Need some urgent advice on session drummer/recording rates


Silver Member
Hi all,

I'm really after a quick answer, if possible.

I have been contacted by a musician who requires some drum tracks recording for his music. He wants to send me the tracks for me to record in my own location, and then send back to him as Wave. files. That's fine. The problem is though, he wants to know my rates.

I am literally at the very start of my "session" career, so really have no idea how much to quote him. How do I know what is a decent rate for this kind of work? The music is pretty simple and the drumming won't cause me much trouble, but it's still a fair bit of work on my end, setting up the equipment and recording it all myself. Do I factor in royalties, or just get the credit and an upfront lump sum?

I would really appreciate some advice on this, because I don't know whether to tell him £20 ($35ish) a song, or £200 a song.

Bear in mind I am not famous or well known at this point, so I don't want to rip him off, but I also don't want to short change myself.



Junior Member
It depends on what the recording will be used for. There are 3 basic types of recordings:

Demo Scale: This type of recording is used for demo tracks and are not generally distributed to the public. Average pay is around $150 for a 3 hour session.

Limited Press Scale: This type of recording is used for music that will be distributed to the public with less than 10,000 copies released. Average pay is about $200 for a 3 hour session.

Master Scale: This type of recording is used for music that will be distributed to the public with more than 10,000 copies released. Average pay is about $400 for a 3 hour session.

If you are a leader on any of the sessions (you put the band together, write charts, and organize the session) then you can double your pay rate (approximately).

Living Dead Drummer

Platinum Member
When I do this work I base the pay on two things...

A. what is the song(s) being used for?

B. who is the artist?

Most of the time I charge a flat rate per song. I don't go by the hour because If I nail it in one take and am out the door in an hour I lost out on cash I could have made. And if I have a hard time with the song and take 3 hours to track then I am waisting the artist's money and he will be more apt to hireing a cheaper drummer.

If the song or cd is going to be part of a major label or soundtrack I charge more. If it's just for a Demo, or a cd or single that said artist is going to shop around, tour on, or anything else, I charge less.

Being that this is the start of your session work, I would charge a fair rate and don't price yourself out. Be cheap enough that this guy will want to hire you back or tell his friends about you, and you can still make a buck.

And here is a tip so you don't get burned on the money...
If he is sending you the tracks and you are recording them on your own. Send him a mixed verson of the song back. Don't send the drum track for him to mix on his own.
If he likes the track the way you played it, then he can pay pal you the money and THEN you can send him the drum track to mix the way he wants.


Senior Member
My method of handling it is generally along the same lines as Nick's.

I'm not a member of the union and, frankly, for me at this point to attempt to charge union rates would be a joke: there are about sixty zillion guys in town who can play me under the table so I can't charge the same as they do.

My unique twist on the matter is that I've also got years of experience in marketing music online so in some cases I've offered to help with their online presence or baseline marketing activities in exchange for a percentage of sales in that channel. (get contracts!)

As a session player though unless you're a writer you generally won't have royalties as an option on the table and if the artist expects significant upside that's just a huge potential pot of money that can be jealously guarded.

I'd look at local unions and then adjust your rate based on how well you believe you could perform relative to the players who charge that session rate as a matter of standard procedure.


Junior Member
The prices that I listed above are Union scale are are applicable if you are in the studio. If you are doing the tracks at home, I would recommend charging anywhere from $50 to $100 per track for demo type stuff. $50 per track is the standard going rate in Nashville for demos. I hope that helps. Nick has great advice. Don't send individual tracks until you get paid. Send him a rough mix on an mp3. Get paid....then mail the individual WAV or AIF files. Good luck!


Silver Member
Thanks for the advice chaps, interesting stuff. When you say $50 a song for a demo is about standard, that about ties in with what I was thinking, so thanks.