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Incredible Shrinking Budgets: Are they kidding?


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  • Incredible Shrinking Budgets: Are they kidding?

    Back in the late 70's I was fed up with working for the alcohol industry (translation: Top 40 Bands in Clubs) with unreliable musicians (drugs, gambling debts, women - scorned, jealous wives, insane husbands of groupies). So I decided to go into commercial production. I figured I could find enough players to be reliable for at least a couple of hours. So I threw my hat into the ring.

    Back then, since I was trying to get into the biz, I came up with a proposal that I pitched to both the clients and the players that got me into the door. I would do a basic demo with a rhythm section and vocal for a ridiculous $250.00! For the client, it was a price point they couldn't refuse. For the players, it was QUICK and easy money that they wouldn't have had otherwise on an off night.

    If the jingle sold, I'd pay the guys $300.00 for the session. So now my cost just went to $1500.00 plus studio costs and of course, I'd like to be paid as well for writing the jingle and putting all of this together, right?

    Recently, I read an article stating the rate for freelancers was $2-300.00 for a demo and it took a couple of months to receive that! Then after the jingle ran, they might make a couple of grand, which came 7-9 months later. This article acted like this was a good thing; like it was "free money" or something.

    Now eveyone knows that budgets are shrinking for everything and turn around times are shorter. But even factoring in an all MIDI/VSTi production with a Vocal, $300.00 (THAT YOU HAVE TO WAIT MONTHS TO RECIEVE) seems insanely low to me in today's economy! How can anyone live on that? More important, how does one even work out the logistics of that kind of pricing?

    You've got to meet your living expenses while you set up cycle of 8 to 10 demos per month at 3 months in the rears to come up with a livable wage and that doesn't include cost of maintenance on your gear (let alone the startup cost of the gear itself!), insurance on same, and certainly not the man hours for the insane turn around time. And what happens if your demo doesn't make the cut? Now the client has no incentive to pay you even the lousy $300.00! Are the winning submissions expected to cover the loss on the rejected submissions? That's only $2K at 9 months out! This sounds more like playing the lottery than a business.

    What kind of experiences are you guys having in this regard? Is anybody actually doing any work that will actually pay a residual anymore? What's the going rate for residuals now? How difficult are they to collect?

    All I've gotten for the past 2 years has been buyout projects for corporate meetings and the like. The last 4 months, I've only had budgets that allowed my hiring ONE MUSICIAN &/OR ONE SINGER! I heard from one L.A. Composer who specialized in orchestral composition that it had now been over five years since he'd actually used an orchestra. Everything was GigaStudio/VSL and MAYBE a live guitarist. What are you guys seeing?

  • #2
    I'd say that seems to be that one person has to do everything. So write, perform all parts, record, midi orchestrator, edit, mail it, have the contacts, smooze, keep the studio running, backup, look for hard drive sales, maybe check out the forums once in a while and above all else stand tall and smile as someone listens to your material and slides one up the back alley if they even care to pay for your talent. But it can be fun.

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    • #3
      I read that same article in EM and took it with a grain of salt. I know and have worked with a few people who received quite a bit more than $300 up front for jingles or underscore.
      Dave C.