Whether you're an upcoming singer or a seasoned band that writes its own music, getting your tracks mixed and mastered by a quality engineer is vital to getting a professional-sounding, radio-worthy product. However, being aware of how much mixing and mastering costs and how they vary can help you make an informed decision. To simplify the process, we got one of our professional engineers to dive into this topic, outlining all the factors to keep in mind while paying for your services. Scroll on to learn more!
How Much Does Mixing and Mastering Cost? (Answer)
Prices depend on the engineer's experience and the studio's quality. Professional mixing and mastering services usually cost between $150 and $800 per track. However, the engineer’s, or studio's accolades, may push prices into the $1000 range. You should be paying between $150 and $250 for a professional mix and master.
With that being said, we're dealing with the service industry, and you get what you pay for (mostly). While you might find engineers offering mixing and mastering services for less than $120, it is advisable to listen to their previous work before committing.
As a ballpark figure, you can expect to get a radio-ready mixed and mastered track done for around $200.
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Find The Best Value for Money Advanced Mastering Engineers
Mixing and mastering are entirely different processes, and it's best to find separate engineers to work on your mixes and masters. Most artists get all the tracks within their album mixed first by a mixing engineer before committing to a mastering engineer.
As mastering is the final process in making an album, the mastering engineer is the one who takes care of achieving a consistent tonal balance and volume across all the tracks in your album. So the entire album or a collection of tracks is generally mixed first before being sent to the mastering engineer to master them all in a cohesive way.
It's also much cheaper to get it done this way, as mastering multiple songs at once is less expensive than mastering one song at a time.
How Much Should I Pay For Just Mixing?
While an industry stalwart with loads of experience with prominent artists could charge way above $1000 for a single mix, you could get an upcoming engineer to do your mix for $90 to $120. While these are the outer limits, a mid-level sound engineer with five to ten years of experience should charge anywhere between $200 to $500 per track.
There are many different ways to get a quality product without having to go to the industry's top names.
A mid-level audio engineer with five to ten years of experience and a reputable portfolio could charge around $400.
The price tag also includes the high-quality analogue gear and sonic environment in which your track is being mixed. As the analogue gear, plugins, studio monitors, and studio acoustics play a huge role in the quality of your track, be sure to check that out before committing to purchasing a service.
An upcoming mixing engineer with a portfolio of 10-15 credible projects would charge you around $90 to $120 for a track.
If you're an Indie artist or someone on a tight budget, it's a good idea to look for such engineers. They might do a stunning job in the pursuit of making a name for themselves.
That being said, an average engineer who has worked on some one-hit wonder songs that have done well in the charts might not be as good as his reputation suggests.
Make sure to also listen to your engineer's portfolio with a discerning ear to judge whether you're actually paying for the quality of his mixing skills.
Lastly, some music production or sound engineering students that have just finished their course are perfect to save money and get a good servie with.
The fact that they've studied their craft means they know what they're doing and they've been marked by industry professionals.
I was a music production student myself and completed multiple assignments where I had to mix and master tracks. These were marked by someone who helped to mix and mastered for Disclosure before.
Eager to jump onto the professional scene, these students could agree to do it for less than $70.
But again, this might be hit-and-miss. So at the end of the day, please let your ears be the judge of the engineer you're hiring to work on your mix.
How Much Should I Pay For Just Mastering?
A regular mastering engineer charges around $40 to $80 for a track. The price increases considerably once you start working with engineers with industry weight. Grammy-winning engineers could charge you upwards of $200 for a track. Along with the engineer's experience, you're also charged for the high-end gear used on your tracks.
With that being said, there are more advanced ways of mastering tracks called ‘Stem Mastering‘ which are much more expensive. Starting at around $100, stem mastering can exceed $500 per track, depending on the quality of the mastering engineer.
Stem masters allow the mastering engineer to have better control over the balance of the track. Depending on your budget, it might be enticing to go for a $120 stem master with an inexperienced engineer than pay an experienced mastering engineer the same amount for a stereo master.
But experience is invaluable in the field of mastering and you generally get what you pay for (mostly).
What Affects The Price of Mixing and Mastering?
With all these varying prices, you might wonder what makes mixing and mastering prices shoot up. There are a number of factors that affect the overall cost.
We've listed some of them below:
- Complexity Of Your Track: Most mix engineers would first listen to your track before giving you an accurate quote. While an average 5-minute song might fit within the denoted rates, a long track with intricate orchestration or multiple key changes is bound to attract higher rates.
- The Number Of Tracks Or Stems: Most mixing services charge a flat rate for up to 24 tracks in your project file, with an additional $5 per track or so after that. Say you have 40 tracks in your project file, and your mixing prices are going to shoot up considerably as opposed to a 24-track file.
- Noise Reductions And Additional Editing: Editing or fixing sections, reducing hum or existing noise in your guitar recordings, or corrections made to any inefficiency in playing would all be charged extra. Charges are based on editing a single track and are roughly around $5 per track.
- Additional Revisions: While up to two rounds of revisions would be complementary, additional revisions are bound to be charged extra.
- Vinyl Mastering: If you want your track mastered for vinyl, the engineer might have to work on them separately as some techniques don't translate well to vinyl. He might have to rework your vocal sibilances or smooth out some distortion in the high end. He might also have to center your low end better. So, vinyl mastering is charged separately and could run anywhere from $50 to $100.
- Project Files: Some engineers offer their project files to you for an extra cost. While this might cost at least $200 extra, it's worth it if you're trying to learn the craft yourself. Getting access to your mixed and mastered project file is invaluable if you wish to mix and master your own songs in the future.
Do I Really Need To Pay For Mixing and Mastering Services?
No. But it's advisable to hire a professional if you're not experienced enough. While we still recommend mixing your own tracks if you're confident enough, we advise giving your tracks out for professional mastering as you will get a fresh pair of ears to fine-tune your music.
Mixing and Mastering Costs Too Much, How Do I Learn?
In the age of the internet, there are countless ways to learn how to mix and master tracks. While just hopping across YouTube channels might not give you a structured learning platform, there are many music production channels that have detailed online courses.
We suggest starting off by getting a taste of the mixing and mastering engineers who've worked on some of your favourite music. A lot of the techniques used by top engineers like Chris Lord Alge, Bob Clearmountain, or Fab DuPont have been demonstrated across various online courses. A lot of plugins are named after top engineers and their preset settings say a lot about their techniques.
Once you're aware of the engineers and the techniques that cater to your genre, you can browse through online courses that cover those specifically. As mixing and mastering approaches vary across genres, it's better to do your research before choosing a course.