How Much Does A Mix Engineer Cost?

Let's talk about hiring people to work on your music. Spoiler: you get what you pay for. This is not an exhaustive list of options/pros/cons, but more to familiarize yourself with the options out there.

What Are You Trying to Do?

First things first. Ask yourself what you're trying to do. Are you trying to make something you're proud of (aka art)? Are you trying to make some good sounding demos that will help you gain traction early in your career? Are you trying to just make some recordings because it's your hobby?

All of these considerations factor in to WHO you should hire, and how much they'll charge you.

Oh, and in ALL these cases, you probably want to hire a separate and dedicated mastering engineer.

Options For Mixing

Do It Yourself (Free+Time)

Pros:

  • Free
  • Complete control
  • Unlimited revisions
  • Can be fun to learn
  • You're motivated to get it done

Cons:

  • You might drive yourself crazy
  • You probably don't have experience doing it
  • You probably don't have a treated room with critical monitoring (a solid room costs at least $10k to build – not including the speakers)
  • You have unlimited revisions and can tweak forever

Being semi-decent at mixing is a good skill to have for if you're trying to pump out demos or YouTube content, etc. But as for making “serious” music, it shouldn't be something you really attempt until you've been doing it for YEARS. Watching a few YouTube videos from “experts” with no credits over a weekend doesn't count.

Your Musician Friend Who Dabbles in Mixing (Free-$150)

Pros:

  • Probably has more experience mixing than you do
  • Might know how their room sounds
  • Might not charge you a lot (if at all)
  • Probably has some decent ideas for how to get tones, etc (especially if they're in the same genre as you)

Cons:

  • Probably has underdeveloped ears/technique
  • Might take a while. Probably fitting it in on the weekends/between other gigs
  • May end up worse than just doing it yourself because they don't understand what you're going for
  • May also OVERcharge you because they overestimate their skills

This is a good option if you're trying to record a live session for a YouTube video, etc. But I haven't really heard of a situation where for their official release it turns out great, EXCEPT for in the instance where your friend is working on transitioning into production/mixing seriously and is just building up experience.

The Random “Engineer” on Soundbetter/Fiverr/Craigslist ($50-150)

Don't even bother, IMO. Especially if they are cheap and talk about “mixing and mastering” for $50, etc. You're scraping the bottom of the barrel. Have some respect for your music and your time. You get what you pay for.

The Local Engineer Who Has a Nice Studio Space ($150-$300)

This is the person who has the decent looking space, but is more of a studio manager/tracking engineer than PRODUCER. Taking on whatever projects pay the bills. One day they're recording a 60 year old folk singer-songwriter, the next day they're recording an audiobook, the next day they're working a jazz thing.

Pros:

  • Probably has a decent-sounding room to mix in
  • Has some decent ideas for what sounds good
  • Will probably get it done on time
  • Won't cost TOO much

Cons:

  • Hasn't really specialized in any one area – doing too many things
  • Might turn out sounding “vanilla” (like it sounds technically good, but doesn't really move you)

Great option if you're trying to make some decent demos or trying to make some supplemental content for YouTube, an stripped/acoustic EP, etc. However, if you're looking to make something truly special and unique, you might want to consider investing in a more experienced and specialized mix engineer.

The Experienced Mix Engineer ($350-$1500)

This is the person who has been doing it for a while, has a good reputation, and is obsessed with mixing. Often times, it's what they've chosen to focus on. It's usually producers that realize it's their favorite part of the process. They will often still produce if it's an artist they really connect with, but will flat out tell you mixing is their favorite (including yours truly).

Pros:

  • Has spent a lot of time and effort on getting good at mixing specifically (as opposed to a jack of all trades)
  • Will probably get it done on time
  • Will probably have a good understanding of what you're going for
  • Will probably have good sounding room/equipment
  • Will be hungry to get it right since they're trying to work on becoming more well known

Cons:

  • Will cost a little more (but you get what you pay for)
  • Will have limited numbers of revisions before they charge you extra (this isn't a “con” IMO, just something to be aware of)
  • Can't read your mind 😉

I find that if you're wanting to make a record you're proud of, you need to work with someone other than “the musician who mixes” or “the local engineer that does mixing” and hire someone in this tier at least.

But even in this range, not all mix engineers are created equal. Mixing is an artform, so there are many different styles, approaches, etc. Just because it's someone who's *good* at mixing, doesn't mean they will be what you're looking for. Before I focused on mixing, I hired mix engineers who's worked I loved, but ended up not being right for the project. It's not personal, it's just how music is – subjective.

Be careful when trying to find someone in this tier – a lot of local engineers try to come across like this. You can often tell by what they talk about and what they focus on. You want them to be focused on serving you, the music, and the end product, rather than just talking about gear or engineering.

Additionally, a quality mix engineer will not master their own mixes. If you're paying this person for mastering in addition to mixing, it better be because they're sending it to a mastering engineer they work with regularly rather than doing it themselves (which is what we do).

The “Name” Mix Engineer ($1500-$5000+)

This person has worked with the biggest names in the industry and has a long list of credits of some of the biggest records. They're in high demand and can charge a premium for their services.

I was hesitant to put ANY price for this since it's wildly all over the place and dependent on a ton of variables. So much of this depends on genre, level of fame, etc. Additionally, just because an engineer in this tier normally charges way out of their range, if they believe in the song, they might offer you their discounted indie rate. Although helps if you have a relationship with them.

Pros:

  • Will be fun to hire someone who's worked on a big record before
  • Will probably understanding of what you're going for – especially if they are THE engineer in that style
  • Will have a tried and tested process and workflow
  • Will have a great sounding room/equipment

Cons:

  • Will cost a LOT
  • Might want “points” (aka a percent of revenue)
  • Will have limited numbers of revisions before they charge you extra (this isn't a “con” IMO, just something to be aware of)
  • Some have egos
  • Might end up mostly done by an intern/assistant – especially if you're paying the “indie” rate

Just remember, even if you're hiring CLA or Serban or Manny or whoever, it won't mean your record will instantly sound like the major label hits. A good chunk of the reason those songs/records sound like that is because they're sung by amazing singers, have killer production and arrangement played by amazing players, with solid engineering choices made at every step. You can only “polish” so much.

David Ryan Olson

Hey I'm David. I'm a mix engineer and I run Evergreen Records. We are all about helping you grow.

If you'd like to work with us on your next project, or would love to chat about the music business, please don't hesitate to reach out!

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