Studio Owners: Do you list your rates / why / why not

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Studio Owners: Do you list your rates / why / why not

Post by Mklein » Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:00 pm

Hey y'all,

Moving from freelance to studio owner, I was wondering what other peoples policies were as far as listing a day/hourly/project rate on your website/social media/etc.

I ask because as an engineer and musician, I hate when I go to a studio website and don't see a day-rate. Most of the time I won't go the extra step to get in touch about rates unless I'm really interested.

On the other hand, as a new studio owner, I don't want the figure published on my website to deter anyone from getting in touch with me, whether or not they perceive that number as too high or too low. I'm always adjusting my price to fit or match budgets, and I'm also not opposed to bartering for gear/services I need.

Waay back when I interned for a fairly prominent NYC studio, and they didn't advertise rates. When contacted, the studio had a maximum day rate of X, which was really only for commercial/advertising clients, and a minimum day rate of Y, which was for promising but broke artists, or for last minute sessions on previously cancelled dates. While not exactly transparent, I thought this was an interesting take.

So where do y'all stand?

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Post by fossiltooth » Wed Dec 12, 2012 10:32 am

I'm of two minds about this. My general preference is: "Yes", but with a few meaningful exceptions.

I started to post something here, but it quickly turned into an article-length entry.

I will probably polish it a bit and release it as an article in the not-too-distant future. And then I'll post here with a follow up.

But in the meantime, I will say "yes", especially if you're a new, mid-priced, music-focused studio looking to grow its business.

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Post by vvv » Wed Dec 12, 2012 11:08 am

I'm inna business where hourly rates are used; the highest rates are mostly used for bragging rights, the lowest as a loss-leader or for steady business.

Consider publishing an "average rate - call to discuss your needs and our availability", or a "block" rate (ex., "$X for 6 hours") which is "adjustable based upon actual time, format", etc. Consider, also, publishing a differing rate based upon band vs. duo vs. singer-songwriter vs. voice-over vs. overdubs vs. mixing, etc.

The words, "reasonable" and "negotiable" can be useful.
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Post by Gregg Juke » Wed Dec 12, 2012 11:56 am

Good points Vuv.

FT, I'll be very interested in that article...

I will say that as long as I've been involved in this stuff (going back to the 80's), studios always had a rate card rate, and a real rate (and a "special deal"/we-need-you-in-here-now rate). It seems as though the proliferation of studios (real ones, basement Pro Tools rigs, and everything in-between) seemed to kill that for a while, in favor of "pretty close to actual" rates that still left a some room for dealing. Isn't that where we're at now, or are there folks still publicizing inflated rates, to make their "deals" look that much better? This discussion reminds me of a recent editorial and the policy change re: ad rates at Tape Op...

Anyway, more specific re: the OP's question, I think publicizing a fair rate, and mentioning "negotiability" isn't a bad idea at all.


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Post by djimbe » Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:01 am

we generally listed a basic day rate for a fixed number of hours, and always had the caveat that booking larger blocks of time would result in an overall cheaper day rate. it was a lot easier to describe on a specific scenario, though. the explanation was always "1 day would be X. You want 3 days, that would be 3(x) - Y%. You want 5 days, you can have that for 4(x)..."

Like that. it was always a negotiation based around past history. I tried real hard to make sure that anybody asking for 6 days paid the same amount (plus or minus $50) that everyone else did. worked out for us for 10 years.
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Post by joelpatterson » Sat Dec 15, 2012 8:38 pm

Short answer: yes.
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Post by digital eagle audio » Wed Dec 19, 2012 3:07 pm

i was about to start a very similar thread but now i don't have to.
i've been at both ends of this:
i worked at a studio where the manager acted like the rates were a secret, even on the phone. if someone called to ask about the rates, i couldn't tell them, even though each room and engineer had a rate. he would always claim that the rates varied based on various factors, but the truth is that he figured if he could get them in the door, the space and gear would win them over. that might have happened sometimes, but just as often people would never call back.
i've also been looking for a mastering studio and given up on a few studios because they didn't have rates anywhere, or even a ballpark. as a potential client, that turns me off for the following reasons:
1. while i like talking to my mastering engineer in advance, it can be intimidating and awkward to have to ask about rates in the same conversation as talking about my project. it also sucks if they tell you the rate and then you feel like a schmuck saying no thanks, that's too much for us. if i'm shopping around, i don't want to have that conversation multiple times.
2. stores and restaurants with no price listed are usually expensive.
3. what other surprises await me? are there gonna be charges i didn't know about, like tape or hard drive rental?
4. would i have gotten a better quote if my genre was more interesting to you?

if five studios have posted rates and five don't, most folks are gonna cut their list in half right then and there.
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Post by vvv » Wed Dec 19, 2012 5:13 pm

OTOH, some potential car-buyers like Car-X, and some don't.

(Do keep in mind they tend to sell, [exclusively sell?] used cars ....)

I mean, mebbe I'm just inna analogy mood, metaphorically speaking ...
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Post by Marc Alan Goodman » Wed Jan 30, 2013 9:34 am

It's a delicate question. When I was looking online for studios to work at years ago seeing the rates listed was great! I could make an instant decision about whether to work somewhere or not. However, as a studio owner, it just doesn't seem to make sense to me. The last thing I want is for people to make an instant decision not to work at my studio just because of our posted number. There's a lot of information that goes in to setting our rate, and some of it is project dependent.

Our current answer is to not have them posted, but when people call or email I respond with the book rate clearly and up front. There's nothing worse than feeling like you're getting the runaround because people are scared to talk about money, and I feel like it's good business to make sure things are clear. But once you've got someone on the phone it's a lot easier to anticipate their needs as well as how much fun the project is going to be, in addition to how busy the schedule is, and to adjust the rate accordingly.

Posting the rates only seems to work if you're going to be firm with one rate, which is an entirely different business model. I know studios that pull it off and are happy with the results, but it hasn't worked for me.

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Post by junomat » Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:15 am

Marc Alan Goodman wrote:Posting the rates only seems to work if you're going to be firm with one rate, which is an entirely different business model. I know studios that pull it off and are happy with the results, but it hasn't worked for me.
My exact rationale...

On a sidenote, our business totally changed (for the better) when we switched from hourly/day rate to project based...

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Post by Dakota » Fri Feb 01, 2013 12:47 pm

digital eagle audio wrote: 4. would i have gotten a better quote if my genre was more interesting to you?
Wonderful! Such a valid question, and gave me a chuckle, thank you!

I bet people vary on that one point a lot. Speaking just for myself, if it's going to be a long running TLC-involved production, tracking, arranging, and/or mixing project.... a "yes" that something being aesthetically interesting to me may become one factor among many when making the overall rates and budgets work. But that's got nothing to do with "genre", and much to do with something having a creative spark that moves me. Easier to then go the mile beyond the extra mile.

As far as quoting price publicly, there's also a distinction to me whether I'm doing mastering, or mixing/production:

Mastering is always a flat $100 per song, easy to openly quote as there are a lot of time and labor intensive white lab coat steps needed regardless of any other factors. I guarantee the results will always be awesome at that quote. Rates vary not at all by genre or whether the material is my tweaky exact cup of tea.

Mixing rate per song... there are so many variables. I usually want to suss out a client's budget and goals and see if we can find a realistic common ground. And is it minimalist singer/songwriter turf, or 180 track count grandiosity? That matters. (Understatement).

And PS, digital eagle audio - if you are shopping for the right mastering fit, I'm available if that helps you (feel free to PM me), and there are a lot of solid mastering engineers here in the Tape Op community. MoreSpaceEcho is also highly regarded - and he's an excellent wit.

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Post by JohnDavisNYC » Fri Feb 01, 2013 8:45 pm

we post our rates, and they are (almost always) firm. anyone asking about a 20 day lockout knows they have a strong bargaining angle.... but we also have priced our rooms so that anyone who knows what's up knows that they are getting a sick deal. We (politely) decline any attempts at haggling in situations where it's clearly inappropriate... 'hey! i want to book 2 days to track and mix 20 songs, can i get a break on the rate?'... but if you call me and say that you are looking for a long lockout and are working with a specific budget in mind, we will work with you, to a point.

but at the end of the day, for 98% of the work we do, it's booked at the advertised rate. it works for us, probably because we wanted to price our rooms to be affordable for what they are. i'm very proud of the rates we are able to offer, because i know people are getting what they are paying for and more.

i like to make music with music and stuff and things.

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Post by PhospheneProductions » Sat Feb 09, 2013 1:22 pm

We usually don't post a set rate on our social platforms or website.
This is mainly because we enjoy negotiating, and when so many bands are near broke or quite poor, we would much rather negotiate a price and make some music over setting the band at a rate they won't be able to afford(or not afford much of!).
Of course, we still have overhead to make, and that's the most important part, never give free services, or services that won't cover your costs.
I think it's a preference thing.
Though I agree, not seeing a price can be annoying, but when our services are so much art over a cut and dry technique, actually meeting the artist and discussing what we can do in person is a much better business decision.

Good luck and happy recording!
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Post by Brian » Sun Feb 10, 2013 1:59 pm

I do. Yes.
It keeps all the people who couldn?t possibly afford me, that aren?t relatives, away.

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