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