Rate chart

A couple of weeks ago I was cruising the forum, and ran across a discussion about how much to charge.  Someone had given a link to a great rate chart for television & film composing, but now I can't find it.  Does anyone know of such a chart anywhere?

 

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  • The 'worst case scenario' in me has a tendency to agree with you Chris. Of course there will always be exceptions, just not as many as there used to be. Like TV I guess.

    Lisa- I don't mean to get too personal so feel free to ignore this question, but is your composer friend against the potential composer union as well?
  • I saw a similar discussion to this on FB recently (mostly among Game composers). But it seems the issue of a union creating a minimum bar is really directed towards a lot of people who probably aren't even here in this discussion, and that is the amateur/hobbyist community.

    I've had a very frustrating conversation with several music hobbyists who see no reason to charge a minimum price, or even charge at all. They're happy just to get *exposure*. And what they don't get is that by agreeing to work for so little, it devalues all of us who aren't the so-called Power Elites. (And I say that because it's been my experience that PE's don't need to worry, because companies will gladly pay whatever amount just to get that big name on their product. Our team recently lost a gig because they decided after we'd submitted our demo that they'd rather just hire the film composer who they were using as a style template in the creative directive.) But back to my point, I come from a community that contains a vast number of hobbyist musicians, and many of them are tickled pink just to get their name out there at all, so they'll happily work for peanuts or nothing, and as I'm sure most of us here would agree that while that may affect some of us less than others, it's still just not really very good for any of us.

    I've always used the analogy that let's say that for whatever reason, I found some unlikely job like database management or software coding outrageously fun to the point that I did it in my spare time, and so I went and found a company that had employees that did such and I told the boss "Hey, I'm just happy to do this stuff, I'll gladly do it for free!" that it would negatively impact the workers in that industry. Naturally, that's pretty unrealistic; it just doesn't happen. There's not going to be someone who knows how to perform surgery who offers to work for a hospital for free because they just like to do it and want recognition, thus putting actual surgeon's out of work. (I know there's all kinds of legal etc reasons why that would never happen, but just stick to my principle, ok?) ;-) But yet it happens every day in the music industry.

    So the problem with wanting a standard minimum industry wage is that it applies to two different groups, really. As Lisa said, the folks who are professional and business-savvy probably aren't going to be willing to work for silly or insulting wages or terms. Therefore, setting a minimum could potentially tempt their clients to pay them less than they might negotiate on their own. On the other hand, we have all these folks (some are naive, some simply don't care, some just want another item for their credit list, and some might just be desperate for ANYTHING) who are willing to undercut their fellow composers intentionally or accidentally, and then the potential hazard is clients finding out that they can get the music for their project for practically nothing.

    I'm not offering any kind of solution, I honestly have no idea what should be done at this point. I think we all realize that the industry has changed drastically in the past years/decade(s), and I think those of us who it's affected the most negatively are simply concerned about the future, and that's definitely a fair perspective to take. Likewise, it's also reasonable to be concerned about the present, and if somebody is making a reasonable living now, then why bother worrying about the state of the future industry? Maybe in 5, 10, or X years software will be so easy and"click-a-button-and-out-comes-a-soundtrack-y" that virtually none of us will have work, and THAT'S what we should all be worrying about; who knows?

    In the meanwhile, I enjoy reading these discussions, because there are good points to ponder on both sides. I wish I had some good actual insight to offer :P I will say that I think there *is* actually some sort of happy medium to be found somewhere in all this, I'm just not positive what it is yet. :) I do think looking to the future is a great thing though, because many of the most successful people in the history of mankind have been insightful folks who have done just that. Worrying about problems before they're unavoidably upon us will always make things easier than waiting until we have no other choice than to deal with them, and I think that's kind of what Chris is going for.

    Oh, and BTW, 98% of all the professional work I've done has been in FL "Fruity Loops" Studio ;) Don't be hatin' yo! lol
  • Wow I just wrote a short story... my bad :)
  • You make some great points Lisa about rate negotiations in regards to an unionized environment. I'm not sure what a union would do for composers at my level- maybe nothing at all. I guess I'm just trying to look at the business in general instead of on a one on one basis. I'm still stunned that we are the only creative entity in film that do not have union representation. I can't help but think if we had a union, maybe even "work made for hire" agreements would be against union rules in the first place, and perhaps never would've become lawful to begin with. Then again, maybe a union would encourage lower pay for those who are already established thus driving free commerce down even at the top. I guess it's hard to tell.

    Anyway I love all the comments on this!
  • I live in Dallas. Texas is a right-to-work state. This means that no worker is required to be in a union of any kind and no one is required to hire union workers. For the most part, unions are viewed as sort of "anti-individual" here. The only true union workers here are at large nation wide companies like GM or UPS. I don't know how related it is, but the economy in Texas has been one of the best in the country throughout the recession.


  • Lisa Smolen said:

    But you make a great point - the people who are complaining about not having a union are those hobbyists who aren't trained and probably aren't working anyway!

    Yes, but actually I was also saying that folks like Chris who are arguing FOR a union ARE pretty savvy/experienced in the industry and have seen their pay diminish due to the fact that many clients are finding ways to devalue a composer's work. And I was pointing to one possibility being that there are many amateurs/hobbyists/etc who are undercutting everyone else. This is a reality. Again, I'm rooted in the VGM scene, not the film scene and it's probably greater where I sit, because these days there's all kinds of games coming out made by smaller studios due to things like XBLIG, iPhone/Droid, digital distribution services like Steam, etc. And so devs will pull the "Oh, but we don't really have any more money in our budget, but hey, it's great exposure!" card, and the amateurs either don't realize or don't care that they SHOULD be getting paid a certain ballpark amount. Then, when I demo for a gig and say "Yeah, you're looking at $X per minute of music or $Y for the whole project, they say "Oof, well, we can get music for far less than that." And thus that brings us to here.

    So it's not entirely ridiculous for some people to shout for union terms that set things like minimum wages, because wouldn't the idea be to stop those devs from saying "Eh, this guy is too expensive, let's get somebody who's ok with $50/minute and/or the exposure our product will give him/her".

    On the other hand, if I charge $1k/minute and the union contract says the minimum is for $500/minute and the devs get word of this, right, what's to stop them from telling me I'm charging twice as much as they're willing to pay?

    So my thought was that somewhere between the folks who are undercutting the bejeeberz out of everyone and the folks who are consistently managing to make $3k/minute and don't particularly care about anyone not where they are, there is probably a happy medium somewhere and we just haven't quite figured out what it is yet.

    Hope that clarifies what I meant :)

    Also, I think I'll just leave this here... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj5IV23g-fE (substitute "writer" with "Composer") ;) Particularly the part about the amateurs. Also, slightly NSFW due to some language. Take it with a small grain of salt, because Harlan Ellison is a bit of a character, and a lot of people don't like him because he tends to be a bit... abrasive, but he makes excellent points in spite of that.

    Rate chart
    A couple of weeks ago I was cruising the forum, and ran across a discussion about how much to charge.  Someone had given a link to a great rate chart…

  • Lisa Smolen said:
    Personally, I think a minimum scale for composers would encourage less competition & quality.

    Perhaps you already said so, but in what way?

  • Les I lived in Dallas too, and to say that Texas has a strong economy because it's a right to work state might be stretching it a little. I believe that half of the states in this country are right to work states, and in Texas it's not just the major corporations that are union based. In DFW alone, a number of local orchestras are union including the big two: the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. When management of these orchestras (or a fairly large client of the orchestra) proposes cuts in pay, benefits, or anything else on the players- the union gives them a collective stand to voice their opinion and negotiate back on. I know what you mean in regards to the union when talking about playing shows at bars/clubs- most of the bands I've played with didn't know we had a union in the area, but in my experience it is a pretty important topic of discussion when hiring orchestral musicians (as it should be).

    I remember a couple of years ago when the Texas Ballet stopped hiring musicians for their Nutcracker Suite performances and instead spent 30k on obtaining a buy out recording from another country's orchestra. Did you hear about all that? The only reason it even made the news was because the union was aggressive in sending out press releases and staging protests at the performances. It eventually prompted the ballet company to release a statement, and of course the union countered it. However, it didn't really change anything in the end (as of yet), but in other similar situations I guess it might have. There are some great articles on the dallas morning news, star-telegram, and of course the newsletters at the DFW musician union site if you are interested.
  • I hadn't even thought about the DSO or FWSO being union. Makes sense, though. I wasn't really saying that right-to-work has saved the Texas economy. But it could be a contributing factor along with a general free market attitude, no income tax, and we don't feel the need to punish successful businesses or industries.



    Douglas Edward said:
    Les I lived in Dallas too, and to say that Texas has a strong economy because it's a right to work state might be stretching it a little. I believe that half of the states in this country are right to work states, and in Texas it's not just the major corporations that are union based. In DFW alone, a number of local orchestras are union including the big two: the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. When management of these orchestras (or a fairly large client of the orchestra) proposes cuts in pay, benefits, or anything else on the players- the union gives them a collective stand to voice their opinion and negotiate back on. I know what you mean in regards to the union when talking about playing shows at bars/clubs- most of the bands I've played with didn't know we had a union in the area, but in my experience it is a pretty important topic of discussion when hiring orchestral musicians (as it should be).

    I remember a couple of years ago when the Texas Ballet stopped hiring musicians for their Nutcracker Suite performances and instead spent 30k on obtaining a buy out recording from another country's orchestra. Did you hear about all that? The only reason it even made the news was because the union was aggressive in sending out press releases and staging protests at the performances. It eventually prompted the ballet company to release a statement, and of course the union countered it. However, it didn't really change anything in the end (as of yet), but in other similar situations I guess it might have. There are some great articles on the dallas morning news, star-telegram, and of course the newsletters at the DFW musician union site if you are interested.
    Rate chart
    A couple of weeks ago I was cruising the forum, and ran across a discussion about how much to charge.  Someone had given a link to a great rate chart…
  • Hey, Chris. You said something that kind of baffles me a bit.

    "Why should only the engineers, the carpenters, the actors, the plumbers, the truck drivers, the grips, the gaffers, the stage hands, the stunt people, the DIRECTORS, why should they all, every single one of them, have a union to protect the weak without hampering the strong while composers get a TIP JAR? lol ;-)"

    I hate to go Darwinian on you, but why do the weak composers need to be protected? Shouldn't they either improve or move on to another career? Are you interested in hiring a plumber who's only able to keep his job because the union makes sure that he doesn't get fired?
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