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Sound Design for Theater - What to charge?
Old 11th May 2013
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
K.Lastima's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Sound Design for Theater - What to charge?

Please move this thread if there's a more appropriate place for it.

So, I may have an opportunity to do sound design for live theater this fall, for a private college. I have designed one show so far (internship), and the director of that show asked if I would be interested in doing this one (I am). He recently took a position at another school in another state, and has some say in budgeting, so it would, if all works out, be a paid position.

And I have absolutely no idea what people get paid for this type of work, so I have no idea what's reasonable to ask for. The job would involve out-of-state travel, about a month of design work (attending rehearsal, collaborating with director, recording original content, etc), plus board operation for a two weekend run (6-10 shows).

Can someone familiar with the theater tech-design world help me establish a range to be looking for? Thanks so much.
Old 11th May 2013
  #2
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9 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
$500 per day plus travel and accommodation expenses and $25/day food allowance.
Old 12th May 2013
  #3
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🎧 5 years
So, $26,000 plus travel and accommodations for an estimated 44 days of work? Maybe you're just f*ck*n' with me (if not, good for you, man - you are straight killin' it).

Any other opinions out there?
Old 12th May 2013
  #4
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Are you working there 7 days a week?

Remember, they are taking you out of town. There is a premium for that. But really, $500 per day is only $60/hr.

I don't do installs for a living, but have been on new building and commissioning projects where we've hired such consultants. $500/day is pretty cheap for any sort of professional consulting.
Old 12th May 2013
  #5
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🎧 10 years
Considering this is your first paying gig right out of internship and its for a community college....I would take what you can get. Might be funny to tell them 500$ a day just to see their faces
Old 12th May 2013 | Show parent
  #6
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🎧 5 years
Not working seven days a week, but it's not really a "day rate" sort of deal, I don't think. More "project rate."

Are there any theatre sound designers out there who can share how they structure their rates? Or, if you know people who do other theatre tech (lighting, set, etc) what kind of compensation do they get?

I'm 100% sure that if I get the opportunity, I'm going to work at what would be considered a discount. (Director/school gets a priced-below-market sound designer, I get to do a second show and hone my skills a little more, so I can get more shows and charge a better rate.) Honestly, I pretty much know a number in my head that will get me out there, but I'd like to know the norm so I can know how much of a "discount" I'd be working at.
Old 12th May 2013 | Show parent
  #7
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by abechap024 ➑️
Might be funny to tell them 500$ a day just to see their faces
Totally. I would feel like a total bad-ass for 10 seconds.
Old 12th May 2013
  #8
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by K.Lastima ➑️
Not working seven days a week, but it's not really a "day rate" sort of deal, I don't think. More "project rate."
I missed that you'd only done one internship, so yes, probably won't warrant pro rates. But the rate is still useful as a guide for professional fees. But still, consider it's out of town and you will have costs.

If you want to do a project rate, make sure the deliverables are very well defined and documented. You don't want to end up working three months to finish the job for the same fee when you expected it to take six weeks. Might be that things get delayed on their end, or other headaches ensue. You need to put limits on the job. I've got caught in a few jobs in the past that have gone south and been caught in a fixed fee, and trust me, it sucks to come out the other end either breaking even or at a loss when it shouldn't have been your problem.

Every project rate in the end is based on hourly or day rate multiplied by how long the project is expected to take, then discounted or premiumed according to risk or benefit.

However, fixed project rates should also have contingency built in because you are taking on the risk of things not going as expected. Hourly or daily rates put the risk on the client. A rule of thumb contingency in many industries is come up with what you think it will cost, then add 50%. The more unknowns, the bigger the contingency. Sometimes there are so many unknowns that you either can't do fixed quote or you have to place very well-defined limits and terms as safeguards.

So don't just look at what professionals charge, but also how and why they structure their fees.
Old 12th May 2013
  #9
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🎧 10 years
You also have to remember that most freelancers have to charge rates that make up for what are often large portions of the year when they don't have work. And the work often takes significantly longer / more hours than agreed. So very quickly when you take what you earn over 44 days and what you might earn in a year, it doesn't seem so shockingly high.

I think the standard here, equivalent in dollars, would be around $400 a day plus travel. But that is pro, so any suggestions don't really apply to your situation... still a useful benchmark though. I would avoid a project rate unless their budget demands it, invariably you always end up worse off that way.
Old 12th May 2013
  #10
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jwh1192's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
my .02 ... i still calculate contract job speculation rates ...

when i charged 500.00 a day it would breakdown like this ...

1) 500.00 x ? # of days for when i am onsite actually doing the work.
2) 1/2 to 2/3 rate for travel days (that do not require my presense or if just a short Walkthrough and dinner on the client then fine) full days pay (500.00) for any travel over a 3 hour flight.
3) pre-production - i charge 1/2 day as i do this from home (conference calls and such)
4) per diem - 25.00 a day seems a little low these days .. just go by what the IRS says you can write off for the city you are working in - more like 35.00 and up ...
5) show run - 6-10 days of board work - 500.00 a day x 8 days (average 6-10) = 4000.00 (remember you will probably be training someone to take your place or as a second operator)
6) accommodations - have them try and find you an apartment you can work in if you need to ... or longterm corporate housing maybe ... apartment is so much more friendly for You ...

so,

1) 500.00 x 30 days = 15,000.00 this is the actual work for the job Onsite through delivery
2) 2 days travel - 2 x 250.00 (1/2 rate for short travel) = 500.00
3) 12 days pre-production - 250.00 x 12 = 1500.00
4) 25.00 day x 44 = 1100.00 (plus show day runs of course)
5) 500.00 x 8 = 4000.00 (show days)
6) apartment vs. hotel (you can cook your own food in an apartment, so cheaper in the long run for client)

without accommodations total is 22,100.00 just a start for you ..

cheers

john
Old 12th May 2013
  #11
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
This does not quite apply to your situation, as you are speaking about traveling out of town. But just for perspective, the project rate for sound design at a community college in Sacramento, California is about $1,900....but again, that's for local work. I have no idea how to figure in the out of town aspect.
Old 12th May 2013
  #12
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2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
there is it ... a real world example for you ... Sacramento is not a cheap place to live but not to bad either ...

and hopefully you will get more than 1900.00 - or just work for one week ...
Old 12th May 2013
  #13
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by kbshearer ➑️
This does not quite apply to your situation, as you are speaking about traveling out of town. But just for perspective, the project rate for sound design at a community college in Sacramento, California is about $1,900....but again, that's for local work. I have no idea how to figure in the out of town aspect.
$1900 for what scope of work?
Old 12th May 2013
  #14
Gear Maniac
 
K.Lastima's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Thanks so much, all of you. This gives me a much better scope of the range with which I'm dealing. There are so many factors involved. The number that popped into my head when the opportunity first presented itself was around $500/week, primarily because that would replace my income from the job I'd be taking time off from (waiting tables - some day I'll just do sound - I've promised myself). Travel and a place to stay would have to be figured in on top of that, of course. And, there's always the chance dude comes to me with a number that's over that. This show is at a private college in Newport, RI, so, you know...money's a little different there.

I can totally see how someone who only does freelance sound has to account for personal expense and down-time. One of the nice things about show design is that there is 0% chance of time "overruns;" the show goes on when it's scheduled to go on, ready or not (so you'd better be ready).

Much food for thought. Thank you all, again.
Old 17th October 2014 | Show parent
  #15
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by travisbrown ➑️
I'm not a producer, but I play one on Gearslutz.com
That may be the best signature I've ever seen on this site.

-Jon
Old 17th October 2014
  #16
Deleted 7f9cade
Guest
What type of play? How involved will your sound design be? If you're talking stuff like at the Disney or Universal theme parks you have a lot of work, if its simpler, that should be reflected in the price of your labor.

Sounds pretty cool though. Ive never done sound design for a live action play. Seems like a unique challenge in creative audio. I have a buddy who runs sound at Disney in Florida for their live action shows. Usually its a mixture of the play running to timecode and the FOH guy triggering sounds.

Is the play run to timecode with sound? Will you just be delivering a stereo mix of your work that locks to the playback timeline or are you delivering individual sounds that the FOH guy will trigger? or both?
Old 17th October 2014
  #17
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🎧 15 years
I think the play is over...
Old 17th October 2014 | Show parent
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by subspace ➑️
I think the play is over...
maybe a high-school can revive it for a senior play
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