Finding the right mixer for your music can be a daunting task. I’ve made this guide so that you can approach your search in a comprehensive, detailed, and systematic way.
I'VE NEVER WORKED WITH A MIXER BEFORE. WHERE SHOULD I START? If you’ve never worked with a mixer before, one of the best things you can do is to see who mixed some of your favorite music (or reference material for your project). I personally like using Tidal’s crediting information to learn about a project’s production team, but independent releases often don’t display all the contributing personnel. Jaxsta is another good (and free) music crediting service, but again, some independent releases fall through the cracks. If you’re unable to find mixing credits on sites like these, you can always see if the artist tagged their collaborators in the social media posts surrounding a release.
While a mixer’s sonic sensibilities and aesthetics are important, evaluating them solely on those bases ignores other important considerations. You want to be sure not only that your mixer will deliver quality mixes, but that your working relationship will be as smooth as possible. Someone could be the best mixer in the world, but if they take a week to respond to emails you should proceed with caution (if at all). This is where word-of-mouth enters the picture. After all, no one will recommend a mixer if they were a nightmare to work with. If a friend or someone you know worked with a mixer, you like how it sounded, and they reported a positive working experience, ask them to connect you!
HOW MUCH SHOULD I EXPECT TO PAY FOR A GOOD MIX?
From my vantage point in 2023, I see about four price tiers in today’s market. These aren’t exact numbers by any means, but they should offer a ballpark sense of the current landscape. If you’re interested, this 2021 article from Sonic Scoop’s Justin Colletti breaks these brackets down even further.
$0 - $500: Mixers in this price range will vary WIDELY in terms of quality of work. Those towards the lower end of this range likely have little experience, while those towards the top will often have a decent number of credits and turn out consistently high quality work. You can find fantastic mixers in this price range. You can also find total garbage, so it’s important your evaluation process is thorough.
$500 - $1,000 Mixers in this price range are likely mixing new music consistently and are quite good at it. They’ll usually have worked on a wide range of both independent and label-funded projects and have work that is consistently high in quality. This price range is a sweet spot for many artists.
$1,000 - $2,500 Mixers in this range are seasoned pros. They’re likely to have worked in the music production/mixing space for at least 5-10 years and have loads of credits. It’s not uncommon for mixers in this zone to have won or been nominated for a GRAMMY or other competitive awards.
$2,500+ This is where you can find today’s top mixers. These are folks who may have multiple GRAMMY’s under their belts and are working on some of the biggest releases of the day.
WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK MY MIXER? Okay, you’ve found a potential mixer. Now what? The first step should always be a conversation. With new clients, I prefer to do this over video chat. Phone calls are fine. At the very least, an email exchange. I wouldn’t send your files to someone you’ve never met or spoken with and expect it to yield good results. The following is a list of questions you may wish to ask during a conversation with a prospective mixer.
WHY DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD BE A GOOD FIT FOR MY MUSIC? Before your conversation, you should send your prospective mixer any demos/roughs you hope to have mixed. When you speak, it’s important to share what you envision for the project and to get a sense of what the mixer has in mind to achieve your goals. Ask the mixer to identify any parts they liked about your demo(s)/rough(s) and to point out things that might need work. You want to make sure you’re both on the same page and speaking the same aesthetic language before moving forward.
IS THERE ANYTHING IN YOUR DISCOGRAPHY YOU THINK I SHOULD HEAR? Ideally, any mixer you hire should have experience working in your genre. With that in mind, it’s not a bad idea to ask a prospective mixer to send you some of their past projects that share sonic traits with your music. If you hear anything that gives you pause, it’s worth taking it into account when making your final decision about working together.
WHEN CAN YOU DELIVER THE FIRST MIX? Deadlines are good. I have an “unless I get hit by a bus” delivery guarantee. That means if the artist commits to delivering files for mixing on/before a certain date, I PROMISE to deliver a first mix draft by whatever date we agree upon, barring something terrible happening (like getting hit by a bus). If your prospective mixer is wishy-washy about the timeline, that’s a red flag.
WHAT IS YOUR REVISION POLICY? This one can be tricky. In my opinion, mixing should be about finalizing. Yes, there’s room for experimentation during the mixing process, but mixing is not production. It should not be seen as an opportunity to turn your production and arrangement completely inside-out. Plus, I’m not convinced unlimited revisions are in the artist’s best interest either. Again, mixing is all about finalizing. For this reason, many mixers limit the amount of revisions they offer before tacking on an extra fee. I understand that approach, but to me it feels a bit punitive. My current revision policy falls somewhere in the middle. I offer unlimited revisions with the caveat that if the artist is still introducing brand new ideas after the fifth revision, I reserve the right to charge a fee. In other words, if the artist says, “can we get more air on the vocal in the second pre-chorus,” in revision two and I can’t get right it in revs three, four, five, etc., I’ll do as many revisions as it takes to achieve the sound they’re after. However, if we reach rev five and the artist says, “I wonder what would happen if we added a filter sweep to the track during the breakdown,” having never mentioned it before, I reserve the right to ask for a fee. I’m not saying my way is the best way, but your mixer should have a clear revision policy and be able to explain why it is the way it is.
WHAT DO YOUR DELIVERABLES INCLUDE? At the minimum, a mixer should deliver the six (or seven) standard mix deliverables: main, instrumental, a cappella, vocal up, vocal down, and TV. If your mixer has been delivering limited mix drafts, they should also send you a limited pass of the main mix. As an artist, it’s probably also in your best interest to get mixed subgroup stems (all the drums soloed and exported, all the bass soloed and exported, all the guitars soloed and exported, etc.). Those are part of my standard deliverables package, but it’s reasonable for a mixer to request an extra fee for them.
DO YOU HAVE ANY REFERENCES OR CLIENTS I CAN SPEAK TO? I'm not sure I’ve ever been asked this question, but I think it’s a totally reasonable one. Of every ten of my clients, nine have come to me via word of mouth and have therefore already vetted me through their mutual contact. That said, if you find a mixer through their credits alone, there’s no reason you shouldn’t ask for references.
WHAT ARE YOUR RATES? Here’s a secret: I rarely get the exact same rate from project-to-project. I have numbers I aim for, but every artist and project is different. What does that mean for you? If a mixer quotes one number and your budget is lower—maybe even by a lot—DON’T BE AFRAID TO NEGOTIATE. I’ve lost projects I would have worked on for 50% of my standard rate when I issued a quote and the artist ghosted me instead of counter-offering. Sure, a mixer might not typically reduce their rate by such a wide margin, but it never hurts to ask. If you’re working on a longer project like an EP or an album, ask about bulk rates. As a mixer, my goal is to be as accommodating as reasonably possible when it comes to budgets, especially with independent artists.
In addition to these questions, there are also things you should be asking yourself throughout your communication with the mixer. Does this person respond promptly to email? Does this mixer seem organized? Does this person seem genuinely interested in my music?
The following is a list of things that should make you wary when selecting a mixer for your music.
MIX AND MASTER BUNDLES This is when an engineer offers a discounted rate if you mix and master with them. Of course, these deals can be tempting as they result in money saved. In my opinion, you should stay away. Just as you hired your mixer for their objective perspective on your rough mix, a mastering engineer can correct for any blindspots your mixer may have. The mere offering of a mix/master deal doesn’t necessarily disqualify a mixer, but you should find someone else to master the project.
RATES BASED ON TRACK COUNTS I will sometimes offer discounted rates for certain types of songs (like instrumental music), but you should be skeptical of mixers who charge different amounts for a song with 20 audio tracks versus 40 versus 80 etc.
INCONCRETE TIMELINE I’ve heard loads of horror stories about people who sent their music to some mixer they found on the internet and didn’t hear back for weeks (or months). Not good. If you’re talking to a mixer about your timeline and they can’t give you a concrete mix delivery date or window, you may want to reconsider.
FEES FOR ANY REVISIONS Again, it’s reasonable for a mixer to charge for revisions after a certain point, but if a mixer tells you that any revisions will incur a charge, that’s a major red flag. Mixing is a collaborative process and revisions are part of that. To be punished for working with your mixer to achieve a result is bad news and likely speaks to the quality—or lack thereof—of the potential working relationship, even beyond the revision process.