how to charge for music composing

How much should I charge for composing music?

No matter what composition or production job it is for, a short film, feature film, for an artist or a band. It’s usually the toughest question. What if you charged too much or too little? What will the client say when they open up your estimate to see a crazy figure?

Now if you’re like most composers, you compose/produce music for a living. It is your job and you will have to somehow put food on the table at the end of the day. That is why you have to seriously decide on a price and rate that you can live with.

Don’t Do It For Free

You may doubt yourself if you’re new in the industry. Everyone feels the fear to charge money for their composition or production service especially when they are just starting up. What if I’m not good enough and my skills aren’t polished enough?

Truth is, nobody is ever ‘good enough’ and life is an on-going learning process. So as inexperienced as you are you should at least charge something. The danger of doing things for free is that clients would begin to perceive your work as ‘cheap’ or below standards. Surely the other composer who charged $500 more must be better? After all you’re not even charging for your services, how serious can you be in your work?

Perception is a dangerous thing and the last thing you want is your client to perceive your work as ‘cheap’, ‘under-value’ or ‘free’. Worse yet, they may come back for you again and expect you to compose music for free, simply because they know you’ll do it for free! So charge something.. please!

Okay, so how much should I charge?

Now that I pulled you off the danger zone of producing music for free, let’s talk about some ways you can start charging.

Charging by the percentage – This is what some composers do. Typically if you’re composing music for a film, you can ask for the film’s budget and then charge a percentage of the film. Again, there are no fixed percentage that composers charge but it may go from 5% to 15% of the film’s budget.

Going by the minute – This method usually works quite well too. You basically charge per minute of finished music composition. Rates usually run from $50 to $1000 per minute of finished music. Of course there are rumors that Hollywood composers like Hans Zimmer are able to charge over $50,000 per minute of finished audio. Again, that’s a rumor. I do not know how much the Hollywood composer charges, but yes you can figure a per minute rate and start charging clients based on that.

Charging on your net worth – This is my favorite way to price my services. How much do you value yourself? How much are you worth? If you’re happy working for $10 per hour, then that’s your rate. You have to calculate your running cost into this hourly rate though. Your running cost includes your equipment, electricity and supplies that you need to operate.

Don’t tell your client that you’ll start to charge hourly though! Some composers do that but I think it’s like shooting yourself in the leg. Clients will start to try to cut down your working hours or doubt when you take longer to finish. Instead, estimate how long you’ll take to finish the composition or production. If you estimate you’ll take 10 hours to complete and you’re happy to charge at $30 per hour, then you should invoice your client for $300.

More Tips

Use an invoicing software like Freshbooks! Admit it. Music composers and producers like us aren’t exactly people who likes to do accounting. Using an invoicing software helps you save time and at the same time, you’ll know how much you’re making per month. Also, if you have a repeat customer, you can always quickly refer back to how much you have charged him or her.

Ask for your client’s budget. By asking your client’s budget for your music composition, you’ll find out how much he or she is willing to pay. When a client tells you a budget, it is usually lower that what they can actually afford. From there, you can always price a little higher or at the budget the client has set.

Only do FREE if you get something in exchange. Sometimes it’s okay to compose music for free if your client is arranging a shared profit of the music or perhaps you want to cross promote your services. Don’t overdo it though. You may just end up spoiling your clients.

Let the Audio Mentor community know in the comments below. What do you charge and how do you price yourself? We just started a forum thread too, so head over to the forums and share your ideas! 

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