More people recording now than ever?

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by covenant66, Apr 21, 2008.

  1. covenant66

    covenant66 Guest

    I know it is a fact that more people are recording now than ever. There is plenty of evidence. I am trying to show an investor the exponential increase of home/project studio recording, but I need something with teeth to show. Anyone know of anywhere I could get such market/economic information? I wish there was some sort of recording industry almanac or something.

    Also, does anyone know the approximate size of the mastering engineering market in the US in each of the past few years (to show its current size and its increase)? Any ideas on where to find that out?
  2. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    Are you planning to open a mastering room?
    At least here in Brazil everybody is recording with cheap e-bay digi 001s, 002s, delta1010, 2496 and other semiprofessional gear.
    Medium/big studios are in most cases mixing, recording drums, doing horns sections, dvd stuff.
  3. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    There is the Recording Industry Source book

    I am sure that the RIAA or AES or NARAS has figures that you could use.

    I am sorry but I think that the number of mastering engineers doing mastering full time is decreasing not increasing since there is such a large number of people doing self mastering.
  4. covenant66

    covenant66 Guest

    Well lets definitely explore that!

    Are you guys getting less orders? Have your incomes gone down? Is budget grade mastering really chipping away at the industry?
  5. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    I think a lot of the people getting into home recording don't know about the mastering stage of things. They maybe want a CD and may just find someone who will print stacks of CDs, possibly bypassing mastering.

    I personally don't get my stuff mastered because I know the mixes at their core aren't all that great, and any CD I make up, usually changes shortly after.
  6. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Take an afternoon and read through a bunch of threads on this board. There are several noticeable trends -

    1. Experienced, professional MEs that see their business being lost to self mastering and low level pros with minimal equipment.

    2. First timers who want paint by numbers mastering instructions.

    3. Loudness wars where even the experienced MEs are being asked to turn music into 0 dBFS bricks. (I'm sure that some bricks are better than others, but...well to me they all sound a lot like they were just pushed through a limiter set to "stun.")

    I don't have the stats, but my guess is that the growth in recording is mostly at a pretty low level. All of the trends above suggest that. I'd be surprised by statistics that show a growth in demand for professional mastering services on a national level.
  7. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    In order to stay in business we have had to diversify. We are doing restoration of both audio and video materials, mastering, on location recording, video production for commercials and video taping of events plus radio commercial work and voice overs.

    We have quite a bit tied up in equipment and physical plant and we are constantly being shopped by people looking for someone to do their mastering at rates that don't justify turning on the lights. They want a 2008 BMW mastering job but want to pay for a rusted out 1990 Chevy.

    Potential client's are quick to point out web mastering sites that advertise rates of $5.00 per song or tell me that their recording engineer will do the mastering for a flat $100.00 or in some cases for FREE if they do the recording in the engineer's studio. It is hard to compete with FREE.

    Most potential clients have NO idea of what mastering is or what it can do for their music. Then tend to think that all mastering is created equal only some people are just gouging them. When you try and explain what the difference are their eyes glaze over and you can tell by their expression that they are really not interested in anything except how cheaply and how fast they can get their mastering done.

    Usually by the time they get to mastering they are out of time and out of money. They have 20+ songs that they want to master and they want it done for $200.00 (because that is all they have left after recording and paying for the CD release party) and they usually need it by tomorrow. The reason for the rush is that they have their CD release party scheduled for two weeks from now and they need to get the mastered CD to the replication plant.

    We also get a lot of clients that have gone elsewhere and had their music screwed up by someone who did not know what they were doing and when the client gets here they want me to wave the magic mastering wand over their material and make it sound good. They too are out of time and money.

    We are a mid level mastering operation and we have lots of satisfied repeat clients but with the economic turn down and living next to two cities that have been on the poorest cities in the nation's list for a couple of years running it is hard to be upbeat about the prospects for our mastering business. We continue to try and do the best we can for our clients but it is getting pretty scary. We have been in business for 13 years and this is by far the worst year we have seen.

    Just so you don't think this is all doom and gloom...I am looking forward to a new president and hopefully that he or she will be able to turn the economy around and find a way to lessen the impact that the price of oil is having on the whole economy. I am also hopeful that people will start to realize that there is more to mastering than just making something ULTRA LOUD and the will also start to understand that NOT ALL MASTERING is created equal and that just getting the cheapest mastering does not make it the best mastering. I hope the chances for this happening are not only two 1)Slim and 2)None but only time will tell.

  8. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    There is no question at all the mastering for $$ is decreasing. The number of "mastering engineers" has increased by at least 20 fold. The number of projects that can afford to master have decreased by at least 80%. Budgets have plummeted over the last 6 years. Majors do almost no artist development, Indies can't collect money, and bands can't sell CD's. And it's going to get worse. If I had money to invest, the last place I would invest it in is the music industry. You'd be better off buying an expensive watch and putting it in a box to sell in 10 years. If you've been in the game for awhile, you might be able to weather the storm. But starting out in the middle of a hurricane is insane.
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    I've been contracted for more video work than audio work of late. Some technical direction for live musical entertainment video shoots, directing a crew. Running either my 4 foot or 10 foot camera Crane/jib with pro-sumer camcorders. And assembling soundtracks utilizing the PA board recording feed along with camcorder audio, to deliver a crappy DVD that I have to author. Yeah, 37 plus years in the recording industry to deliver PA board mixes, from amateur PA board operators (that can't get it right), with camcorder automatic volume control soundtracks. Never mind that everybody knows I have a fabulous Remote Truck and vintage 36 input Neve desk. "Remy can you come and run your camera Crane at our gig?" Sure, for 250 bucks. Too much? OK then 150 bucks plus dinner & drinks.

    We do we go from here? Florida.
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  10. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Things are spinning in so many different directions, it's tough to guage where things are now, and where they might be heading. Good mastering houses are still out there, but it's tough to make a living at it, just like any other part of the biz.

    For starters, the industry as we once knew it, is dead. Just look at the state of the major labels, and you'll know what I mean. All of those places used to feed all the big mastering houses. It still happens now, but to a lesser and different degree. Heck, you've got places like DiscMakers with their own mastering suite(s) going after work that WE used to have sole domain over.

    Frankly, I'm surprised MORE folks don't bypass the whole mastering process entirely and just send it to them for the last step before replication. I don't have all THAT many clients who go with them (Through me) anyway, but the cold hard truth is that they too coul DIY and skip my mastering & packaging services and go with them directly. THAT makes me work very hard to keep them happy & loyal.

    With all the DIY'ers, yes indeed, more people are (Trying to) do it for themselves, regardless. I think it's sadly human nature to get as much "on the cheap" as possible. Some get close, others fail miserably. That doesn't stop 'em from making crappy CDs and horrible YouTube releases. Without the constraints of vinyl mastering in general (which tanked right around 1985 or so with the start of commerical CDs) no one really worries about those restrictions anymore, so Mastering can now do things that were undreamt of before. One corruption of that freedom is the loudness wars, and since everyone "has to make a living" few have had the backbone to resist and do something about it. (TC Electronics has a made a fortune on this trend alone.)

    Understanding what mastering IS, and why it's needed is something that way too many folks blow right past, in their frenzy to do it themselves, and burn that CD, sell it at shows, online, etc. As much as I love YouTube and what it offers, I am stunned at how BAD most of it looks. Does that stop all of those MILLIONS of viewers from watching the stuff?!?! Hardly. And, the same rules seem to apply for bad audio. Did we ever think technology would go BACKWARDS into an audibly INFERIOR product (MP3s) at a time when we have the power & ability to deliver the best recorded sound quality the world has ever seen, er, hear??? (And we wonder why people don't want to spend the $$$ on good mastering...sheeesh....)

    And to be fair to the low-tech world, like any other time in this (or any other) industry, it is survival of the fittest. Who said it would last forever? You may be too young to remember them, but look at all the old telephone-plug operators out of business in the last 25-30 years. With automatic dialing, those hundreds of thousands of telco workers had to find jobs elsewhere, get retrained, etc. Ditto for hand-made auto assembly lines. EVer seen how many computerized robots are assembling cars now?

    I'm not saying good mastering should go away or be replaced by 'bots or by rank amatuers working in their bedrooms, but there IS a limit to how much any one (local) market will bear. Sometimes its' that, sometimes it's simply too much of a good thing, and too many people trying to get the same slice of a very small pie.

    THe answer, as always, is to diversify, keep all your options open, even if that means closing up shop or changing your targeted base. I'm not saying it can't be done, but there's only so much room at the top for the busy guys, no matter how good you are. So many other variables affect one's market, it's tough to pin it down to just one thing.

    I see lots and lots of folks on here who do a variety of things, changing hats, if you will, and it's kept them afloat in some very tough times. I think it's vital to do that, unless your own particular niche is keeping you going. Sometimes it's video for audio, as Remy's doing, sometimes it's VO's for the local ad agency, whatever it might be, and sometimes it's location recording work.

    Perhaps the worst (Toughest) business model is the classic "recording studio" these days. So many other things are going on in the industry, that it's gotten almost quaint to have a brick & mortar room, all decked out with every possible recording tool imaginable, waiting for the talent to find them and walk in the door with cash in hand, ready to spend. Anyone who's gone that route knows it just ain't so....

    I think people are definitely recording MORE; we certainly are as a society, but it's being done in other ways, and the need for "Pro" recording & mastering may actually decrease overall as the population numbers grow. This will of course appear that the biz is shrinking, and perhaps it really is in that sense. But the good stuff will always be out there, and the good ones will know how to find it and utilize it. The hard part is positioning yourself to be the ones getting the gigs. Just how to do that is another thread/topic entirely.
  11. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    This may be a repeat of what everyone else is saying but hopefully it is a change of emphasis - there definitely is a lot of growth in the recording industry, but it is at the entry or DIY level. You can go right down the list of major manufacturer with both pro and entry level gear and I'm willing to be that the entry level gear is where the growth is (and perhaps the only real profits). I'm not sure how/if your business can take advantage of this, but it seems to me to be the case.

    Joe- You are judging the product by different norms than most consumers. You sound like someone saying that Chuck Berry is INFERIOR to Beethoven. Or a MacDonalds is INFERIOR to Le Bec Fin. And when you rationally list the metrics on which the inferior product fails, the consumer will calmly say, "it's not a bug, it's a feature." I agree with you and share your norms, but people who fit music into their lives in different ways have very different aesthetic standards. Someone listening to an mp3 while doing homework and carrying on five text message conversations does not have the same requirements as someone listening to music while cooking dinner, stopping the baby from crying, and telling the kids to turn the wii down in the other room. And the both have very different requirements from someone listening to music through a $10k sound system in an acoustically treated room.
  12. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Bob, I'd NEVER say Chuck Berry was/is inferior to Beethoven. :twisted:

    What I'm saying, though, is that MP3's have become the norm, rather than the shortcut or temporary placeholder they were created for, to the real thing - the full res wav file. (It was actually created AFTER the fact, as a lossy subsitute due to low bandwidth on the web.)

    yes, they work fine, but they are essentially the cassette tape of this generation, and a testament to what the public will put up with. I think it's directly proportional to the problem with indifference to good mastering.

    Like McDonalds burgers, it's fine for what it is, but it's all too often become what people THINK music should sound like, and that's too bad, esp with something better has been available all along. Adding to the irony, we really don't need 'em anymore, most cable modems and DSL's could support full bandwidth audio now, but it's too little, too late. The public (and apple, etc.) have firmly embraced the format, and we're stuck with it, for better or worse. (And I certainly enjoy my ipod, too.....)

    I just think we could have had steak all along, instead of hamburger helper, that's all. :twisted:
  13. covenant66

    covenant66 Guest

    I once heard George Massenburg say in a lecture at my school that MP3s shouldn't hurt the business of recording at high fidelity too much because lower fidelity sound converted to MP3 still sounds lower fidelity and higher fidelity sound converted to MP3 still comparatively sounds higher fidelity.

    Massenburg was also saying that MP3s don't sound all that bad anyway, and that the higher rate ones will ultimately become more common as bandwith goes up. He really honestly seemed to like MP3s. He stressed that the CD (price) is what killed the industry, and it seemed as if he was hinting that MP3s are what will ultimately reform it into something more stable and fair.

    Are there any mastering engineers out there making good money at mastering anymore?

    What markets/market segments do you guys serve? How do you market your mastering services?
  14. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    I've never heard of a mastering house that bought the gear, open their doors and survived. The reality is, the money you spend to get the basics will take a long time to pay off, that's if you have them lined up at the door when you open.

    If you can land one album a month at the going rate of a new engineer, it'll take you about a year to pay off one good eq, if you don't take a salary on the gigs.

    The only place that i've seen market mastering is discmakers, everyone else is by word of mouth. But they are subsidized by the manufacturing end. With the decline of CD's being manufactured, their days are numbered.

    If Sony mastering couldn't find a way to stay in biz, even with a built in client base, then you know things aren't good.
  15. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    covenant66, I've known George since I was 15 and I'm almost 53. He hasn't always been the most practical engineer but he is a genius. Sure, he was just saying what I have always said. The integrity of the recording, technique and quality come through regardless of storage or transport mechanism used. One of the reasons why people think that MP3s don't sound good are the unknown artifacts contained in poorly made recordings. Besides, that stuff is only applicable when talking dial-up service, of the past. How many people here still have dial-up? I'm sure many but not for long. That old-fashioned equipment is pooping out and won't be replaced. You aren't replacing your cassette deck are you? Of course not. No one is. Broadband negates the need for MP3. Higher-speed and greater flash memory size means higher resolution & capacity as de facto standards are around the proverbial corner. However, as compression technologies improve, more crap will proliferate believing it will make a difference. It won't. Nothing replaces talent & technique. So you'll be able to move more hamburgers faster. " It's not a tumor". It's still a hamburger not a lobster.

    Lobster lover
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  16. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    The big mastering places will always be busy with label stuff. Bob Ludwig, the guys at Sterling, Bernie Grundman and a host of other top pros will always be sought out and used by people that demand the best. I would have included the guys at Sony but I guess since they are gone and Sony New York is gone it is a moot point.

    Middle tier mastering engineers like Brad Blackwood, Bob Katz, and any number of other really GREAT mastering engineers will also be busy for some time to come.

    The major problem faced by almost everyone else is that more and more people are trying to do mastering themselves or are opting NOT to get their stuff mastered at all. Also the day of the CD is fast dying as more and more stuff is available on the WWW and the MP3 has become the choice for the "on the go" generation.

    JoeH and RemyRAD bring up lots of good points and I think this whole matter is something that will effect the middle tier mastering engineers for a long long time even if the economy picks up. There are just too many mastering operations for the number of people that need mastering and it is only going to get worse.

    I would seriously suggest that if you are thinking about opening a mastering studio that you talk to other mastering engineers in your area BEFORE you do anything else to see what the business climate is like. Now is probably NOT the best time to open a mastering operation in a area that is already over saturated.

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