What are your rates and how do you determine them?    

My rates are extremely flexible, negotiable, and determined by several factors.

Number 1, how soon do you need the score completed?

I know that many of you have been working hard for quite a while to get your film completed and that the musical component of the film is very important to you. Many of you probably have a festival deadline that you have been aiming for and you would very much like to make this happen. In many cases you are looking down the road, after the music has been completed, and realizing that you will still have close to a week or two left of post production to do before you can fully submit a finished product. I am sure that you would be ecstatic to have music written for your film within a month so that you can continue the process and submit your film on time.

So, the fist thing that I consider is the time frame in which I have to work. In most cases, I can turn around a short film in 4 to 7 days' time. If a week is all you can give me, then it is absolutely feasible; however, in order to do so, I will most likely have to dedicate the vast majority of that week to just working on your film. For me to do that, I would have to turn down many other projects and sources of income for that week. In order for me to do that comfortably, the ballpark figure that I can do that for is around the $600 range. I can typically turn around a feature length film in two to three weeks time and am willing to do that for the near ballpark range of $1200.

That may or may not seem like a lot to you, depending on your experience as a film-maker. There are a lot of people in the industry, who do work for free, especially in independent film. However, scoring music for film is a process that is more in line with the type of workload that a sound designer and editor have to endure. When considering the cost of living, I think that you will see that my rates actually amount to peanuts. Bear in mind, that in order to turn around a short film in a week or less, or a feature film in three weeks or less, I will divert all other work and sources of income while working on your project to insure that I am able to write the best music possible for you within the given time frame. You may have a scene that is only a minute long, but depending on what kind of music you are looking for, and how involved that scene is, it could take an entire day or the better part of a day to write, record, and produce.

Now, as I have said, I am pretty flexible and negotiable, and a lot has to do with what kind of music that your film requires and just how much of it.

Number 2, what kind of music does your film require and how many minutes of music do you need?

In my experience, the vast majority of films, whether short films or feature length, require music during 40 to 70 per cent of the film, at least. This could end up being, roughly, 10 minutes worth in a short film or an hour's worth in a feature length, at least (don't forget about those 2 to 3 minutes worth of music that you need for the end credits). The specific kind of music becomes very important when factoring in just how much time it is going to take to write and record it. For an orchestral or orchestral sounding score, you are dealing with a minimum of at least 9 to 10 instruments, or sounds, in order to achieve it. Each one of these instruments has to be written and recorded separately (that is, unless you have a budget that allows for hiring a full, live orchestra and hall to record it in. Then, of course, you can cut down on the actual recording time, but the hall and orchestra are going to be astronomically expensive.) For even a scene that lasts 3 minutes, in optimal conditions, it would take at least 30 minutes to record all of the parts. This doesn't include the time it takes to try different ideas to match your scene perfectly before deciding on the right direction to go and setting about recording the piece. If you are reading this, I am assuming that you are a film-maker and creative person yourself. Therefore, you know that the process involves much more that just pressing the record button. I'm sure you've spent a lot of time visualizing your film way before the cameras began rolling. It is not so different from the process a film composer will go through in order to completely conceptualize the music which will best be suited for your film.

More electronic music and/or music that provides more mood-setting sound-scapes, as opposed to keying into specific on-screen action, are much quicker to complete. Obviously, the fewer instruments involved can significantly reduce time. The other factor in this is whether you would prefer to have live instruments or if you can settle for midi or electronically generated sounds that are programmed to sound like live instruments. There is no substitution for live instruments, but many midi sounds, if used properly, can be done in such a way as to be aesthetically pleasing and not seem overtly artificial. Many films and television shows today, in fact, employ more midi instruments that replicate real instruments than live instruments. However, some types of music call for live instruments to be used as opposed to midi instruments. In my opinion, one of the only midi instruments that can be completely passed off as a live instrument is the piano. Fortunately, I am a woodwind specialist, so in many cases I am able to perform flutes, clarinets, and saxophones live with ease on any given recording. The price comes up, if you require live strings (violins, violas, cellos. $200 per instrumentalist). However, as I have said, if used the right way, many of the midi instruments can be more than adequate for producing the music that you need.

Number 3, is this a work made for hire or am I able to keep the rights to the music?

A work made for hire agreement stipulates that you are paying me a one time fee for the music and you own it. It means that I cannot, under any circumstances, see any royalties from this music should your film become a commercial success. It also, means that I can never use this music for anything else. Simply put, I write it, but it belongs to you. If this is the case, I usually add an additional $100 to my price.

However, if I can keep the rights to my music, I can be much more flexible with that additional $100 and the total price. In this case, we will sign a composer agreement that stipulates that I am giving you permission to use this music for your film (and that agreement is not limited. I am giving you permission to use it in your film forever). The agreement, should you choose, can also stipulate that I cannot use the music in any way that may compromise the integrity of your film. It also safeguards you in the rare instance that someone else should decide that the music infringes on another copyright. Since it is my music, should someone bring a case of copyright infringement, it falls back onto me. However, this has never happened to me and I don't foresee it ever happening. As a matter of principle, as a composer, I would never rip off another composition.

And lastly...

Number 4, is your film any good?

I know that sounds crass and condescending, but if you ever meet me in person, you'll find that I am quite a nice individual. I would never trash your film to you or anyone else if I didn't like it. Just to be honest, working in film is not only a major part of my career and occupation, but it is also a passion. I want to be a major component to you producing a terrific piece of work. So, I do factor in the quality of your film. I consider the potential for how much exposure I could get by working on your film. Will it do well at festival? Does it have commercial appeal? Is it a film that I find inspiring and exciting to work on? That last bit is probably the most important to me. It is not out of the realm of possibility that I may bend a little more for a film that just flat out is going to inspire me to write some of my best music to date. At this point, I have been luckier that many film-composers to have worked on films that simply brought out the best in me as a composer. At the end of the day, that is what I am, a composer. I live and breathe to write music and always strive to do something better than what I've done before.

The above are all of the aspects of the project that I take into consideration before settling in on a final rate and begin working. I hope that it has been helpful to you. I look forward to speaking with you and working with you soon. s


P.S.- I've collaborated with many first-time film-makers. While in your search for a composer, you are likely to come across many who will go on tirades about how much they hate it when film-makers don't budget for music and expect it to be free. While I am in agreement with those composers, I will spare you the third degree. I understand your budgetary issues. Let's talk. Perhaps we can work something out that is mutually beneficial.