The concept of sending consolidated audio stems to be remotely mixed and mastered by an audio engineer is almost an everyday occurrence these days for some. Over recent years the vast amount of media sources that discuss, promote and explain online mixing and mastering services have only gone to fuel this practice. This has tempting newcomers to try-out these audio services and various posts can be found on musicians’ well-read forums explaining the pros and cons.
Audio engineers today find that their clients have also become more international, being spread over different time zones and generally having less clients visiting the recording studio. Some audio engineers have told mixing Audio Pros that up to 80% of their mixing work is carried out without the artist being present, as time, distance and being detached from the mixing process allows the artist to be not only more objective with the final result but overall cheaper.
Obviously the final result and creative discussions are paramount for both musician and engineer; but so is the overall cost of the online project and staying with one’s budget.
mixing Audio Pros constantly reviews the methods that online audio mixing and mastering providers practice. We review not only price services but also the musician friendly “bundles” and features that these providers use to group their services.
We thought that you may want to read about what pricing methods that are out there today and share with you a simple overview of the five main pricing methods that online audio service providers use.
Frequently found, this tried and tested method opens a creative dialogue with the musician so that the material and artistic direction can be discussed. Often employed by the independent audio engineer working alone, this dialog method enables them to better gauge the needs of the musician and work required before a quote is made. In most cases the final price can be discussed to suite both parties budgets.
With an actual price point indicated on the website, the musician can immediately understand the pricing start point for a basic package and therefore if the site falls within the musicians budget. A starting price also helps to dispel any misconceptions and avoids bad surprises when the musician gets the quote. In some respects this system is considered by many as “speeding up” the decision process. The musician knows that the price will rise according to the amount of work required, but the sound engineer can guide the musician during the creative dialogue so that the actual work required by the client and therefore cost remains within what the client wants. This “client needs to know theory” is deemed by many as transparent and fair.
Packages – a Fixed Price
Normally based around increasing levels of mixing quality or client type (single basic standard, indie or major label) or based on the musicians or clients requirements i.e., EP or Album at a fixed advertised price. These packages incorporate varying features according to the mix type, such as unlimited revisions, unlimited track count, editing and perhaps several final audio mixes for the client such as a cappella/instrumental/Radio or PA. These are non-negotiable packages and whilst giving the musician a fixed price for a project does the package actually represent what the musician needs. This could mean extra and unnecessary work for the sound engineer and cost for the client.
Price to Audio Stems
A fixed price that increases depending on the number of audio stem’s, which again means the musician can initially calculate if the project remains within the budget. As in Mixing Packages, the price comes with various conditions such as track count, length and that no editing is required i.e., the tracks are ready for mixing. Any work that is thought to be required by the engineer and enhance the final result can become supplementary costs to the basic fixed price. Obviously this is once the stems have been uploaded, the audio engineer has had chance to review the files and the musician has paid.
Analog vs. Digital
Really a mixing package fixed price method, but worth mentioning, analog mixing is offered for the purists out there searching for audio engineers using totally the warmth of analog (like Chris Hamilton a freelance audio engineer of mixing Audio Pros). Although the price if mixing analog is slightly higher than digital due to time associated with the mechanical process of mixing by tape, some would argue that the analog glue of tape and overall results are worth it, the purists…
The pricing method is but one factor the musician will consider when choosing an independent audio engineer or online audio service provider. Whichever the method the musician will be looking for credibility and transparency, which are fundamentals for mixing Audio Pros.
Since mixing Audio Pros was launched in November last year, the number of our freelance audio engineers has grown from three to nine (and is still growing). Frequent discussions with the sound engineers and musicians who have used our service help us improve our site and service.
If you have any comments about mixing Audio Pros we would love to hear from you.
By Richard Lake