I get asked to come up with my estimates for printing costs for various projects almost every day. When the music is already written and finished, all I need are the pdfs and the printing requirements and I can give an accurate cost estimate. Thanks to our published price list on our print shop page, you can pretty easily get an idea of the cost of your print project; find your preferred page size, total up the number of pages you intend to print, multiple that by the per page price and you got yourself an accurate and predictable way to estimate the costs of your project. That being said, it’s still best to contact Engraver’s Mark Music directly to confirm the costs and go over any other options you may have as those can affect the printing cost.
There are also many projects where a client will ask for me for a printing estimate when the music still hasn’t been written yet. As impossible as this task may seem (how can you possibly estimate a cost for something that doesn’t exist yet?), there are some formulas that Engraver’s Mark Music has developed that can give you an estimate that can be used for budgeting proposes AND will be fairly close to a final cost after the project is completed. How is this possible? Does Engraver’s Mark Music use some sort of time machine or other occult method to know the future? Well…. no. Thanks to years of experience with a wide variety of musical projects, Engraver’s Mark Music has found patterns and standards that allow us to provide a basis for printing costs that our clients can use as they begin the initial planning for their project costs.
So, here’s the formula we use:
Minutes of music (total) x estimated pages per minute (depends on the instrumental section in question) x number of stands (i.e., copies of a part or number or stands used in a section) =
estimated printing cost
It sounds complicated, but let me walk you through an example:
Recording session for woodwinds, brass and strings.
Orchestra size =
Woodwinds (Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon) (only 1 each)
Brass – 6 Horns, 3 Trumpets, 4 Trombones, 1 Tuba
Strings – 12/10/8/6/4 (22 Violins total, 8 Viola, 6 Cello, 4 Basses)
Total number of minutes to record = 30min (no overdubs or 2nd passes in this example to make things a bit simpler).
Now that we have this information, let’s use these figures to estimate the number of pages per minute for each orchestral section:
Woodwinds = 1.25 minutes of music per page
Brass = 1 minute of music per page
Strings = 1.5 minutes of music per page
Woodwinds and brass all have single stands, meaning each player has their own stand. String players typically share a stand (though not the basses if possible) (COVID notwithstanding). So that makes 18 single stands for the woodwind and brass and 22 total stands for strings.
And now the mathematical fun begins:
Woodwinds = 30min of music x 1.25 pages per minute x 4 stands = 150 pages of music
Brass = 30min of music x 1 page per minute of music x 14 stands = 420 pages of music
Strings = 30min of music x 1.5 pages per minute x 22 stands =
990 pages of music
Next, let’s say we’re using a 9x12 page size for parts.
1,560 pages total x using our per page price of $.37 per page for printing and taping for 9x12 = $577.20 total.
For scores, we use an estimate of 6 pages per minute of music.
Using this example, 30min of music x 6 pages per minute = 180 pages of scores
180 pages total x using our per page price of $.58 per page for printing and taping for 11x17 = $104.40 total (for 1 copy of the score).
This project requires 3 scores (1 conductor set and 2 scorebooks) = $104.40 x 3 = $313.20 total
Combined, the complete score of printing all scores and parts for this project = $890.40
Whew, we made it! These types of equations are pretty easily put into a spreadsheet and then all you have to do is plug in the different variables for minutes of music and the orchestra size and then you can get a customized estimate for just about any size project.
This example doesn’t include things like overdubs or 2nd passes for different parts in the orchestra, so the final result may vary. I would also say, the figures I used to estimate the minutes of music per page for each instrumental section tend to run a bit on the high side so in the end, this formula will more than likely give you an estimated printing cost that is MORE than what the final cost will end up being. It’s always better to estimate a bit high then low (ask anyone who ever did a flooring job and ordered too little flooring).
Well, now you know a few tricks to help estimate the printing costs for a project that hasn’t even been written yet. And, using this kind of formula, you can make adjustments based on the particular project. For example, if this is an animated movie, you could assume a higher page per minute value for each section of the orchestra as those types of scores tend to have more complicated music than a romantic comedy, which might be mainly underscore with no action cues therefore uses less pages per minute of music.
As always, if you have any questions or ideas that you need help with, please contact Engraver’s Mark Music and we can guide you through all our processes to get you the information you need to have a clearer picture of the costs of various aspects of your project.
Sammy Sanfilippo, CEO of Engraver's Mark Music