional level. It is still affordable for most clients. It also has attracted bigger clients because they see that I have standards, they see that I am worth something. They see that not everyone can use me, which gives them a unique product, which then has the potential to stand out more.
When I was starting, I had to have 100 clients to make ends meet.
Now I just need 20 clients to have an abundance. I started going after people I could actually add value to and who I would be a good fit for. This in turn creates amazing relationships and makes work really fun.
Here comes a bit of a sell.... but its only to create transparency.
My normal rate currently is $100.00 per track for mastering. This includes an instrumental master, ISRC codes, a DDP for physical release and revisions if necessary. If your current mastering engineer does not talk about the above things, then they are not really a mastering engineer.
If an artist does not have that budget, then that situation gets addressed differently, maybe I like the mix engineer, maybe its an artist I really believe in, maybe its someone I see working really hard who is investing, but just isn't there yet. Maybe I contacted them because I love what I hear. There are always special circumstances, but I always start with my normal rate.
The rate I charge is actually far less then my competitors.
I love all my artist's but please think about the following when you approach someone about lowering their rate.
As an artist, I understand you have a budget. I understand that money is always tight. I understand this because I was in a band and did the whole make an album and do shows etc..
But just imagine if you put your music on iTunes and someone came to you and said, ehhhh... I want to pay 75 cents for that song and not a 99 cents.. you would not be down for that. Imagine your doing a show and tickets are $20.00 and everyone at the door is like, ehhh I only budgeted $10.00 for tickets so thats fine, right?!?
If you care about your worth and the industry.. you would say HECK NO!
If your attitude is...i'll take what I can get... you will never get anywhere.... I promise.
So this is a start.. hopefully you found some value in this. I urge you to set your own rate based on what you think you are worth and try to stick to it, knowing that you can always raise it as well.
Also if your in the music industry for money..... get out. It can be highly unstable and you can make more money in just about any corporate setting. But if you love music... have some standards.. you are worth a lot more then you think. Its ok to have people compensate you for what you do.