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NAJM Music NAJM Self Help Article #2

Ok, so you've sunk a few thousand dollars (more or less) into a basic setup and you've been creating tracks and mixes for a couple of your friends. You're getting pretty good and many of your friends are asking you when you're going to move into the mainstream and mix a Madonna record, or a Brittney Spears record. If it were only that simple.

Now you want to take it to the next level, and you've heard about those remixers who bag $50,000 a mix., etc.. and you thought to yourself, I'd like to take a stab at that. Well first off, the remixers who get paid 50K a mix, usually have been doing it for years and years, and they already have a prominent track record of successful mixes and prior productions, so get it out of your head that you're going to strike it rich right out of the gate. Yeah you're going to have to have a few number one hits under your belt before you can begin to approach demanding those kinds of fees. But if you're good, and have a never ending dedication in achieving greatness, the sky's the limit.

NAJM Dance Culture
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What Do Remixer's Make?

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  Well for most people, there is allot of dues to be paid before the big guys come knocking on your door. So what can you charge for a remix, and what can you expect people to pay for them? Well we've solicited Reponses from many different facets of the dance music world to see if we could answer just that very question. From record labels, to mid-level remixers, all the way to superstar DJ remixer status, we've assembled a wide array of opinions on the business of remixing. The individuals who are quoted here have asked to remain anonymous and their identities have been protected for obvious reasons.  

Starting Out

Beginners should expect to be paid little or nothing for a remix. One remixer had this to say "I would most likely do it for no charge just to get my name in circulation." "When you've got no other credits it's difficult for people to justify paying you." said another remixer. Now don't start complaining. As a prominent Remixer told us "no one's time is worth nothing", and there is much truth to that. But from a label's stand point, why would they pay you for a remix when you haven't proven to them that your mix will have a demand to be played? And how are you going to prove to future labels and artists that your mix will add value to their project unless you give a few away remixes and see how they do on the dance floors. If this sounds alien to you, look at it this way- when you receive a promo from a label, they don't ask you to pay for it do they?

As far as the comment that no one's time if worth nothing. This can be approached in two ways. First if you give the remix away and it does well, you can certainly charge more for the second, and so on. But suppose your mix hits the big time and you weren't paid for it at all? Then I suggest the following agreement between you and the label. It's called a spec mix, based on the speculation that the mix will once again add value to the project. You receive little or no money up front in exchange for predetermined amounts of money when the remix is released, sells through a certain sales tier, etc. It is very important that you receive credit on the actual release or promo, otherwise you will not receive credit or exposure which defies the purpose of your giving away the remix to begin with! This way everyone is happy, the deal is fair, and no one feels as though they can get screwed. Most likely you'll never receive any money, but you can start to build your projects list. Furthermore, the labels don't assume unnecessary up front costs that could be saved for other things, so they are more likely to want to work with you. One label had this to say "a new Remixer with no track record - should do it on spec/be happy to get credit only - depending on the artist name and label beg...beg...beg even if it costs you lot's of money to make it happen. Negotiate that if your mix is strong and it makes it on the final can get a $500 you're on the way to ask for money the next time around and NOT do it on spec. however, don't quit your day job".

Gathering Steam

Ok, so now you've done a few spec mixes, and you've built up a small resume of mixes. Most likely you will continue to use some sort of Spec mix arrangement, but now you can start to request some sort of up front monies to cover your costs of producing the mix. This can be anywhere from $100 to $1000, depending on your reputation. "Keep in mind that you will always spend more time then it's worth but you are trying to still establish yourself. however, don't quit your day job." said one label.
At this point, you should continue to expand your resume of projects and start to go after the "named" projects that are usually released on small independent startup record labels. By "named" projects, I am referring to the new up and coming artists who are also trying to get established.

Mid Level

So what's next? Well at this point, you should have some kind of established name, or at least some mildly successful projects that you've been associate with. Now you can start to charge between $2000 and $5000 for a remix. One remixer stated "This is usually reached once you've had some remixes on the various charts, maybe a couple major label credits." Your clients will usually be the major independent labels who have a large national distribution setup. But keep in mind, once you are paid for your work, it is a "work for hire" and you have no future claim in the project even if it sells hundreds of thousands of copies. Remixers in this range are moderately known on the dance floor but are still not household names. This level is usually where most remixers step off and start to do their own productions which can further yield additional cash flow. One remixer pointed out "In 2001 I did 21 remixes. I got paid for 3 of them up front and made $3500 dollars. Several others were done for points on the projects. I have yet to see any money from them. My advice: Do it for the love of music, cause if it's for the love of money it will be one big broken heart ..." So you see even though you may be worth the bigger bucks, collecting it is a whole other story!

The Next Step

Continue to build your portfolio of mixes until you have some kind of demand for your name. This is usually a "new Remixer that gets lucky with big selling record - next record - 8-12k (you're trying to make up for the money you lost the first several tracks and to help pay off your studio. Quit your day job now!!!" stated one Label. At this level, Major Independent labels and some of the lesser Major labels will approach you because of your name. You will have established yourself with the club djs who will play your mix based solely on your name. You can expect to be paid between $8000 and $12,000 per mix depending on your past track record. One remixer stated "Above $10,000-$20,000 you're competing with the big boys." This is just about as good as it gets for most remixers. The more you charge for a remix, the likelihood of a large demand will usually diminish. You're at the cusp of greatness and start to get inquiries of the majors to produce new acts.

Star Level

  And finally, if all the stars align themselves perfectly, and work your ass off to perfect your craft, then you might, just might if you're really lucky, get to the superstar remix status. This is usually a "Remixer that gets lucky and sells records several times in a row - sky is the limit! Now is the time to upgrade everything in your life....but be careful not to over you have to keep those hits coming to maintain that lifestyle :)" said one Label. Another remixer stated " Over $20,000 - you're the king. Get as many remixes done as you can cause the ride won't last long." At this level you can command upwards of $40K to $50k per mix, and you usually get to work with vocals from the top of the charts.

You will probably also receive offers to produce major acts. One producer stated "A producer on-the-other-hand, is a different ball game. Depending on if it is a single or an album could get the same or more as a well known remixer, and as much as $1,000,000 for an album, depending on the artist. A producer would also be entitled to royalties." It is usually only the majors who will be able to afford these kinds of fees, and they will be relying on your past success to bring a commercial viability to the project. Few major labels are going to pay you anything to create that 3 am track that features thier artist warbling under a tribal beat, they want top 40 radio friendly mixes. There are few people who ever get this far, but the workload usually increases substantially because now you're a valuable commodity and are in demand. Expect ridiculous hours and deadlines that will take much of the fun of music creation away. Expect to be called a sellout many of your piers, but hey, what price success?


  So there you have it, a remix price scale of sorts mixed with some novice advice. It is a long and exhausting path to success, and you really have to wonder at what price will you achieve it? One remixer stated "I've worked on a variety of remixes for big and small labels. I always work on a sliding scale related to the magnitude of the artist and budget of the project. Since I'm not an "A-list" remixer, I've had no 40K payoff yet, but I have made as much as $5,000 for a major label remix; and as little as $500 for an indie project." So you can see that what you get paid has many factors related to it; your reputation, the size of the label requesting the work, the level of the artist, and how much you want to do the project. Don't forget that the value of the work to you may far exceed what monies you may receive up front. Most people will never get beyond Spec mixes, and that should be ok with you, because it was never really about the money to begin with. Do it for the music, do it because you have something to be heard, and do it for your love of the craft. Good luck!  
  NAJM would like to thank all those who contributed ideas and opinions to this article.  
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