One of the greatest if not vastly under appreciated services to come out of Film Music Magazine is its annual Salary and Rate Survey that’s been ongoing for over a decade. The most current version was released at the end of Second Quarter and it’s an eye opener, especially for those of us who’ve been in L.A. for a while.

Reading the survey will surely provoke cries of, “Oh wow!”

But whether the cry is one of excitement or despair depends largely on how long you’ve been in town, or if you’re just about to arrive.

To make sense of these figures, I compared the current 2011 guide to the one published in 2000. In doing this, one sees the shifts of musical value and in some cases, stagnation.

The good news is that creative fees and packages for films released theatrically has increased. But for TV movies, the trend is downward. I’ll give you one example.

2000 TV Movie
Low Budget – $10,000 to $25,000
Medium Budget – $30,000 to $50,000
High Budget – $75,000+

2011 TV Movie
Low Budget – $5,000 to $20,000
Medium Budget – $25,000 to $50,000
High Budget – $55,000+

Comparing 2000 to 2011 High Budgets shows a drop of approximately 27%.The very low end of Low Budgets is off by 50% while the high end is down 20%.

If there’s a bright spot for composers, it’s game scoring. In 2000, a Low Budget project averaged $15,000. For 2011, that figured has increased by %100, and more in some instances.

Scoring mixers, otherwise known as recording engineers, have seen stagflation in their rates. At the upper end for High Budget projects, the fees are the same today as more than a decade ago, $75 to $150 per hour, while Premium Scoring mixers are getting $2000 – $3000 for a nine hour day. Engineers doing demo recordings and Low Budget projects, over a decade, have only seen roughly a 15% increase which in cash is only $5.00 per hour more at the low end of the budget. This means that at the low end, to break $75,000 a year for fees, engineers on the low end, who are self-employed have to work 45 hours per week for 50 weeks. Out of this they must pay matching Social Security and provide their own medical insurance, and other costs.

There’s one conclusion the report doesn’t make which is that the wise creative artist will save and learn to invest to cover those rainy days when there is no work, or for some reason, they’re not able to work.

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