So you have recorded your first song in your home studio, but you’re not ready to mix it yourself just yet. You’re wondering what the going rate would be to get it done semi-professionally or professionally.
What may seem like a simple task of finding and paying a suitable mix engineer to work on your compositions, has more to it once you scratch the surface. The reality is that there is a lot to consider to find somebody suitable to fit your budget and deliver a quality piece of work.
The good news is, there are now more home studios, with budding and wannabe mix engineers than ever before. There has never been a better time to find a kindred spirit for your music online. There are also plenty of bargains to be found if you know how and where to look.
So, how much will it cost to mix my audio tracks? Professional studios will charge between $150 and $1500 for each track. Freelance professionals will charge between $100 and $1000 per track. Project studios will provide a completed mixed track for as little as $50. As with most things in this world, you get what you pay for. However, if all that you need is a reasonable demo of your song, there is no reason why the project studio’s work will not be sufficient for your needs.
Figure 1: How Much Does It Cost to Mix a Song?
The average cost to mix audio tracks is dependant on many factors. Some of these factors are:
All of these play a role in determining the overall cost. Depending on these, you can end up paying anything from $30 to $2,450 (see Tables 3,4 & 5 below for how we came up with this estimation).
Now, there are some ways you can be a little more cost-effective, and that is by going in on a package or membership. Studio memberships offer you the ability to pay a monthly fee for a designated number of benefits and can be quite budget-friendly. They also provide rebates on certain services as well.
The other option is a studio package. This is a great cost-saving strategy and can help musicians or vocal artists plan out their sessions ahead of time. With packages, the artist pays for several sessions ahead of time to be used over a set time period.
The costs to mix a song can be broken down as follows:
These are the setup costs that the engineer will need to cover regardless of the number of tracks contained in your song. Setup costs will be as follows:
Let’s say that an engineer has an hourly rate of $60 and that it takes 45 minutes to create, import, and organize a mix session. The engineer’s fixed costs, in this case, will be $45. The amount of time does not drastically change whether there are 10 tracks or 25 tracks to import. However, most engineers will stipulate a price for a set number of tracks that they will mix. For our example below let’s say the number of tracks is 15.
The fixed costs may sometimes include a portion of the expenditure the engineer incurred to set up their studio (this is called the amortized cost).
These are the costs that change depending on the amount and complexity of the work to be undertaken. In the mix, the variable costs will be as follows:
With the additional variable costs, you now would take that $45 of Fixed Cost and have to add the additional fees stated above. Now if each track costs you $15 and three of those tracks need additional audio repair (say 2 hours), your total goes up to approximately $390 for your one song of 15 tracks.
Table 1: Example Calculation
An idea of the number of hours to mix songs of different genres can be estimated by the typical number of tracks (see Table 2 below). For example, to mix a Jazz song with 10 tracks, where the mix engineer needs 30 minutes to mix one track, the time needed would be 5 hours. A Rock song, 11 hours, and a Pop song just under 24 hours.
|Guitar||2||One Guitar||5||Rhythm / Lead||8||Acoustic / Rhythm / Lead|
|Synth / Pads||8|
Table 2: Example Number of Tracks By Music Genre
Let’s now consider three hourly rates - 5$, $40 and $100 - and apply fixed and variable costs. Tables 3, 4, and 5 below estimate total costs for mixing a typical Jazz, Rock, and Modern Pop song. Depending on the hourly rate a Jazz song would cost between $30 and $600, a Rock song between $60 and $1200, and a Pop song between $123 and $2,450.
Table 3: Approximate Costs at $5 per hour
Table 4: Approximate Costs at $40 per hour
Table 5: Approximate Costs at $100 per hour
The costs for mastering a stereo track are generally higher than mixing. Even though there is less variable cost, high-end mastering equipment is costly, and therefore, the amortization cost is higher. The demand for mastering engineers in the home production marketplace is lower than that for mixing engineers, and therefore, there are fewer budget options available. In turn, professional mastering engineers offer competitive rates for work that can be submitted and delivered online.
There are many places to find mix engineers online. Here is a list of sites that you may find useful:
Although prices vary greatly within these marketplaces, you should aim to find a mixing engineer who will complement your music. Competent mixing engineers, where needed, can provide an added level of creativity to your compositions.
Figure 2: Choosing The Right Door To Step Through
There are a few things you can look for to help you find the right engineer for you and your music needs:
Once you have combed through the choices and used this checklist, you should be ready to choose your mixing engineer with ease.
Depending on what you intend to do with your finished mix can help decide how much you are willing to pay for mixing. Let’s categorize these into three tiers:
There are ways, of course, that you can utilize discounts and specials to make sure that you can stay within your budget. If you are looking for a professional demo, then you may want to consider a studio membership or taking advantage of studio packages, as both will save you money in the long run.
Try to find someone with experience mixing your style of music. For example, don’t ask a mix engineer whose specialty is “Ethio-jazz” to mix your death metal EP! Finding that kindred spirit, you are more likely to tap into their passion for doing the best they can with your material.
Not only will they have experience mixing the unique sounds of your genre, but more often than not, they will have a passion for it, and that means that they will be more invested in crafting that perfect track for you. After all, if you love something, you are more focused on making it great.
If possible, find somebody with a proven track record. Sites such as fiverr.com show star ratings for their freelancers, and have comment sections where reviews have been left. You may also consider “rising talent.” While newer freelancers do not have a proven track record, this is usually reflected in the “gig” price, so tread carefully.
Although in that situation, you may be getting someone who will work harder because they have more to prove, and that could lead to some great results for a fraction of the cost. Plus, you may be able to say someday that you gave that engineer their first gig, and that is pretty cool!
If you feel that there is some risk involved while asking for your mix to be done by a stranger, always ask for demonstrations of work already carried out. Avoid paying somebody to mix your track without hearing something they’ve done in the past, especially if the price is in the mid or high range.
Figure 2: Mixers Back Catalogue And Track Record
In the case where you have 10 songs to mix consider ordering one song to start with so that you can base your decision on an actual result (of your work). This may be a little more expensive in the long run, as you will not be able to take advantage of any bulk offers. However, this route certainly helps to reduce the risk. Alternatively, try to negotiate with the freelancer to pay the bulk offer price once accepting the initially approved mix.
Do not pay the full amount upfront, on the promise that work will be carried out. Sites such as Fiverr and Upwork have systems in place to protect buyers and sellers. Also, consider the freelancer's policy for “mix revisions.”
How many times is the freelancer willing to revise your mix until you are satisfied? Some engineers include two or three free revisions before asking for additional payment. Other engineers, who are much more confident with their work, boast unlimited revisions until you are 100% satisfied.
You may be asking yourself, how do I know that they have worked a full 8 hours on my mix? Well, in truth, you really don’t, and so the end payment is more about the results instead of the actual hours worked.
This is why not paying the complete amount upfront is so important. There are some reports and spreadsheets you can use and make part of your contract to ensure that you are getting the full time promised to you if you are working on a very tight budget.
Taking the time to iron out the deliverables before paying is a vital part of Contract 101. So make sure you set up a firm and iron clad payment schedule and what is included in that payment so that both you and the sound engineer are on the same page.
Another cost that may impact the overall end total is the additional submission of tracks. Whether they are requested or simply a track that you decided to see if you can slip into the mix, this could incur additional fees.
But this, of course, depends on your relationship with the engineer and the workload that this late submissions tacks onto the engineer’s time. If it is just a new rendition of a track that is already in the engineer's possession and it doesn’t need much work, then this may not be a problem at all.
If however, it is a track that has been completely reworked or even a brand new track, this may add up budget-wise, or the engineer may not be willing to accept it at all.
A smart way to avoid any extra headaches is to simply include the possibility of additional or revamped tracks into the initial plan and cost. This will give the engineer a heads up that this may happen and keep you from blowing your budget completely out of the water.
If you are looking for a good master from a proven professional, you will probably pay no less than $80. Now, as mentioned above, there are cheaper options available on some freelance sites, but those come with a disclaimer that you may get “exactly what you pay for”.
If you have the budget and are dealing with a five-star, top of the line engineer, one song can cost up to a $2,000. Once again, the overall cost of a song has to do with a lot of factors.
Even with those factors, you may be able to look into some studio deals that will decrease the price significantly and allow you to go with the more proven engineer instead of taking your chances with a freelancer (not that that's bad – the majority of them do excellent work!).
Again, this depends on the level of experience your engineer has, the quality of the equipment available to them, and their workspace. When looking at the overall cost of a full album (let’s say with 15 tracks), you need to think about the fixed costs and variable costs to figure out if the total end amount is reasonable or not.
Even with that end amount budgeted for the mix, you will still have some more costs when it comes to the final mastering of the album before you can call it done. In the end, a professionally mixed and mastered album can cost anywhere from $700 to thousands of dollars.
Of course, you can mix an album for cheaper if you take advantage of utilizing freelance networks or even some packages. Remember $700 is a minimum ballpark price tag for a professional, studio mixed album, and is what you need to budget if you want your music to compete commercially and stand out for all the RIGHT reasons.