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Hi All-

First off, I literally started an account two seconds ago and am surprised I didn't find this site sooner. Happy to be here.

Okay, so my question. I did a sound design for a small (and tiny budgeted) one-woman show. Essentially, my design changed as her story was being workshopped over months. Now the show is finalized and is going on tour. My design has a lot of environmental cues and found music. (Mainly Nigerian high life and gospel, also some Nigerian pop.) Since the show is tiny and most of my stuff was found and not originally composed music or the like, what is an acceptable royalty fee to ask for? The director wants to know how to compensate me for my work as she takes this on tour. Is it a percentage type of situation (i.e, a certain percentage of what the venue is paying to have the show)? Or should I pitch a fixed rate?

Thanks!

Gilly

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For re-mounts and tours (same company) I charge 50% of the original fee. If another theatre wants to buy the sound design for their production, I negotiate by taking their venue size and multiplying it by the length of their run. I compare it to the same figure from the original production then calculate the percent difference, and apply it to the fee. It works for me. I'd be interested to hear how it turned out for Gilly.

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It is not easy decision to make ;-) If you think the venue will be successful then go ahead for some percentage fee for every venue. But on the other hand if no one attends venues at all, you will get nothing payed for your work - so it's better to have fixed price.
Maybe you should figure out some combination of these 2 - for example 20% with minimum $100. It doesn't matter that your work was "only" to put sounds together, not inventing and designing them by yourself.
Are you going on tour too?
Good luck with the show!

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Usually a designer for a show like that gets an up-front fee for the initial run of the show and any "royalties" come in the form of re-mount fees if/when the show is put up again. And those fees (in a non-union setting) can vary from $50 to upwards of $2000, depending on the overall budget of the producing company (there's a wide range of budgets in local theatre). Since you didn't have an agreed-upon fee before you started work, it's good that the director is willing to talk about what's fair. I agree with Binoj about a combination fee-- agree on a minimum vs. a percentage of the gate. As far as whether the sounds were your own or found--it doesn't matter. You designed the overall sound of the production, and you were there tweaking it while the show was being workshopped, which is not standard for a theatrical sound designer. You've put time and talent into the show and deserve to be compensated.

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  • "As far as whether the sounds were your own or found--it doesn't matter. -

hmmm... depends, who is paying for the performance rights for this "found" Nigerian music? you or the performer... ?

  • Okay, fair point there. To clarify: I'm assuming proper clearance of all music, and treating his design efforts as a separate issue. – Joe Griffin Jan 21 '12 at 7:38
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Thank you all for the answers!

@ron macleod: I paid for them.

@Joe Griffin: A little digression and correction that's really no big deal..."treating her design efforts..." I'm one of those rare lady sound designers! =]

Thank you all again for the input. (Sound pun not intended.)

  • Apologies for the pronoun trouble! – Joe Griffin Jan 24 '12 at 19:03
  • Ain't no thang, @Joe Griffin! Maybe it wasn't even worth mentioning, but I did anyway. =] – gillianmoon Jan 25 '12 at 1:36
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Metrics are important here. Go back and look at how many hours you put into the project, then put a value on those hours. The total is what you want to make back to "break even".

Indie Feature Production and Post Production Audio Budgets

^ The answers contained here are very helpful when it comes to pricing your hours for small projects.

Once you've done this, find out what the minimum number of shows will be, and how large they might be, and how much risk you are willing to take. Between these three variables, you ought to be able to figure out whether you should do it by percentage or a fixed rate, and how much.

EDIT: Oops, just noticed how old this question is. Ah well. Hope it went well for you! :]

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    @Miles. Theatre is priced very differently from film and gaming. If you knew how little we make, you'd think we were crazy! – Donna Apr 19 '12 at 12:07

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