Financial Questions for the Location Sound Recordist.

I have £1,500 to spend on my first kit. What should I buy?
It’s not going to be state of the art as some of us routinely drop that on one microphone. Check used older gear, but don’t expect your kit to be on par with the professionals who have dropped more than a year’s income on their kit.

What’s the best microphone for under a thousand punds?
Your best sub-1k shotgun selection includes the Rode NTG3, the venerable 416 or a used 416T which there are a million of on the market.

I just graduated and my parents gave me a big fat check, and I want to be a sound mixer! I’m still torn between the Maxx and 633.
You shouldn’t buy a Maxx or 633 as your first package if you are a recent graduate with some money in the bank. Get a basic kit for the rates you’ll be getting, like a used 442 or X5 or even an FP-32 and learn to mix and negotiate before dropping £3k on a recorder. For the cost of one of those top dollar items, you can get a great used mixer, a boom, shockmount, cables, cases, batteries, and a good shotgun and maybe some G2s and still have enough left for a Jacky Case. It’s a good starter package to master your craft from until it’s time to upgrade. Also, call your parents more, it sounds like they deserve it.

Are my rates too low?
Yes, your rates are too low. Raise them.

So what should I be charging?
For exact numbers, contact other mixers in your market and discuss what you all agree is fair. Discuss labour rates for a ten hour day and twelve hour though always push for the ten. Also discuss kit rentals and compare quotes with the rental house so you can come up with a fair price. Also check the current rates from BECTU and the APA.

I’ll get more work if I do half days, right?
There is no such thing as a half day. Either way, you still have to prep your kit, leave the house, and basically turn down any job that may come up so you are better off booking the full day. Please only do them for really good clients as an occasional favor, not a standard contract.

But, I’m not doing anything else!
So? Once you start accepting lowball work, you become the cheap guy and get a lot of cheap work and nobody kicks you the good gigs. If you are working for 1 gold coin, and your friend Mr. Established is working for 5 gold coins a day with less gear, and Mr. Established works 3 days, you’ll have to work 15 days just to match his earnings! What’s Mr. Established doing with those other 12 days? Enjoying life and waiting for the phone to ring at least one of those other days, because if it rings even once, then you have to work 20 days to match his earnings after 4 days. Think about that. One month’s work to earn what your colleague can earn in 4 days. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be Mr. Established.

Note that I used gold coins as the currency to avoid the debate of what a fair rate is, but this is merely to illustrate why it’s important to charge and appropriate amount.

Plus the less money they have to pay you, the more likely they made fiscal cutbacks in other areas which can make the shoot a nightmare.

I have the gear so I should be able to get great rates, right?
Negotiation is as important as gear. Hint, if you are asking tech questions, you do not have negotiation mastered. Also, the “this is what we’ve got” for sound budget is a scam. You don’t need to work that ways. (CREDIT: William J Martel Jr.)

What’s the single most important piece of gear to invest in?
You! Just because you bought some gear and or graduated sound school does not make you a professional sound mixer. That can only be accomplished through a lot of time, practice and real world experience.

The most important piece of gear in your kit is “you.” Take time to hone your kills by practising, learning and researching and when in doubt read the damn manual. (CREDIT: Michael Wynne)

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