An ever-important aspect of production is mixing, which can make or break a song. A brilliant mix can put an otherwise average production over the top, while a mediocre mix can bring down a brilliant production (although sometimes the song itself is so brilliant that nothing can detract from it). If you’re not an engineer yourself, an engineer without a lot of mixing experience, or you just want to bring in the A-team to finish an important project, it’s important to understand the costs of hiring a mixer when you create your budget. Here’s an excerpt from the latest edition of my Music Producer’s Handbook with some advice.
“Mixing engineers are all over the board price-wise, especially in the current depressed music market. At one time there was a mixer (who shall remain nameless) who was charging as much as $10,000 per mix, plus a percentage of the sales to mix just one song. Even more outrageous was the fact that he’d do as many as three mixes a day, since his setting for each instrument never changed much because it was his “sound.” Very few budgets can support that kind of excess anymore, and virtually all mixer’s prices, although still at a premium, have come down in recent years.
While some mixers charge by the song, others charge a daily rate, and so the price can escalate quickly if there are fixes or the mix goes longer than expected. The rates might be as low as $250 a day, and can run up to $2,500 or more (although most rates are somewhere in the middle these days). These rates may not include the studio costs if a mix using a studio console is desired, which are separate from the mixer’s rate. That means that mixing could theoretically cost as much as $5,000 a day with the mixer included, although this is a rate that only a very few A list projects can support.
Because budgets are so small these days compared to what they once were, mixing specialists have been caught in a dilemma—the client (you, the producer) can afford only the studio or the mixer, but not both.
As a result, many mixers have resorted to creating their own mixing environment and giving an all-in price that makes the process much more affordable for the producer. This is one of the advantages of the digital age and DAWs: it was impossible to build and equip a suitable mixing room for less than a half-million dollars back in the analog days.
Since the music business is weak at the moment and budgets are way down from what they were before, present an offer to your mixer. If you’re willing to wait for when the mixer can fit you in during his or her down time, or if you agree to let him mix alone without you or the artist attending, you might be surprised at the rate you can get. Even if the price you offer is below his rate, chances are he can work something out with you that will get you a great mix for a price you can afford.”
The costs of hiring a mixer may be less than you think, and every penny can be truly worth it if it takes your mix to the next level.
You can read more from The Music Producer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.