How much does a professional music producer cost?
November 6, 2008 10:24 PM   Subscribe

What's the price range for a professional music producer for a rock band? We're looking at working with one producer but want to be sure we're getting a good deal. Are there any questions/features we should be asking the producer about to make sure we're getting a good deal? Right now he's telling us it's about $1500-$2000 per song, is that the going rate?

We're a band based in Seattle and looking at working with a local producer through a friend of ours.

We're going to ask him about any additional costs like mastering, but since we've never worked with a producer before we want to make sure to ask him the right questions and cover our bases.

Any experiences/advice is welcome. Thanks!
posted by dcruzin to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What exactly is your producer doing for $1500 a song?

A "producer" title can span a lot of things. Does this include any studio fees? Studio engineer? Mixing? Mastering?

Most first time bands don't necessarily need a "producer" they need a decent sound engineer to capture the sound the band is going for - self produced.

A good producer should essentially bring another band member/arranger into the mix. Someone with the insight necessary to make the band's music more accessible to a larger audience. Their influence can be heavy or light. Someone with a solid songwriting and arranging background can be invaluable in enhancing the sound. Someone who just says yes to every demand from the band can lead to a muddy amalgamation of ideas. A good sound engineer (which is what most guys working on a demo are) will make sure that the music captured is as close as possible to the original intent - but not really influence the music itself.

Most really good producers are looking out for the band's interest - not just making money.

Damn - I'm not really answering your question, just venting, but it makes a difference. A really good producer can be invaluable in the success of a band. A good sound engineer can just be polishing a turd.
posted by bitdamaged at 10:49 PM on November 6, 2008

Hmmm... If you have money burning a hole in your pockets... Nah, not even then. Get a good sound engineer and self-produce. Are you on a label? Why aren't they covering this guy's costs? If you're not on a label, skip it.
posted by Echidna882003 at 11:17 PM on November 6, 2008

Go to local venues and see what artists with decent recorded material and modest budgets did.

You will be surprised at what you can find.

Short answer: Don't use a producer until you are well enough established on your own that you are confident in your situation.
posted by bradly at 11:29 PM on November 6, 2008

Response by poster: Okay, for some background, we have already self-produced 2 albums (1 full length, 1 EP). If you want to get a sense of the quality, you can listen to us at:

Since we've tried the self-production route, we want to take it to the next level. We are waiting to meet with our potential producer again so we can ask questions like if it includes studio time, engineers, etc. So let us know what other good questions we should ask!

The producer does have a solid background in songwriting and arranging and that's what we hope to benefit from. He is on a label himself and we've heard some bands he's previously produced, and were impressed.

Basically, we want to go with him, but just want to make sure that we're getting a fair deal and get a sense of what the market value for a producer is.

Thanks again!
posted by dcruzin at 11:34 PM on November 6, 2008

I'd say it depends on how big he is. A good friend of mine owns a high-end studio in Europe and regularly works with one producer that's on Sony. He charges 10k euros for an album- but this guy has produced albums for some pretty big names like Bjork and several other eyebrow-raisers that I'm sorry to say I can't remember at the moment.

Point being that he's in the high-end price range. If this local guy hasn't done anything on that level then I'd say he's expensive. Listen to before-and-after of the bands he's produced, if possible, that's where you should hear the real difference.

Congrats on deciding to make a professional album. Most musicians never figure out that they need to do that if they want to take it to the next level, or at least that's what my recording industry/musician friends say all the time.
posted by sero_venientibus_ossa at 12:47 AM on November 7, 2008

What bitdamaged said.

If you can, try to get in contact with the bands he has previously produced. It may sound good to you, but the important thing is to find out if that is what the other bands had in mind when they went in to the studio with the producer. Find out what it was like to work with him. If you can strike up a friendly correspondence, ask what they paid and whether he was reasonable when it came to what constituted a song and when it was done.

His pay scale seems reasonable if he is good. Like bitdamaged said, he needs to an understanding of song-writing and arranging. It is a relief to work with a good producer who gets it. And if everything is straight on money side of things, you have to worry about the clock and the money being spent. You can just relax and be creative.

See if his price includes studio time and materials such as tape, hard drives, backup. If you need to rent outboard equipment from somewhere, it will probably cost extra. Will it be just you in the studio or will he have other clients there when you aren't. Will he block the studio out? This is important if you want to get a consistent sound or feel for the record or need to work on a particular passage over the course of 2 or more days. If there are other clients there and he needs to move mics and amps around, it will change the sound you recorded from one day to the next. Maybe only slightly but it takes time to set it all back up.
posted by chillmost at 1:02 AM on November 7, 2008

Ahem, don't have to worry.....
posted by chillmost at 1:07 AM on November 7, 2008

Be honest with yourselves. 10 song album = $15-$20,000 in producer fees. Are you anywhere close to selling that many CDs/Downloads to recoup your costs? You have to ask yourselves that question.

I agree with bitdamaged and chillmost that you need to figure out exactly what this fee includes, and also if the producer retains any rights in your music afterwards. Get a contract from him, and read it carefully.

We don't live in an album world any more. Let Mr. Producer Man hear your entire repertoire. Pick your best song together, record that. Learn as much as you can in the process.

Find a video director of similar stature, make video. Next, spend additional $ on a marketing firm to push that video onto the pages of influential musicblogs.

And then cross your fingers! Good luck to you.
posted by omnidrew at 6:25 AM on November 7, 2008

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