Is the Mastering Engineer making a comeback?

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by DonGrossinger, Mar 24, 2009.


Are you using an outside mastering engineer

  1. Yes

  2. No

    0 vote(s)
  1. DonGrossinger

    DonGrossinger Active Member

    I wonder what the state of the industry is these days. Are more people having their work mastered by a "stand alone" M.E. or are the do-it-yourself folks making yet more inroads?

    What is the Rec.ORG community doing?
    Has it worked out for you?
    Would you change for your next project (either way)?
  2. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    I don't see it changing much... The "pros" are still pros and having their mixes mastered by mastering engineers. The "rookies" are still rookies and convinced that wearing every hat they can won't mess up their hair.

    I was there once myself (and just look what happened to all my hair)...

    The big problem with Rookiedom is that "mastering" is being equated very simply with "volume." "How do I master mah beatz" rarely ever means anything more than "how do I make them loud?" -- If there's a sad part, there it is. Too many people have no idea what the mastering process is. Or the mixing process for that matter (which many of them call "mastering" now).
  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Sure, I think they are making a comeback. Simply because, there are so many people now, so many more now, than ever before, making really noobie awful sounding substandard recordings. They are in need of someone to provide that magic pill to make their abortion sound like it's ready for a Grammy award. What they get are a "new class" of Mastering Engineer 101 students with cracked software. So, yeah, it's changing while making a comeback. If you can call it a comeback?

    So....Baby comeback..... Selling you a new--fangled--duster.
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  4. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    There are a lot of people who really need a good mastering engineer. They have done a marginal job of recording and mixing and their stuff sounds ok but far from what most would consider professional. If they would take that recording to a pro mastering engineer they could get it to sound great but for what ever reason (mostly money) they forgo the last crucial step and either try and do it themselves or they send it to one the $5.00 per track operations that seem to be more and more prevalent on the WWW. What they get back is very far from a "mastered" project but they convince themselves that it is all the same and they just saved a ton of money.

    Whatever works!!!!

    I am somewhat confused why someone would spend time tracking and mixing down a CD and then either forgo or go cheap on the one thing that might make their material sound halfway decent and might get them noticed. I guess a lot of people think that there stuff does not need mastering or they just are so poor that they cannot afford the $400 to $1000 that would get them a good job from a reputable mastering engineer with credits.

    The old adage of "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink" applies here.
  5. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    As much as I agree with that statement, and I do agree that if all you have is Behringer DIs, then you're going to be using Behringer DIs - but there IS a minimum, below which you should just refuse to live with.
  6. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    Lots of stuff I received recently were in need for some serious advising, concerning tips for mixing ( eq mainly) and even acoustics/room topology (!!).

    I have spent/invested some time trying to educate a few folks and it has been providing positive results.

    These are folks that always come back to you and feel comfortable dealing with someone who is understanding and realizing they have limits.

    Yes, we are not in there to teach audio, but at least we end up with an improved material to work on.
  7. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    I always try and steer my projects towards a qualified mastering engineer.
    We've got several good ones here in town.

    Unfortunately, after paying me a few hundred bucks, most people just aren't willing to pay $400+ for the quality mastering job.

    Which is why I've invested in some decent plugs/software and have begun experimenting w/ it for rough mixes. Esp. since most people want "radio level" mixes to listen to.
    Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about the bypass button, and I haven't tried any real mastering.

    I know better than that. It's just that if a band refuses to have their project mastered, I want to be able to provide them w/ something that will satisfy *their* needs.

    I can't make them do it if they don't want to / don't have the $. Unfortunately.

    edit: I'm always open for education, which is why I'm here and why I try and send people to an ME I know and trust!
  8. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    I don't think it's coming back. The industry is a shell of what it was even 10 years ago. rates are still going down so we haven't seen a bottom yet. Major's are barely functioning, indies are loosing their ability to pay bills because of the economy and not being able to get lines of credit and at the same time, loosing their deals with the majors. It's really in shambles IMO. Work is still coming in at about the same rate, but at lower budgets and lower song counts. I used to see projects pack a CD on a regular basis, now most projects are ep's. This means in order to fill a day, you need to interact with 2-3 times as many clients. So the workload increases to almost double.

    So... is it still functioning? barely. Is it making a comeback? No.

    While music consumption is at an all time high, the value of music is at an all time low.

    Here's a statistic to put it context. iTunes is the #1 music retailer in the world. All of their music is sold via downloads. 95% of all downloads are not paid for (free or stolen). So that means that the #1 music retailer in the world is only making money on less than 5% of the music consumed. And this is only going to get worse. Companies like pandora, slacker etc... that are free song searchable music streaming services are coming on strong. That means the value of music is only going to lower. I know of 2 record labels with a business model of... Buy a t-shirt and get a free album.
  9. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    IMHO much of mastering is going the same way that recording studios went a couple of years ago. There will always be a need for high end mastering studios to serve the big name clients but more and more people are foregoing the mastering stage altogether or doing it themselves in their bedrooms or basements which is really putting the screws to a lot of mid level mastering operations. Our business was way down at the end of last year but this year we are over busy now. I had to lay off my one full timer since we did not have the day to day business to afford him anymore but since he has left things have picked up very nicely. Lots of smaller projects and smaller budgets but hey as long as I am working everyday.....who cares. We have also branched out into other areas like video production, short run DVD and CD production and voice over work which has helped the bottom line. I live and work in a very small community in the middle of a corn field in Ohio. The county I live in is very poor, the nearest towns have been on the poorest cities in the US for a long time. This area was already depressed before the wall street problems and the housing market collapsed so I was already diversifying before the end of last year. I am looking forward to a good year this year but YMMV. Best of luck to all!
  10. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Things are going that way for different reasons though. 15 years ago it was because technology made it possible to record pretty much anywhere.

    The shift now is because money in the music industry is shrinking at an alarming rate. This year... the shrinking has accelerated because of a very big global financial crises. This is going to take time to show itself, but it will show itself this year.
  11. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I saw this trend coming a couple of years ago. We were hit hard with the growth of the basement mastering studios around here but a lot of those places are gone since all they offered was low prices but they did not have the skills or the equipment to do a good job. Low prices don't really mean anything if you can't do the work.

    The present slump also has a lot to do with what area of the country you are in. Some places are still doing well some not so well. Austin is going gangbusters, Nashville is seeing a declining market and lots of larger studios have closed. New Yorkers in the music business seem to be moving to Brooklyn or New Jersey and I assume they are still doing well. California is having its own problems.

    It will be an interesting year and I don't think it is going to be a good one for lots of people in the music business or what is left of it.

    Good topic and good replies.
  12. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I asked a manufacturer friend of mine where they see hot spots in the planet for gear sales right now. This indicates who's doing music, and maybe has some indication on mastering potential as well... Interesting at the least. Thought I'd share this.

    China, Japan and Russia are hot.
  13. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    I think the differences we see in different parts of the country aren't "real". I think that things just move faster in NY, LA, Nashville. I think these places function at market pace while other places lag slightly behind in terms of timing. Kind of like how the DOW precedes the economy.

    The industry has been on rations for 10 years. There is still some fat that can be burned off and I think we will see that this year.
  14. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    Wow, great posting, Michael.
    I agree with you 100%.
    I mastered a lot on the second half of 2008, but 2009 has been a little weak.
    However, I have been working intensely with musical choirs, which is doing a comeback in my musical market .
  15. frnk

    frnk Active Member

    mastering engineers ont the comback

    While my friend was getting his cd mastered I told him to give me the same copy of the album so I could master it as well. So we compared the two at a well known recording studio and the engineers were amazed both sounded a little different but neither were wrong. Point being most people go to the big boys and can get the same results at smaller and affordable places just using t-racks, good monitors and acoustically correct room. Don't believe it, send me a wave of your music I want charge and compare.
  16. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Re: mastering engineers ont the comback

    Making myself comfortable...
    Awaiting the replies...
    Popcorn in hand...
    ready for the fun....
  17. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    T-Racks???plug-ins only, compared to the results provided by Masterdisk, Sterling, Metropolis, Grundman?
    Are you drunk?
  18. JerryTubb

    JerryTubb Guest

    A little recession story:

    I must say that back in April, around tax season we had a little slump for a couple of weeks, when the phone didn't ring much. It was a bit like "OMG the Black Death Plague Recession is finally here... run for your life!". Combine that with the impact of DIY mastering, and all the media hype about global financial crisis... the-sky-is-falling panic can set in, if you let it...

    - BUT -

    Then it picked back up. In June and July I was booked to 100% capacity, even working some on weekends to catch up. August shows no signs of slowing down.

    So take heart, dig in, do a little public relations, and work hard...

    something good might happen!

  19. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    To follow up on what Jerry said....

    We went through a very dry spell in January and February.

    I had to terminate a long time associate for lack of business.

    I hired a couple of student interns to help me and things started picking up. I now have 5 student interns working here and the phone is always ringing.

    I am not sure what is different but what ever it is I am more than pleased.
  20. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    The financial thingy really caused a lot of disruption in production. Most indie labels rely on revolving credit to keep projects going in between income payments. When revolving credit froze, so did all of their projects. Now we're finally seeing the credit relax a little, income has come in, projects that were on hold for the first 2 quarters are now back on. The phone has been ringing off the hook for the month of July, but these were projects that were supposed to happen months ago. I think we'll see this feast or famine kind of up and down thing for a couple of years.

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