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Teaching clients why to "Have It Professionally Mastered"

I know the importance of mastering by a mastering engineer. But trying to tell most of my clients this is like speaking to them in Latin. My mastering guy has given me some good things to say that helps, but most of them really don't get it, all they hear is what it cost and all things considered it's pretty cheap. They see the Finalizer and Masterlink and say won't that do?

What am I missing? Do I need to throw away that stuff, if I have to master, I use a Avalon 737sp and its EQ the Finalizer's converters and soft limit as front end to the Masterlink then increase and limit levels thats it, NO OTHER DSP! Hey it's better than nothing!

What's the best way to teach them!

FAQ

What's the best way to teach clients they need to have their music mastered?

Tell'em that the final product is equal parts mixing AND mastering, and that who mixes cannot master (and viceversa), because his/her ears know the material too well to be objective about the final dynamics and coloration.

What does mastering music mean?

Mastering means preparation of a master copy for replication.

Who Masters Music?

Traditionally, mastering is performed by a specialized facility using custom and/or high-end monitoring, playback and signal processing gear to correct whatever shortcomings are found in the tonal balance and dynamics. A mastering engineer's job is to bring out the very best in a recording.

Most mastering engineers are former employees that were trained by the major labels or by the independent mastering houses that work for the major labels. Broadcasting is another, although less common background that some mastering engineers have.

Audio manufacturers and software developers have redefined the term lately to put an impressive-sounding spin on their advertising rhetoric. Transferring, signal processing and burning CDs are purely incidental to mastering.

What are the major components of mastering?

The major components of mastering are:

  1. quality control,
  2. experience evaluating how effectively one's work will compete in the marketplace
  3. technical skills and facilities necessary to make such judgments and then utilize them to create a competitive, technically bullet-proof master.

Should I get my music mastered?

Certainly many recordings probably shouldn't be mastered. It really depends on the size of the investment especially on the promotion side. If $800 to $2000 for mastering is a huge proportion of the overall budget, I generally wouldn't have it mastered. If not, it's pretty silly to not have it mastered.

Also, there is no such thing as "do it yourself mastering," the whole point is having somebody else do it.

Comments

anonymous Sun, 07/15/2001 - 13:10

Just show them some good commercial CD's and show them the fine print.. "Mastered by Bernie Grundman at.........", etc..

Tell'em that the final product is equal parts mixing AND mastering, and that who mixes cannot master (and viceversa), because his/her ears know the material too well to be objective about the final dynamics and coloration.

Tell'em that all cool bands do it as soon as they have some money to spare, if that sways them...

Tell'em that if isntruments such as the Marterlink and the Finalizer have been invented it's because usually a mix Needs to Be Mastered (otherwise it would be totally senseless for TC to build the Finalizer - innnit?)...

It's not a lost cause...it just takes some effort to get people to part with their pennies...

My 2 swiss francs' worth... :)
Paul

Bob Olhsson Sun, 07/15/2001 - 16:25

Mastering means preperation of a master copy for replication.

Traditionally, mastering is performed by a specialized facility using custom and/or high-end monitoring, playback and signal processing gear to correct whatever shortcomings are found in the tonal balance and dynamics. A mastering engineer's job is to bring out the very best in a recording.

The major components of mastering are quality control, experience evaluating how effectively one's work will compete in the marketplace and the technical skills and facilities necessary to make such judgements and then utilize them to create a competitive, technically bullet-proof master.

Most mastering engineers are former employees that were trained by the major labels or by the independent mastering houses that work for the major labels. Broadcasting is another, although less common background that some mastering engineers have.

Audio manufacturers and software developers have redefined the term lately to put an impressive-sounding spin on their advertising rhetoric. Transfering, signal processing and burning CDs are purely incidental to mastering.

anonymous Mon, 07/16/2001 - 04:34

Mastering is the finishing touches on the sound right? What if there is no real problem with the mix as far as tonal balance is concerned? Some mixes have problems because of the person and equipment who did them. In that case they should get it out into the hands of someone who has the room, the ears, and the monitors and gear to correct it.

If the mix is good, there should not be any correction needed, just enhancement.
If your work is good, there really is no reason why you can't or should not do it your self, especially if you have the gear and the room for it.

I personaly have heard some masters done by well known facilities that were not that impressive. One had missed some mud in the low mids and it was boomy. I've also heard some major releases that were smastered. Not an impressive sound at all.

If the band is not all that good, the sonic quality is not very good, I don't think a high end mastering facility is worth it. Save the band a few bucks and do it yourself. The mix and or band, has to be worthy of a high dollor engineer.

Rog Mon, 07/16/2001 - 05:31

I think you miss the point Jeremy. You are essentially paying for another set of ears - ears that do nothing but master.

99.99% of the time you are too close to the material, you know what processing was applied there, how tracks were layered up, etc.

All this is important in the tracking/mixing process but completely irrelevant when it comes to tweaking that final 2 track master. I'm sure there are terrible mastering engineers out there just as I'm know there are great ones. I'd say that if you are not happy with the results, get them to do it again or use someone who is good.

I think it's worth it if at all possible - not for the expensive monitors, signal chain, etc. Just for letting someone with good ears give it a second opinion and maybe even correct things you missed.

Just my opinion ...

anonymous Mon, 07/16/2001 - 08:45

Example: A friend of mine did a CD in Nashville somewhere, not a major facility, recorded on adats, mixed on an analog board.
He asked me about this mastering facility, a big name place, their rates were extremly high. I told him I could to it for a fraction of the cost. But he decieded to do it there.

I finally got a copy of the CD. It sounded lifeless, bland, and low-fi. I never heard the pre-master but I could not believe that it could have been that bad. He wasted alot of money going there. It was not worth what he payed.

I think you miss my point, if the material is not worthy of a high dollor facility, it's not worth it. As the saying goes, you can't polish a terd, no matter what gear you have.

As far as what I do i'd rather master it. For one, i'd rather be making the money, two, I think I can do as good a job for the money.

Mastering while a/bing to a commercial release that the band likes helps to put the sound into perspective. I say do it yourself.

Bob Olhsson Mon, 07/16/2001 - 11:55

Certainly many recordings probably shouldn't be mastered. It really depends on the size of the investment especially on the promotion side. If $800 to $2000 for mastering is a huge proportion of the overall budget, I generally wouldn't have it mastered. If not, it's pretty silly to not have it mastered.

Also, there is no such thing as "do it yourself mastering," the whole point is having somebody else do it.

realdynamix Mon, 07/16/2001 - 15:33

I have seen the disappointed client, had a client say to ME once;” It’s all there, it’s just not HI-FI”. I must have spent several months trying to figure that out, and felt rather pitiful too. I realized that, at the time our studio was doing mostly rock, and the unhappy client’s music was “very good” bluegrass. So I played, and played around, and finally realized, that had I suggested mastering (vinyl days), or got that second set of ears, that might have made the difference. The client could tell something was wrong, but didn’t know what it was that the music needed, turns out a tweak here, and there, in the right places, made all the difference. That group was great, and deserved a good master. What if the client is not so great? Is a quality-mastering job worth the suggestion, and the extra bucks? I have heard works that I could honestly say sound great, but that’s all I could say.
If you are trying to sell a client on the need for mastering, tell them right up front, “They are worth it”. If you find it a constant debate, include it in your package, with a waiver option.
Sorry for the babble,
--Rick

drumsound Mon, 07/16/2001 - 21:30

This is a very touchy and loaded subject. I feel the studio I run is on a higher level than the mastering room I run in my home. I do believe though that I can add to the quality of the final product if I master it on my system, which currently exists in a computer, (I hate the D word!). I'm in a small town and rarely have clients who are full time players. Budgets are pushed, and often passed before the mix is complete. I offer an affordable final stage. Some projects don't get mastered. They are usually done in a weekend and still end up with a client strapped for cash. Others spend a little more and I master it here and some others figure out a way to go to a "proper" mastering house in Chicago. If you can offer an in-between for clients, you are providing a useful and helpful service for people that you promised to give the best product that you could, while working within their means.

I hope I am not rambling. I do believe that I can add to a project. I don't think I'm Misters Ludwig, Grundman, Wienberg et al...

anonymous Tue, 07/17/2001 - 04:55

Blake, it could also "not sound good no matter what stereo you put it on". Sorry but most of the major releases coming out these day's that i've heard that were "professionaly" mastered i'm not to impressed with. Have you heard AeroSmiths latest, Push and Play?

It's a sonic disaster. No dynamic's, everything pushed to the limit, harsh, toxic, and unlistenable at higher volumes.
It was mastered at Sterling Sound in NYC.
Is that not a "professional" mastering facility?

anonymous Tue, 07/17/2001 - 11:20

The Question was not should they master, it was how do you make them understand that In Most Cases Mastering is the next step. We all know those who come in that have recording experience, (most) know when it applies. But when your dealing with non label acts we have the responsibility of teaching them. In the thread "Questions for the future: as digital improves" Bob talked about the lack of comunity:

The other problem this created is that there are no longer very many studio-based communities where people can learn from others and more important, ABOUT each other.

Which is what's missing as well as adding to the decline of quality recordings!

I most certainly would not send my work to someone that could not do the job. The only way to know that is to find an engineer that does good work, DUH! And my guy does very good work! The other issue is I want MY work to be the best it can be, that = satified clients = repeat business = good reputation = more new work = paying the bills at the end of the month!

I think WE should be there to teach them about the recording process and have the ability to explain in ways that they understand. Bob described it best:
Mastering means preperation of a master copy for
replication.
Traditionally, mastering is performed by a specialized facility
using custom and/or high-end monitoring, playback and
signal processing gear to correct whatever shortcomings are
found in the tonal balance and dynamics. A mastering
engineer's job is to bring out the very best in a recording.
The major components of mastering are quality control,
experience evaluating how effectively one's work will
compete in the marketplace and the technical skills and
facilities necessary to make such judgements and then
utilize them to create a competitive, technically bullet-proof
master.
Most mastering engineers are former employees that were
trained by the major labels or by the independent mastering
houses that work for the major labels. Broadcasting is
another, although less common background that some
mastering engineers have.

I printed this out to put in a packet for my clients.

anonymous Wed, 07/18/2001 - 04:15

My situation is that i'm also a recording studio. The typical client I deal with can't afford a mastering facility. I've only had 2 clients over a 5 year period that took there project to what would be considered a Mastering Engineer in my area. I sat in on one session. It was interesting.

I'm working off a digital console and mix-mastering directly into my PC, never leaving the digital realm. The board is automated and has total recall so it never goes to a dat. I'm also able to save settings in the Finalizer and recall them. So tweeking the mix, and putting the finishing touches on the overall sound can be done over a period of time.

So there is such a thing as "do it yourself mastering". Ask Paul, he does it all the time..... dude.

Bob Olhsson Wed, 07/18/2001 - 07:47

Originally posted by jeremy hesford:
tweeking the mix, and putting the finishing touches on the overall sound can be done over a period of time.

So there is such a thing as "do it yourself mastering". Ask Paul, he does it all the time..... dude.

Do you really believe that any serious mixing engineer does NOT tweak and put as many finishing touches on every mix as they can find and that the budget allows?

The reason many of us don't consider that process "mastering" is because it is using both the same monitoring environment as the mix and the same person's ears. The problem with this is simply that you are in no position to catch any ADDITIONAL problems than those that should have already been addressed in the mixing process. Again what you are doing is totally appropriate for many projects. It just isn't what is traditionally meant by the term "mastering."

I do both mixing and mastering. I just don't master my own mix work and many of my mixes have never been mastered when they weren't going to be sold into stores or played on the air competing with other music in the same genre.

anonymous Wed, 07/18/2001 - 10:02

Bob, with all due respect, that's a load of bull. "simply in no postion to catch ANY additional problems", is not true if you have a good room and monitors.

That's were "over a period of time" comes in. You can catch things by hearing the mix a week later, it helps to put the sound into perspective.Also listening to it on another completely different system tied into the console, is as different as being in another room.

I also relize that most mastering engineers (guy's who's only job is mastering, period, and have dedicated gear for that purpose)
frown and or look down on those who have equipment like the TC gear for that purpose.

I just don't buy into your deffinition of (another room), another (set of ears) as being "real" mastering.
Some most deffinately need another room to correct problems do to the limitations of there room, but not all.

anonymous Wed, 07/18/2001 - 10:14

Jeremy,

Yes, I do it a lot (what are we talking about again...{g}?)...I "master" stuff that I mix. It's always a budget thing as most of us know. I will say that I firmly believe that my stuff sounds the best when mastered by someone else who is very good. I have had the misfortune to have my stuff mastered by a name at a name mastering facility (Jeremy, I think this is one of the places you are talking about) and have it turn out like overcompressed shit. Once I had to remaster the whole project cause the guy killed it with a Vari Mu....but....I REALLY feel it's the second set of ears of a *good* mastering person that is MOST beneficial to a project.
We as humans can't think/hear/dream outside of ourselves.....of course there was that one band practice in the early 80s at Tim's house....hehehe

Jon Best Wed, 07/18/2001 - 19:21

Hm. I will agree that having the time luxury to revisit mixes a couple of times over a week or two can go a long way towards getting very, very close to a project that needs nothing when it goes for mastering. I just think that a second set of experienced, fresh, unbiased ears is a wonderful opportunity, and usually cheap compared to tracking and mixing for all but the lowest budget projects.

Now, I do my share of hack-job mastering, especially of demos, and I have a good room and great speakers. I feel pretty comfortable getting it in the ballpark. I still don't pretend to do it as well as someone who does just that one job, in a room put together for just that one job.

And I don't really know a mastering engineer who frowns on the *idea* of anything, really, although there are certain pieces of gear (like the Finalizer) that many frown on for _completely_ sonic reasons. I do too, actually, having finally heard the thing's EQ through some really revealing speakers. It's not horrible, but it's far from the best sound I've heard a mix be subjected to... :)

Originally posted by jeremy hesford:
Bob, with all due respect, that's a load of bull. "simply in no postion to catch ANY additional problems", is not true if you have a good room and monitors.

That's were "over a period of time" comes in. You can catch things by hearing the mix a week later, it helps to put the sound into perspective.Also listening to it on another completely different system tied into the console, is as different as being in another room.

I also relize that most mastering engineers (guy's who's only job is mastering, period, and have dedicated gear for that purpose)
frown and or look down on those who have equipment like the TC gear for that purpose.

I just don't buy into your deffinition of (another room), another (set of ears) as being "real" mastering.
Some most deffinately need another room to correct problems do to the limitations of there room, but not all.

anonymous Sun, 07/22/2001 - 14:30

mastering -yes, that´s exactly what I´m thinking about these days...

my situation: I am 26 years old, just locally known, and now facing a great challenge: 16 tracks as the music for a film. (supposed to be in german cinema)
The way I work: Completely based on my G4-Mac, using Logic on a Digi001.
I have nearly all those lovely VST-plugins, and using them a lot is my greatest passion.
The kind of music I do, and the way I treat it by using effects, is maybe not the normal way of pop, for example.
I use to record of natural instruments (gitars, bass, banjo, harmonium, piano, metallophon, mouthharp and several percussion-stuff), and mostly I mess them up with plugins..
I just blindly select a plug and get crazy with the parameters for example, or I bounce the gitar, let TimeFactory timestrectch it 4 times faster, and then put the Signal into an extreme reverb in the insert....(sorry for this weird explanations, but I have 2 beers inside me now... ;)

Puhh...okay: All I wanted to say is that I am not working in this clean-style, or technical-traditional way...

Now theInteresting thing about this:

I mastered all the tracks in an all-analog studio with a good man doing the mastering. (various stuff and an excellent studer-mixing-console...hmm...tasty..put on a telefunken-tapemachine)

I then sent the traks to the Chief-soundengineer of the film..
he told me that I should master the tracks on my own, because they lost my charakter through mastering.
So I now will master my tracks with my PSP-plugins, ´cause thats what my clients want me to do..

I really don´t know what I should think about this at all...
Somehow I can understand them, as the sound I do is the sound I do, and this extreme plugin-working is part of my sound..

So any comments to this?
would be fine...
thanks for reading
putte
(again...sorry for this long text..hihi)

anonymous Sun, 07/22/2001 - 15:19

Well, somehow I really liked it.
It sounded like I wished to have it sounding - I do everything digitally, but I am used to listen to good old 60´s(70´s)-"orchestra-pop", so to the music when they used all of this amazing, warm-sounding analog-stuff. (uh...the warmth)

And It worked out fine in a way - I wanted to have more warmth on the tracks, and I got this warmth (and lots of stereo..)

But the thing is that I could somehow understand what this chief-soundman of the film meant: It really lost some of my song-charakter...hard to explain, but maybe it is because the songs sound "modern" (just because of the way I work)....sorry, my lacking endlish seems to leave at this moment... ;)
putte

So

Bob Olhsson Sun, 07/22/2001 - 15:30

The only appropriate place to "master" for a motion picture is on a film dubbing (mixing) stage against picture using a full-size screen unless the film is only going to be shown in one theater. Then you want it to be right in THAT theater.

It is also imperative that you be present to make sure everything sounds the exact way you intend it to sound subject to the director's concerns about integration with the dialogue and sound effects.