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“Innovative” Rental Fee Structure - What Do You Think?

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I know the topic of equipment rentals has come up before but haven’t seen the following formula pop up and wanted to see what y'all think of it. 


I have looked at a wide range of rental house prices, and while they all seem to be in the same ballpark, there is still a wide range of pricing for equipment, especially when it comes to multiple day rental discounts. I wanted to come up with a fee structure where I didn’t have to put a specific dollar amount to individual items but rather a basic percentage fee as others have suggested doing. What I was struggling with (and didn’t see addressed) was how to discount the equipment for multiple day rentals that fell in line with the rental houses. This was a bit tricky because some places offered a discount only for a weekly rental where others had a break after 3 or so days.


Something I noticed most rental houses had in common was, they all seemed to average somewhere around the 3% of original purchase cost for a daily rental package and fell somewhere near the 10-12% of purchase cost for a weekly rental. Individual items may be slightly above or below those numbers but as an average they seemed to hold up.

This got me thinking, what if I charged an initial 3% of purchase price (which I have seen suggested on this forum) for the first two days, drop to 2% for the third day, and 1% for the following three days (a total of 12% for the week). This would allow for higher rental costs for the shorter shoots but bring in a discount for the longer productions that somewhat resembles the rental house rates. 


Here are the daily percentage rates:


1 Day = 3%, 2 Days = 6%, 3 Days = 8%, 4 Days = 9%, 5 Days = 10%, 6 Days = 11%, 7 Days = 12%


When I put together a very basic package using Location Sound Corp’s (LSC’s) rental brochure vs the formula above for a daily and weekly rental, they were quite similar. I used LSC's pricing because they are well known in the industry and apparently are successful in charging those rates. I chose to price the items below simply because it is what I have in my kit (all except the Lectro's). I used current pricing based off of B&H’s website to come up with the initial purchase price of $12,825 for the components listed below. I am sure there are other items that would/could be charged but this kit is mostly used as a basis for comparison. 


(1) Sound Devices 664 Audio Mixer with Bag and Battery
(1) Neumann KMR81 Shotgun Microphone
(1) K-Tek Carbon Fiber Boom Pole
(1) Rycote Zeppelin with wind screen
(2) Lectrosonic UCR100 Receivers, SMV Transmitters, & M152 Lavs.


Here is the breakdown to compare LSC’s rental rate vs the percentage formula (It’s also important to note that there are no shipping costs calculated in the LSC rates, just the price of the equipment.). The percentage you see next to LSC’s rental rate is also calculated based on the $12,825 purchase amount and is purely meant for comparison. (The percent has nothing to do with their rental rates or structure in any way and would change based on the specific gear rented.) 


LSC’s rental rate (3%) for a daily rental is: $375/day
Using the formula’s 3% of the initial purchase price ($12,825) is: $385/day


LSC’s rental rate (5.8%) for a two day rental is: $750
Using the formula’s 6% of the initial purchase price ($12,825) is: $770


LSC’s rental rate (8.8%) for a three day rental is: $1,125
Using the formula’s 8% of the initial purchase price ($12,825) is: $1,026


LSC’s rental rate (11.7%) for a four day rental is: $1,500
Using the formula’s 9% of the initial purchase price ($12,825) is: $1,154


LSC does not charge for the remainder of the week. Days 5-7 remain at $1,500
Using the formula’s 10% of the purchase price-Day 5 ($12,825) is: $1,283
Using the formula’s 11% of the purchase price-Day 6 ($12,825) is: $1,410
Using the formula’s 12% of the purchase price-Day 7 ($12,825) is: $1,539


Of course the formula can be altered to fit your specific clients, level of gear, or area in which you live. For instance, perhaps you have someone you shoot with on a regular basis and enjoy the repeat business, you may want to do a 3% for the first day, two days at 2%, and 4 days at 1%. For a week shoot, the rental cost would be the same, but a two or three day shoot, your client would save a little bit of money. 


I know it isn’t perfect but seems to offer a basic rental structure that keeps me away from having to price items individually, allows for a meaningful rental rate discount for longer shoots, and is easy to alter depending on the job. What do you think? Is this way off base or does it make sense?


A couple of additional questions:
-Do you discount your gear for longer shoots or is your day rate, your day rate?
-How do you handle rental fees that go longer than a week?
-Do you think $375 is a fair daily gear rental fee for the items listed above in a major market? It is amazing how fast things add up. Do productions find value in quality gear or would they rather save a few bucks and hire someone with a less expensive gear package?
-I calculated the cost of my 664 with the bag and batteries included. Is this normal or should I not include the bag/batteries in the initial cost?
 

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You don't want to leave the producer's head hurting from trying to do too much math. Which is what will happen if you're throwing all these various percentages at them.

Just tell them your daily rate + basic kit rental, then go from there depending on the needs of the project. 

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2 minutes ago, IronFilm said:

You don't want to leave the producer's head hurting from trying to do too much math. Which is what will happen if you're throwing all these various percentages at them.

Just tell them your daily rate + basic kit rental, then go from there depending on the needs of the project. 

 

Do the producers expect a drop in rental cost in a similar fashion to what the rental houses offer? Perhaps it would be better for me to figure out what equipment is needed then apply it to the formula and present the figure as a total cost.

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Just now, ctboita said:

Do the producers expect a drop in rental cost in a similar fashion to what the rental houses offer?


Some will. As producers want the moon in exchange for a slice of holey cheese. 

Doesn't mean you should give them it!

If you're shooting an entire TV series or a feature film, then it isn't too unreasonable to consider a long term rate. 

But a few days here or there, or even an entire week? Nope. Treat it as a daily rate times however many days it is. 

 

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4 minutes ago, IronFilm said:


Some will. As producers want the moon in exchange for a slice of holey cheese. 

Doesn't mean you should give them it!

If you're shooting an entire TV series or a feature film, then it isn't too unreasonable to consider a long term rate. 

But a few days here or there, or even an entire week? Nope. Treat it as a daily rate times however many days it is. 

 

 

Noted. Based on previous posts on the same topic, one train of thought was to look at what other rental houses charge and base your rental fee around that. I know most rental houses offer discounts for multiple day rentals and was trying to figure out how to easily incorporate a discounted rate in a similar fashion. I have no interest, at this time, in shooting a TV series or feature film so hopefully I wont have to deal with long term rates any time soon. Perhaps I am looking too far into this.

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Rental houses often have discounted weekly rates, but as a general rough rule of thumb it seems sound mixers don't give that out as standard. 

And also look into what the other local sound mixers in your state are charging, and then give a similar figure to that yourself. That would give you an even more accurate figure to use than a rental house. (few rental houses have the high end specialised sound gear have anyway, in my country there is only one)

 

 

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Always reach out to other local mixers and charge what they charge. You don't want to be the unpopular guy who charges too little. 

 

As a rule, long term gigs pay less per day based on the the fact that it is longer employment, whereas shorter jobs should expect to pay full rate for everything (labor+gear) due to the shorter engagement, and the fact that it'll be more difficult for you to fill out your calendar with a bunch of short gigs and not have them overlap. 

 

As an equipment owner, you should try to charge full rates for anything under a two week spread simply because you are also bringing along a ton of support equipment that a rental house would nickel and dime you for. So if your producer says "why should we pay you that much when the rental house starts giving me a break at three days?" You can say that it is because of all the extra stuff you bring, and maintain, and might not have to take a prep day to set up and take down before and after the gig. Not to mention redundancy equipment that you likely have. 

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JonG makes excellent points. 

 

Your $375 figure seems a tad high but that’s just me. I’d probably charge $350 for that kit and that would be with 411a receivers not UCR100s. 

 

Also, I don’t worry about all the support gear. Bags, cables, harness c-stands, etc. I don’t consider these to be billable items and if I did it would take me hours to create each invoice. For me billable items are: wireless, recorders, TC devices, mics, IFBs. And that’s pretty much it. 

 

In your kit example I would figure 75 per wireless, 150 for the 664, and another 50 for boom and general kit. 

 

But I wouldn’t bill for the cart I roll the gear in on, any stands or cables.

 

I give discounts for longer term work if asked and but it’s always an individual negotiation, every job is a little different.  

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11 hours ago, Derek H said:

But I wouldn’t bill for the cart I roll the gear in on, any stands or cables.

 

I give discounts for longer term work if asked and but it’s always an individual negotiation, every job is a little different.  

Yup, on my price sheet I do have everything itemised though, down to cables, just for my own inventory purposes, or if someone needs to rent just some breakaways for a few days.

 

Overall through I recommend what gear we need, what that rate comes out to, and go from there with producers. Because yes, every project has different needs. Anything not part of the pre-discussed kit gets charged a la carte. Keep pricing simple, producers and UPMs have enough to worry about without trying to calculate discounts on their end. Keep it simple. Anything over two weeks for me will start getting into long term rates, but again, don't hit them with percentages, just send them clean figures in $$$

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On 2/1/2018 at 3:25 PM, JWBaudio said:

Yup, on my price sheet I do have everything itemised though, down to cables, just for my own inventory purposes, or if someone needs to rent just some breakaways for a few days.

 

Overall through I recommend what gear we need, what that rate comes out to, and go from there with producers. Because yes, every project has different needs. Anything not part of the pre-discussed kit gets charged a la carte. Keep pricing simple, producers and UPMs have enough to worry about without trying to calculate discounts on their end. Keep it simple. Anything over two weeks for me will start getting into long term rates, but again, don't hit them with percentages, just send them clean figures in $$$

Totally agree!

Every job has different equipment needs and also different budget sizes

Look at the script, judge the scale of the production and what it needs

and talk to the PM if you need to understand their sound budget, then bargain.

 

mike

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Hmm... maybe I've been undercharging.  My package is about $100,000 worth of stuff.  What's 3% of that a day?

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But do you use all of that on every job? 
Doubt it? But if so, go you! And yeah, hope you're charging a pretty penny for it. 

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Every series and feature all my gear goes on it.  I'm not getting 3% a day for it, - not even close, that's for sure.  Usually $400 - $500/day.

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Comparing mixers pkg rates and rental house rates are not an even comparison.   We bring "packages"  meaning all the support gear that goes along with it.  And of course the gear they forgot to ask for.  We also bring backup gear.  So we are already offering discounts.   I would not walk out the door with that little amount of gear.   No multiday discounts.  The only way rental houses make money is that they charge for every single thing that is rented- cables etc....and also charge for every bit of L/D.      imagine if we did that?  On a large project i will specify what i am bringing for insurance purposes only.  Otherwise i bill by the pkg per day.  

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This is precisely why even skinflint producers allow soundies to rent their own gear to projects, even if everything else is coming from cheapo rental houses.  Their experience has taught them that it's a better deal to hire the sound gear with the sound person, because that sound person will have had the foresight to have solutions to show-stoppers like extra talent, broken small-but-essential cables and so on--the "package" thing.  ACs spend hours and hours at rental houses making sure they have all the extra bits and bobs, for which the prod co is charged, while they are paying the AC to do this work.  We rarely get paid for preps, and most sound people I know bring much more than the minimum package, so it usually turns out to be a good deal for the producer.  Many of us have at one time or another had the experience of being forced to use a "sound package" assembled and owned by someone else, a package we aren't familiar with and didn't get to prep, and were hosed on the job as a result.   So....it's going to be my gear so let's make a deal.....

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Very interesting to read all this calculations, but in reality, I can never charge 3% for my equipment, for the gear I have, Zaxcom Nomad + 4 x Zaxcom digital Wireless, Schoeps Mini CMIT, DPA, Sanken and Countrymann Lavs, 3% means almost near €1000/day.!! I don’t know how’s in the US, but all the projects I have done here in Europe, non of them have this much of Budget for audio equipment. 

 

And honestly, I try to not make my Equipment costs more then my service for whatever project. In the end, I’m Selling my service as a sound guy, not my equipment. 

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On 2/17/2018 at 1:45 AM, Tong0615 said:

And honestly, I try to not make my Equipment costs more then my service for whatever project. In the end, I’m Selling my service as a sound guy, not my equipment. 


If it is right for the project, then why not charge more which is appropriate for the shoot's needs?

After all, DoP's often will use camera packages which are more expensive than their daily rate, and lighting packages which also cost more than their daily rate. So from that perspective it isn't unreasonable for us to also charge more for rental than our labour rate, if they're requesting tens and tens of thousands of dollars worth of gear. 

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19 hours ago, IronFilm said:


If it is right for the project, then why not charge more which is appropriate for the shoot's needs?

After all, DoP's often will use camera packages which are more expensive than their daily rate, and lighting packages which also cost more than their daily rate. So from that perspective it isn't unreasonable for us to also charge more for rental than our labour rate, if they're requesting tens and tens of thousands of dollars worth of gear. 

Yes but only if the production manager accepts your price!

mike

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The only time I can get rental rate in when there is a national spot in the area I am working on.  Most of the time I can only get around $250 for tv shows and regional spots.  I up the rental rate $50 if they want a few comteks. Trust me I would charge the 3% if they would pay it, but in this area they won't.  Heck most of the TV shows that come here complain about my current prices.  That is why I have a backup mixer, because if something happens with my 688 I could not afford to rent from a rental house and pay for the shipping on top of that.  The closest rental house is Trew in Nashville, 6 hours away.

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