The pricing for mixing and mastering is probably one of the most debated things between client and provider in the music industry. Many artists don’t fully understand what goes into the process and many mixing and mastering engineers struggle to settle on a price that is worth the effort for them and affordable for the artist.
For mixing a song, charges range from $75 to $150, depending on the number of songs and channels per song. For mastering a song, charges range from $35 to $50, depending on the number of songs. If both mixing and mastering are handled by the same person, a discount usually applies for both services.
In this article, we will cover the pricing factors that go into the mixing and mastering process, as well as how much to charge.
Pricing Factors for Mixing and Mastering
There are a few factors that determine how much to charge for mixing and mastering.
- Number of songs. The more songs there are in an EP or album, the lower the cost per song.
- Complexity of each song. The more channels or stems there are in a song’s project file, the higher the cost per song.
- Number of reworks. This is a trickier one as the quality of a mix is somewhat subjective. Assuming you are a professional engineer with some experience, the more reworks a client demands, the more you should charge.
Here’s a table to give you a better idea.
|1-2 Songs||3-7 Songs||8 or more songs|
|Mixing up to 25 channels||$100||$90||$75|
|Mixing more than 25 channels||$150||$135||$120|
|Discounted price for both services||$180||$150||$120|
These estimates are per song and you could include one or two rounds of reworking based on client feedback. In situations where the client asks for more touch ups, you could charge a smaller fee of say $20-25 per revision.
Of course, you could charge less if you are just starting out as a mixing and mastering engineer in order to attract some business and make a name for yourself. Once you gain a reputation for being skilled and reliable you can start charging more. Some of the top mixing and mastering engineers in the world charge over $1,000 per track, but they can afford to do that because their clients are represented by the big music studios like Universal or Warner.
How Pricing Works for a Mixing and Mastering Project
The price estimates laid out in the table above are loosely based on an hourly rate. So before quoting a price, it is always a good idea to decide how much your time is worth and how long you might take to complete it. For example, if you believe that a song would take four hours to mix and your time is worth $25 per hour, then $100 dollars is a good quote to give your client.
However, this is based on an ideal scenario, which may not always be the case. You will encounter situations in which artists will come to you with bad recordings and expect you to fix everything through mixing. In this case, it is your responsibility to explain to the artist that mixing will not be able to save the project, and will probably accentuate the errors, so they will have to redo the recording to get the best results.
Never oversell yourself. If you were to accept a bad recording and promise to fix it through mixing, it will likely hurt your reputation when the artist hears a mediocre (at best) mix. Once you are certain that you have a good recording to work with, you can calculate your quote and tell your artist the final price. You don’t have to tell them your hourly rate unless they ask.
In the rare situation where the artist cannot (or refuses to) re-record their work, then make it clear to them that it will take you significantly longer to achieve the best possible results and hence will have to charge more.
Another calculation to take into account is the number or reworks you are willing to do within the quoted price. Most mix engineers are okay with 2-3 reworks within the original quote but you will be faced with a situation wherein an artist asks for more. In this case, you will have to calculate a per rework rate which can be significantly lower than your full rate since most of the work is already done.
How can I become a better mixing engineer?
The first and most important thing to do before even sitting down to mix a song, is to learn about acoustics, and more specifically, understand the acoustics in the space you are using. Ideally, you should have a soundproof control room that absorbs and diffuses reflections that bounce off of the walls, floor and ceiling. This environment offers the best perspective for mixing music.
However, soundproofing a room is an expensive and time consuming process that many of us cannot afford. In that case, there are workarounds that, while not ideal, can still help you get great sounding mixes. For example, you can avoid placing your speakers too close to the wall or in a corner to avoid standing waves, especially with bass frequencies. You could also buy acoustic treatment panels and place them at strategic places on your walls to help take care of some of the reflections.
Either way, you should listen to reference songs in your space to get a feel for how music sounds in it. Doing this will help give you a goal to strive towards when working on your own mixing projects.
How can I mix faster?
Again, the first thing to do is to understand the acoustics in your room. Listen to different kinds of music when you’re not on the job to know how your room feels with finished mixes playing in the space. When you are on the job, listen to all the reference tracks to get a feel for how the project should sound in your space.
The next thing is to make sure the project is well organised and properly named to give yourself the smoothest possible workflow. This is something you can have the artist or producer do before they send the stems over, but if they haven’t, then you might want to do it yourself before even hitting play for the first time.
Take plenty of breaks. As you spend more and more time on a mix, tweaking things and listening to the results, you will eventually lose perspective. This is natural and happens because of fatigue. The only way to get around this is to take breaks whenever you sense that you might be losing perspective. Once your ears are rested, listen to the whole song and take notes about what you need to fix.
How do you master a track faster?
Similar to the above question, know your space and listen to the reference tracks to give yourself a goal. In the mastering stage, you will have one audio file to work with – the final mix – so there is no problem regarding organisation. What you will need to ask for from the artist or producer is to export the mixdown without any effects on the master channel and at a peak level of -6 db.
This ensures that you can get started on mastering the song without having to do any unnecessary tweaking yourself. Once you are in the mastering process, be aware of ear fatigue and loss of perspective, and take breaks whenever you sense it. With a little experience, you will find your mixing and mastering improve at a rapid rate.