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Topic: What to charge? Please help.

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  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Decatur Illinois
    Posts
    901

    Question What to charge? Please help.

    OK, I have been doing local commercials on the side for the past 6 months or so. I am a full time HVAC tech by day and composer by night. Word is getting around locally that I do decent work (not bragging I swear) and now a semi big production company is offering me a chance to rescore a few scenes of a (more than likely) direct to video release. They have a branch in LA but the owner works from the branch right here in central Illinois about 45 miles from my home town. He sent a DVD by mail today and it will arrive probably Thuirsday. The problem is that if he likes what I come up with for the not-so-satisfying parts, I have no idea what to charge. The commercials that I have done have all been local and I have been getting about $200-$250 for a 30 second spot. That is my only reference. If he really likes my work and wants to offer me a whole film next, I will need enough to replace my current salary (which is not super big, maybe $32,000) Can anyone tell me what I might or should charge? How much time should I bid for completion per minute of music needed? Any help would be very appreciated. Kays? I bet you could steer me one way or the other here. Please?

    Eric

  2. #2

    Re: What to charge? Please help.

    Eh? What? Why me? Have I become the go to guy for rates?

    First of all, I'd like to know....what is an HVAC Tech?

    Secondly....why do you need to quit your job to do this film? I mean, not to sound cliche here....but don't quit your day job kid (at least not yet).

    Thirdly...I suppose if you go by your advertising rates, then you should charge $500/minute. Most guys around here (including myself) feel that an indie movie rate should be closer to $1k/minute....but this is not always an option for smaller indie direct to video films (not talking microbudget here). For example, if you charge $1k minute on an 100 minute film, and the film requires about 50 minutes of music, then you'd ask for $50k. I find that $50k for smaller (less than $500k movies) is generally out of the question. Directors on those levels simply do not feel that they should spend that much on the music. I disagree since a great soundtrack can make or break a movie, but I also understand the realities of the direct to video market.

    There is the basic formula of the 5% of the total budget. This can also vary quite greatly, but it's a good place to start. Ask him/her what the budget of the film is (usually the amount is not considered a trade secret and filmmakers will often share that information). Ask the director what they have budgeted for the music. If you're being asked to re-score some stuff, I would assume that they have already hired (and paid) another composer and perhaps they are not happy with the results? If so, are they coming to you with a reduced music budget since they already blew it on the previous guy?

    My biggest piece of advice is to seriously not quit your day job for this one project. Try and do it on the side....at least until you establish a strong enough relationship with the company where they can guarantee to feed you 3-4 of those films a year (and even then you're taking a risk).

    Try to not go below the rate that you have been charging for the commercials, specify that you will not be responsible for hiring live musicians (or at the very least , leave it at your discretion), and explain to them that since you're not able to devote your full time and existence to their film, their deadline will have to take your availability into account so that you don't end up killing yourself for an unrealistic deadline (plus the music will suffer when you don't sleep enough).

    If the budget is kinda low, use it to your advantage to keep ownership of the publishing, and maybe work into the deal some bonuses based on milestone sales numbers.

    Does that help?
    >>Kays
    http://www.musicbykays.com
    Music Composition for Feature Films, Television and Interactive Entertainment

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Decatur Illinois
    Posts
    901

    Smile Re: What to charge? Please help.

    Hey Kays, Thanks for the help. I didnt mean to make you the regional expert but I know you've, A) done a decent amount of work professionally, and B) been kind enough to answer people in detail based upon your real-life experiences.

    I'm not so concerned with quitting my day job yet as a Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning tech but I do put in upwards of 60 or 70 hours some weeks and it would be impossible to do a whole feature length film and keep the studio happy with the schedule I was able to keep. That said, I cant wait till I can make the leap. It's 5:40 AM right now as I try to squeeze in this writing on my way to work this morning. Once there I will be starting a new job (project) today that will have me on my knees in a dirty crawlspace for the next two weeks. Not exactly ideal. As I am getting older (now 36) I am running out of vital resources like a back and knees that I would need to make it to retirement and honestly, in 12 years in this field I havent seen anyone retire in good health.

    Thanks for the examples. This is exactly what I needed. A place to start. Atleast now I dont have to worry about looking like an idiot for asking way too much or leaving a big helping on the table so to speak. I am also a little concerned about telling them that I have a day job other than this. I dont want them to picture me as not-worth the same as a real composer. I figure as long as I can deliver the product and in a timely manner, my work is as valuable as the next guy's. I also dont want to have to give them conditions based upon my other job such as not being able to turn around a project as fast because I have to spend 10 to 12 hours a day somewhere else. I hate giving excuses, I just want to deliver. Monday night, one of my commercial clients called me because he needed a 30 sec spot done for a mayoral race and he wanted to deliver a finished product to the campaign comitee on Wed am (actually right now). He called me at about 9:30 pm Monday. I said send it. So he emailed me a compressed quicktime file and I stayed up till about 12:30 am working, then went to bed but set my alarm for 5:00 am. At 5 I woke up and finshed the piece and emailed an mp3 of the current master. I then got out the door to my day job. By 7:30 he called me to say he loved the spot and would run it through the comitee asap. Last night (After band practice) he called to tell me they loved it. Complete, on-time, no excuses, and he thanked me profusely. That is what I want to be able to do for any client. That is why I need to get to the point where I can quit my day job. Thanks again Kays. I really gotta get going.

    Eric

  4. #4

    Re: What to charge? Please help.

    Congratulations. Based on your description your music is working very well. One option you might consider, if you have the right combination of sufficient confidence (arrogance) and self-doubt (humility) and a few other characteristics: get people to work for you. If you can manage that, keeping artistic control because it's your voice that is wanted, then you might be heading toward a significant career. Good luck, anyway.

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