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The Cost of Hiring an Orchestra for Film

If you’re a filmmaker looking to elevate the production value of your film, one way to do so is by hiring an orchestra to create a bespoke score. The lush sounds of a live orchestra can bring depth and emotion to your film in a way that recorded music simply cannot replicate. However, many filmmakers are deterred by the perceived cost of hiring an orchestra. In this article, we’ll break down the various factors that contribute to the cost of hiring an orchestra for film and provide an estimate of how much it might set you back.

Size of the Orchestra

The size of the orchestra you hire will have a significant impact on the overall cost. A standard orchestra typically consists of around 50-100 musicians, including string, brass, woodwind, and percussion sections. The larger the orchestra and the more diverse the instrumentation, the higher the cost. Additionally, some film scores may require specialty instruments or vocalists, which will also add to the overall cost.

Composer Fees

In addition to the cost of hiring the orchestra, you’ll also need to consider the fees for the composer who will write the score. The composer’s fee can vary widely depending on their level of experience and the scope of the project. Established composers with a strong track record in the film industry will command higher fees, while emerging composers may be more affordable but still bring a fresh perspective to the table.

Recording Studio and Equipment

Once you’ve hired the orchestra and the composer, you’ll need to find a recording studio equipped to handle the size and complexity of the orchestra. The cost of renting a studio will depend on its location, size, and the quality of its equipment. You’ll also need to budget for the engineers and technicians who will oversee the recording process, as well as any additional equipment or technology required to capture the best possible sound.

Session Fees and Union Regulations

When hiring an orchestra for a film score, you’ll need to take into account the session fees and any union regulations that may apply. Musicians are typically paid by the session, and the number of sessions required to record the score will depend on its length and complexity. In addition, most professional orchestras are affiliated with musician’s unions, which have specific rules and regulations regarding payment, working conditions, and royalties. It’s important to factor these additional costs into your budget when hiring an orchestra for your film.

Estimated Costs

While the cost of hiring an orchestra for a film score can vary widely depending on the factors mentioned above, a rough estimate for a mid-sized orchestra recording a score for a feature film could range from $100,000 to $500,000 or more. This figure includes the fees for the composer, the orchestra, the recording studio, and any additional session fees and union regulations. Keep in mind that this is a ballpark figure and the actual cost could be higher or lower depending on the specific requirements of your project.


Hiring an orchestra for a film score is a significant investment, but it can make a world of difference in the overall impact and quality of your film. By understanding the various factors that contribute to the cost of hiring an orchestra, you can better prepare and budget for this important aspect of your production. Whether you’re working on an independent film or a big-budget blockbuster, the emotional depth and richness that a live orchestra brings to a film score is truly unparalleled.