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Help with Session Rates


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#1
Drum Play

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Ok, I'm a nobody drummer looking to get into doing session work. What's an ideal and realistic hourly rate? I don't want to ask too much , but I also don't want to sell myself too cheap.


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#2
jaymandude

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Ok, I'll bite and offer up some thoughts and ideas...

 

I'm a nobody drummer as well, who has a a few decent gigs and can play with a click. ( that took a while to figure out :icon_smile:

 

From what I can tell, practically everywhere I went in the USA over the part 10 years, 100 bucks a tune was kind of standard for unsigned sessions for an artist paying out of his or her pocket. If they had a "record deal"

  ( HA!!!)  or a financier maybe it paid more, but in that case they often went with bigger name guys.   That was kind of the starting point.  If it took you one hour or three for the one song, you still got 100. 

 

Then it got the the point where I ( or guys like me) said we wanted a day rate, say an 8 hour block.  If the artist works on one or 2 songs, spending 4 hours tweaking, trying different arrangements, different drumss maybe, or gets 6 songs by moving quickly and having their s*** together, I get the same money.  This is a more acceptable approach for a free lance full time musician, but let me say you should be able to get the job done.  Have some ideas, be flexable, be able to punch in and out.   Be able to tune on the fly to get a good sound.   Be consistent.  You are approaching profession money and situations and people will expect that, and will talk to other folks about whether you were " worth it"

 

I personally do the day rate,  a bass player I play with a lot does the hourly thing, and adjusts that to people's budgets.  We did something 2 weeks ago and it just about came out the same, maybe I got a little more for staying an hour or so to do shaker and tamborine.

 

So here's the other thing.   You have to find out how much money someone has, but to do that you need to know your own rate.  The art of negotiation :icon_smile:    I have adjusted downward.  for example, and this is just me being honest and candid, I drove 2 hours on Monday to play 5 tunes for $400.  I wanted more money, that not even 100 per song.  not including gas and travel time.   But that's what they could afford.  I either take the gig or not.   And since I play full time I took the gig. I like the guys, it's always challenging and fun.  So there's a clear example.

 

Anyway, enough about me.   Hope this helps..

 

Oh, and I've also done sessions for free.  That happens too


Edited by jaymandude, 06 September 2017 - 09:24 AM.

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#3
Drum Play

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Yes that helps a lot. I was thinking around $80.00 - $100.00 per song, less if I nailed it in one or two takes.


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#4
dcrigger

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Yes that helps a lot. I was thinking around $80.00 - $100.00 per song, less if I nailed it in one or two takes.

 

I think you might want to re-think that last bit - "less if I nailed in one or two takes.

Traditionally - session recording fees were per hour situation - union scales are still written that way. There's a presumption that professional being hired is competent to do the job and the artist/producer needs to be free to manage their budget as they see fit. If for instance, they're doing a 4 song EP with a budget for 3 hours in which to get it done - it is up to them to make that happen.  Keep things moving - let things go - be prepared - whatever it takes. Because on the other hand, artists that can afford to go all Brian Wilson/Phil Spector/Donald Fagen with their project should be supported in doing so. 

By the hour, basically never puts the musicians in the difficult place of having to occasionally point "Hey Brian Wilson Jr., $100 per song doesn't buy you two days of my time to record 4 songs." while also smoothing over any "OMG, how many takes is it going take before he's happy?" (Answer - as many as it takes. Which is fine, because we're making more and more money with each passing hour.

Then there's the world of more "independent" productions - which often comes with tighter budgets and often less experienced producers, often times not hiring A list players - where we find the "flat rate" or "per song rate" being more than norm. At face value it would seem like it's about making the players more responsible from a time=money stand point for their own competency.  And it does, which is fine. But session recording is not usually a solitary endeavor - it's kinda a team sport.  So with this arrangement, a drummer's time/money ratio ends being determined by their performance, their fellow player's performances, the engineer's speed and competency and the producer's ability/inability to explain their desires, recognize acceptable outcomes, and have reasonable expectations.

Compared to a per hour situation, with a per song arrangement the player is taking on a lot more risk.

And with risk should come the potential for reward.

In the situation you've outlined - getting things recorded to everyone's satisfaction in one or two takes should indeed earn you your reward - the full amount for less time spent.

Just as if things took a few hours longer than expected, you would obligated to take the agreed upon money with a smile.

In other words, if you're going to risk absorbing the downside - you should also expect benefit from you exceeding expectations.

All that said - great advice in jaymandude's post above.  IMO There's no set rules. Starting out and even along the way, building relationships can be much more important than collecting money.  You can sort that out along the way - but you have to be getting calls in order to do it. So I'm often asking folks for their budget story. Sure if they call with good money per hour or flat rate project... then there's little need for such questions. But I always try and avoid just saying no - and try and discuss just maybe, how we can make something work. 

But if we agree to cut 4 tunes in 3 hours for $300 - and we're done in 1 3/4 hours - yeah, I'll still expect my $300 bucks. Because I just saved them studio time and their time - but mainly I'm the one that took that risk. They could've agreed to $100 per hour - and they could've saved $100. But they were afraid of the risk of things going over. So I took that risk instead... my risk/my reward.

Anyway - best of luck - there's never one right answer to this....

 


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#5
OZjazzer

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OMG. Back in the day (60's & 70's) when gigs were everywhere, jingle and pop sessions were paying the same kinds of money you guys are talking about NOW. Try getting a plumber or electrician to work for what they were being paid back then and they'd laugh. When you take into account the skill levels needed to play session drums and factor in the transport and set-up/break-down time it's pathetic.

I wish the colleges were more open about the chances of earning a decent living playing music instead teaching kids how to solo on Giant Steps in half a dozen different keys at 300BPM.
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#6
Trey Gray

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Hello, I'd like to chime in...I think the "demo" union rate per 3 hour session is $195...remember that could be 1 song or even 7 songs, which I've done for that, and those "demos" sound like records...

 

"Master" scale is basically double that and usually less songs are recorded during that time, like one or 2....

 

I charge between $25-$100 per song depending on budgets...I pay between $50 and $100 depending on the player, when I'm producing a record...

 

Hope this helps, cheers and blessings Trey


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#7
jaymandude

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Hello, I'd like to chime in...I think the "demo" union rate per 3 hour session is $195...remember that could be 1 song or even 7 songs, which I've done for that, and those "demos" sound like records...

 

"Master" scale is basically double that and usually less songs are recorded during that time, like one or 2....

 

I charge between $25-$100 per song depending on budgets...I pay between $50 and $100 depending on the player, when I'm producing a record...

 

Hope this helps, cheers and blessings Trey

7 songs in three hours ?  How does that go down ?  Your home studio ? Everything is set up ?   Or if it's live with others maybe there's no listening to playback ? No punches on that day from anyone ?  "Maybe" a second take and move on ?


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#8
Trey Gray

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The "7 songs in three hours" are "demo" sessions...songwriters or publishers wanting a full band demo...master means making the record, which a lot of the time just means replicating the demo...these are pro studios generally and most times very dialed in, sometimes they even have house drumkits...my dear old friend, Tommy Wells, was the king of these...nailing the first or second take every time.

 

It's actually pretty incredible to watch because the bassist, guitarist, keyboardist etc. will actually know where they made a mistake and tell the engineer things like, I hit a bad note verse 2, 3rd bar in, punch me in and out...it's pretty flawless.

 

I'm sure DC can chime in and tell you how incredible some of those musicians are...cheers and blessings Trey


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#9
DrumWhipper

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I am an average guy who plays with a few cover bands and one band that plays nothing but originals. I'm not a union drummer, frankly because no one cares if you are a union musician or not where I live, and I get between $25-$75 per song when I do studio work. I always sit down with the artist and pick their brain a bit to find out what they are looking for from the drums on each song, then I go do my best to lay it on down from there.


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#10
speady1

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$100 per song up here in KY.  That's the going rate.  I usually set up and tear down for free if it's at least 4 songs.  If it's a single or double, I charge $50 for the set up and tear down, plus the $100 per track.  All the guys up here do that.


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