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Compensation etiquette for mixing services not-fully rendered

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Compensation etiquette for mixing services not-fully rendered

Postby haemmeron » Sat Jun 15, 2019 5:56 pm

I’ve been working with a mixing engineer who i was going to pay $300 a song. After he made 3 different mixes on 1 song to address the 15-20 different things I noticed that needed fixing with each revision, just before sending the 4th mix, he texted me saying he’s not the right person for the job. He recommended I have a friend of his who was far more experienced do the job instead and compared himself to a Volkswagen mechanic and that I needed a bmw mechanic. He had told me from the beginning it may come to this point, but didn’t communicate what he was expecting in terms of compensation if it did. He said that he still wanted me to pay him $300 for the time he spent on this song. I said that he didn’t deliver me any usable mixes that were up to the standard I expected so I would not pay him the full amount. He told me to pay him whatever was in my heart to give him. Should I pay him something even though I’m not going to be using his mixes and will essentially have to start over with someone else? I was stretching the budget to begin with with this guy and now I have to pay for mixes I won’t use? I do want to be fair to him, but it doesn’t seem like he’s being very fair to me all things considered. Does anyone know the standard etiquette/protocol for a situation like this? How much would you pay the guy, if anything? Thanks.
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Re: Compensation etiquette for mixing services not-fully rendered

Postby James Perrett » Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:48 pm

Speaking as someone who does this sort of thing for a living, I would say that yes, you should pay him as he has spent time that he could have been spending on another paying project. It sounds like he is trying to meet you half way by reducing his price so I think he's trying to be fair to you.

Remember that he has produced mixes that he is presumably happy with so it isn't as if you have nothing to show for the money.
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Re: Compensation etiquette for mixing services not-fully rendered

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sat Jun 15, 2019 9:57 pm

haemmeron wrote:After he made 3 different mixes on 1 song to address the 15-20 different things I noticed that needed fixing with each revision, just before sending the 4th mix, he texted me saying he’s not the right person for the job.
...
He had told me from the beginning it may come to this point

Based on the parts I highlighted above, I'd say he gave it some decent effort and demonstrated integrity when suggesting you find someone else. Speaking as someone who would pay / has paid people to do this kind of work on my behalf, you should pay him.

He spent the time working on it after all. Without hearing exactly what the things you were not happy about in the initial mixes it's impossible to say for sure but sometimes a good mix may be rejected by the client because it's not matching they imagined it to be in their head.

Regardless, if you asked someone to spend time on it and they actually did, then even if the result is not to your liking it's only right to compensate them for that time. It's not even etiquette, it's just common decency.

Consider it a valuable learning experience if nothing else. Next time, based on your experiences with this project you'll have more things to discuss beforehand with whoever does your next mix, which ultimately should lead to a better experience for both you and the engineer.

haemmeron wrote:I do want to be fair to him, but it doesn’t seem like he’s being very fair to me all things considered.

All things considered I think he's been more than fair.
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Re: Compensation etiquette for mixing services not-fully rendered

Postby Terrible.dee » Sun Jun 16, 2019 2:26 am

Based on your post, and my life experience on BOTH sides of the glass (Artist/producer, engineer, mixer, etc) I can tell with 100% certainty that the problem is YOU!

He told you straight up from the beginning what to expect, and refused to fight with you after the inevitable occurred. This guy sounds like a rock-solid PRO to me, I would hire him based on the info in your post, that's the kind of attitude that can get you places.

YOU on the other hand....Songs that are well-written and properly recorded do not require mix after mix after mix, there aren't 15 different changes needed for mix 4.

When this common problem occurs, it is symptomatic of a new attitude in recording where the failure of one phase kicks the problem down to the next.

A properly recorded song NEVER requires...."Can you make the "..." sound BETTER?" revision.

A properly written song never gets the "Can you make everything sound BIGGER and more PRO?" recall,

There are multiple mixes done at higher levels for aesthetic/business/practical reasons only. It's: "Oh! Wouldn't it be cool if we tried "..."?" Or: We need a "Vocal/kick up, cut as many sources to mono" mix for overseas radio, we need a "Guitars up" mix for Rock satellite" We need a "Flatline" mix for visual media licensing ....ect.

The "Make it sound better" revisions DON'T HAPPEN. And you know what goes down, in the once in a blue moon that it DOES happen? (Always the result of an artist with his head up his ass, I know, I was one, and this was done to me and revealed years later)

They do NOTHING and tell the artist "Wow! Yeah! You've revisions really made this thing BUMP" At which point the artist says "See, I told ya so"

If your song isn't up to par in 3-4 hours and with a handful of simple revisions (Can we get a little more BG in the chorus? Turn down the synth pad in the bridge? Turn up the doubled guitars in the last chorus? Stuff that can be done on the spot in 5 minutes) then the error occurred in a phase PRIOR to the one you are currently in....I.E It's not a mixing problem, it's a songwriting problem, lack of skill on the part of the performer problem, arranging
problem, recording problem.

Unless this guy has absolutely ZERO clue what he's doing (And I very much doubt that)
if you want to fix your "Mix issues" you better start by looking in the mirror.

Your songs should be EASY to mix, they should sound good BEFORE you give it to the mixer, if they don't YOU have failed.
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Re: Compensation etiquette for mixing services not-fully rendered

Postby blinddrew » Sun Jun 16, 2019 9:56 am

There's plenty of good advice in this ^^^ post, even if it is given a tad aggressively...
;)
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Re: Compensation etiquette for mixing services not-fully rendered

Postby Arpangel » Sun Jun 16, 2019 10:13 am

A friend spent days mixing an orchestral project. The record company didn't like the final mix. He was under instruction from the manager, and the record company about what was required at all times, and he did what they wanted. They rejected the master saying that technical quallity wasn't up to standard.
My friend isn't a producer/engineer full time, it's not his day job, and his studio is a home studio, albeit very well equipped. He made that entirely clear to all concerned at the time. I was on hand to be a spare pair of ears, and we both couldn't find any technical issues with the recordings at all. But an agreement was made and my friend got paid.
I think your producer, like my friend, was honest from the start. He offered to stand down, and offered to take less money.
It sounds as though you gave him instructions along the way, was this to fix basic faults with the song , or after he'd mixed the song, to correct things he had done?
My advice would be to pay him, shake hands and walk away with no bad feelings, you need all the help and friends you can get, bad feeling always gets around, it's not good.
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Re: Compensation etiquette for mixing services not-fully rendered

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sun Jun 16, 2019 11:30 am

From what you’ve said the mixing engineer has undertaken the work as per your agreement and consequently deserves payment as per your agreement.

That he has struggled to deliver what you consider to be the required mix either indicates issues with the raw material or indicates you have a very different perception of what a good mix is - both of which is not his problem!

It begs the question that if you were aware of the 15 or 20 issues with the raw material why you didn’t address them first?

This discussion also underlines an important concept and lesson to be learnt. If you engage a mixing engineer or producer you have to let go and have faith in what they are doing.

Personally I always mix and master myself - at least then I only have myself to blame if the outcome isn’t good! Similarly I don’t mix and rarely master for other people!

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Re: Compensation etiquette for mixing services not-fully rendered

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Jun 16, 2019 12:25 pm

Bob Bickerton wrote:If you engage a mixing engineer or producer you have to let go and have faith in what they are doing.

THIS! ^

The way I see it, this is the key point. You engage a mix engineer to benefit from their experience and talent. The point about hiring a mix engineer is that you audition examples of their work before you engage them, and you engage them because they have a track record of delivering good work of a similar style to your requirements. That being the case, you have to trust in their abilities and pay them for their hard work.

Now if their mix is way, way off and completely incompetent then there is an obvious problem, but it doesn't sound like that's the case in your situation -- although without examples it's impossible to judge the quality of the finished mixes, and we also have no idea of the quality of the original source material... Is it really a mix you're looking for, or is it a salvage job?

I'd like to assume you're talking about very minor disparities between your vision and their finished mix. If that's true then I think you have to reign yourself in, go with the delivered product, and pay the agreed rate. If you're asking the mix engineer to fix a lot of tracking issues that's a whole different ball game.

Also... I presume this is all being done on a 'friendly' basis rather than on a professional customer/client/contractual basis? That does make things a lot more grey and complicated when it comes to disagreements like yours.

From your post, it sounds like you're micro-managing the mix remotely, but that's just not fair or reasonable. If you want/need complete control then either sit in during the entire mix process, or mix it yourself...

Requesting a few small tweaks here and there to the mix would be perfectly acceptable, but forcing three completely separate (re)mixes and 20-odd revisions? That's taking the proverbial, and I'm not surprised he wants to walk away from the project.

Regardless, it's clear that this mix engineer has put in a heck of a lot of work for you and has been very accommodating to your requests for changes. In fact it sounds like he has been a complete professional throughout.

I get that you don't feel his efforts have delivered exactly what you want, but it doesn't sound that's through lack of effort! Given that he's mixed it three times already, I think he has more than earned the agreed $300 per mix and I would urge you to pay.

But maybe a fair compromise that recognises both his considerable efforts and your understandable disappointment would be to pay him $150. You can then both walk away from it having learned some important lessons!

As for the professional etiquette, I don't mix tracks for people, but I do write articles. On a couple of occasions I have been commissioned to write something that then wasn't published for some external reason (ie. not because my article was rubbish, but for some political reason etc!). On those occasions I have always managed to get a 'kill fee' which was lower than the agreed publication fee, but still a reasonable reflection of my efforts undertaken in good faith .

H
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Re: Compensation etiquette for mixing services not-fully rendered

Postby Jack Ruston » Sun Jun 16, 2019 1:31 pm

Yeah, so it's tricky to form a conclusive opinion on this...

On the one hand, you're not happy, and that's an issue.

On the other, you've chosen him to do this job, despite his concerns about what he was going to be able to do.

It seems likely that...

1. He's not an experienced mixer, and perhaps you've gone in that direction hoping to get the work done for less outlay. That does come with the risk that the standard might not be as high as if you paid more. A risk, not a certainty.

2. You might not be being entirely realistic about what is possible with the source material you have. If he's not the greatest mixer, and the sources need a lot of help, you can wind up with a result that doesn't work. Any combination of these two factors can be a problem.

When I take on work for a client, I want to get my hands on the files, and have a very involved conversation about exactly what the client wants, expects, what their references are, and what it is about those refs that they like. I'm then going to decide if it's possible to make that client happy with what they've given me. At that point, I will either go ahead, pull out, or advise the client that there's a problem that's going to affect what can be achieved.

I think I'd go with Hugh's advice and give him half the money. It's right to give him something.

As you move forward with this, and engage someone else on the job, consider how to avoid this next time round..,Choose someone who's delivering the sort of result you want, and ask them to confirm, once they've looked at the multi's, whether that result can be achieved with what you're providing.

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Re: Compensation etiquette for mixing services not-fully rendered

Postby ManFromGlass » Thu Jun 20, 2019 2:20 pm

All the above plus -
He gave you his best.
You had an agreement.
There was no "kill fee" agreement.

Pay him full price and say thank you and mean it.

Lessons are learned for the next time.

(Hugh and other writers - kill fee? That’s a horrible and disrespectful practice)
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Re: Compensation etiquette for mixing services not-fully rendered

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Jun 20, 2019 2:47 pm

ManFromGlass wrote:Hugh and other writers - kill fee? That’s a horrible and disrespectful practice

Yes, it is... but much better than nothing... Needless to say, I never accepted another commission from that company either.

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Re: Compensation etiquette for mixing services not-fully rendered

Postby Pete Kaine » Thu Jun 20, 2019 4:40 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
ManFromGlass wrote:Hugh and other writers - kill fee? That’s a horrible and disrespectful practice

Yes, it is... but much better than nothing... Needless to say, I never accepted another commission from that company either.

Also worth noting that his guy recommended another engineer to finish the job. If OP likes the new engineers work and wishes for him to work on the project, then splitting hairs regarding payment to the first engineer is hardly going to be conducive to employing the second chap.

Also, as Hugh points out he wouldn't have taken further work from the client he was at odds with and that's worth noting. Remember, everyone knows everyone in this industry, stick to your word and it may just pay off further down the road anyway. Probably best off chalking this up to experience and use it to learn what to look for in an engineer next time.
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Re: Compensation etiquette for mixing services not-fully rendered

Postby CS70 » Fri Jun 21, 2019 11:37 am

haemmeron wrote:I’ve been working with a mixing engineer who i was going to pay $300 a song. After he made 3 different mixes on 1 song to address the 15-20 different things I noticed that needed fixing with each revision

+1 to the answers above. Unless the three mixes were put togther by randomly raising faders (and it doesn't seem the case from what you say) he's done the job you asked to, so you should definitely pay. With 3 mixes to go, the service is definitely fully rendered even if you don't like them. You could ask the mixing project as a way to get something more than only the bounced stereo mixes.
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