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Topic: Making money with orchestra samples

  1. #1

    Making money with orchestra samples

    Hey guys,

    Not sure if this is the right section to ask this question, but I figured it's worth a shot. How many of you guys make money composing music?

    I just do it for fun for now, but I thought it would be a fun idea to charge bands to add an orchestra section to their songs. I'm pretty clueless on how much people might be willing to pay for this kind of service, so I wanted to get an idea of what kind of price range I should be able to expect with this type of work (assuming I got really good at it).

    My initial thoughts are that I should charge about $200 for a standard 3-4 minute song. Is this a completely ridiculous price? or is it too low?

    Anybody do anything like this?

    Here's an example of a song I'm working on right now so you can get an idea of what I'm talking about. I'm doing the string section for it (for free, to build up my resume). It's unfinished, but enough to get the idea.

    Boz Millar

  2. #2

    Re: Making money with orchestra samples

    Pretty nice job with the strings on your part!

    Keep in mind that the strings can play 'moving' parts also and shouldn't be restricted to whole note chords.

    For instance, the last few measures just scream out for you to reprise the main melody in octaves in the strings. It would be a nice, fitting ending to the song, I think.

    Keep up the good work.

    Larry G. Alexander

  3. #3

    Re: Making money with orchestra samples

    I think there's definitely a market for such a service, but prices are probably all over the place. Can you find anyone else that provides such a service and see what they charge vs how good their work is?

    I probably wouldn't pay $200 for just strings playing chords though, especially when I could just by a sample library myself.
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

  4. #4

    Re: Making money with orchestra samples

    Hey, thanks for the feedback guys. I'm painfully aware that my compositions don't stand on their own as masterpieces. It's really supposed to support the band. I always feel like my strings need more movement, but I never feel like it comes out quite right when I do it. Something I need to work on.

    I wouldn't pay $200 for this either, but I wouldn't pay anyone money to record a song for me if I can just download Reaper and do it myself. I also think there are probably quite a lot of rock bands out there that wouldn't know the difference between a good composition and a generic one, and would be happy as long as it sounds real.
    Boz Millar

  5. #5

    Re: Making money with orchestra samples

    Price is such a complex issue. Bands that earn a lot of money are going to hire well-known arrangers and musicians for decent wages. $200 is nothing to them. Bands that are just starting will think twice or more often before spending $200, especially if the strings are just an afterthought. If they need their song to stand out, the strings --just like any other instrument-- should be part of the original arrangement, not something dubbed over later.

    Your demo song is a case in point. Does the band really like what you've done? If not, you're going to have to discuss with them, try again, etc., running the risk you've done it all for nothing.

    E.g., I found the strings in your demo ok, but not dynamic enough. You could have taken out voices to leave more room for the guitar, changed octaves, move up instead of down, or vice versa, added other articulations (pizzicato and staccato could work well), introduced a dramatic pause, or just withdrawn the strings at the end, but that would have changed the development of the song. So you've worked yourself into a part where your arrangement makes or breaks the song. If it makes it, $200 is well spent, but if not...

    So I would suggest you become part of the song writing or at least of the arrangement before recording and do your thing in dialog with the band.

    But then $200 might mean $10 per hour or less, so it's up to you. You have to make sure it's worth your time: Can it help build your visibility? Can you get some other credits? Can you get more money?

    As far as I understand from other people, making money from music is not an easy living. It takes a long time to get somewhere, and success is not guaranteed.

    Just my 2 cents, but I wish you good luck.

  6. #6

    Re: Making money with orchestra samples

    Over the last "couple" of years I've watched this marketplace undergo some major changes. It has become very difficult to make a decent living at the lower rungs of the ladder.

    In the 1980s, pre-ADAT, I made a nice living supporting local studios. Keep in mind that this represented a huge shift already, prior "standard operating procedure" called for studios to have maintenance staff on the payroll. When that practice disappeared the free-lance maintenance marketplace was created.

    When the ADAT and Mackie 1604 hit the marketplace most studio owners had so little invested in their facilities, and had so little experience, that they were charging $10-$15 per hour for studio time. Needless to say, my $100/hour was not terribly popular. And I was not going to work for $10/hour. Neither, apparently, were other free-lancers. Try to find a local maintenance tech - assuming you have equipment that can be maintained locally. I think you'll be surprised.

    In parallel with that effort I've also tried my hand at running a studio (forget that!) and writing and producing music for advertising, theatre, etc. It's been a mixed bag.

    My current approach, and there were a lot of factors beyond economics that went into this decision, is to offer my services as a producer/engineer. If you want to use my studio as part of that deal that's fine with me, if you want me to work at another studio that's OK too.

    Composing and arranging on these projects is handled somewhat loosely. Basically I just charge the same rate for the time I spend writing and arranging. Most of the time I ask the artist to sit with my while I come up with the basic idea, it's of little use if they hate it. Then I go hide in my cave and fine tune and render it. I'll always cap the hours I charge for that service because, well, sometimes I can be a little obsessive, and if the artist likes the arrangement and I choose to spend a couple hours getting the trumpet falls perfect that's on me.

    By putting all the services under one umbrella my clients feel comfortable that they are getting my best effort and a fair deal. I feel I'm being compensated fairly. It's a win-win.

    FWIW I have given up on the maintenance service. The time I spent in that business paid for the nice test equipment and tools I have to maintain my place, and I can live with that. I do still offer a studio design service, but for the most part folks seem to think that reading a web page or two is all that is required, and so they are less than willing to pay for the service. And I'm probably guilty of exacerbating that situation, I'll often offer advice for free on forums where I've become friends with the many of the folks there.

    These days I offer free advice if someone is going to do something totally brain-dead stupid that is likely to result in their obit - the number of people that still believe the best way to solve hum and noise problems is to bypass the safety ground is large - but I feel like I am undercutting other designers if I do much more than that.

    Good luck with your venture. I think adding that service to your menu will be helpful in the long run. Your biggest challenge will be when to stop doing it for free<G>!

    Bill Thompson
    Audio Enterprise

  7. #7

    Re: Making money with orchestra samples

    This questions are always interesting.

    What I can tell you is this:

    You compose some strings to a layout and get 200, that is ok. When you do the same for a well known "star" you get 2.000. Yes, for the same work.

    I do many radio commercials, and on a local radio station I get 500.- Euro for one. When I do the same spot for a big radio station I get 1.800 or more. ;-)
    "Music is the shorthand of emotion." Leo Tolstoy

    Listen to me, tuning my triangle http://www.box.net/shared/ae822u6r3i

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