The future for the Mix and Mastering engineer.

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by adyG, Jul 4, 2018.

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  1. adyG

    adyG Active Member

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    Hi Chris and friends, many thanks for the welcome.

    I am based in London Uk and currently studying an MA in Record Production so thought I would join to see if I can get any info for my final project as well as any other pro tips. I am not a young student, at 46 I make my living as a professional guitarist, teaching and playing, but I also do sound engineering for performances, recording and some mixing using Pro Tools and Logic.
    My final project is along a very similar line to one of the posts on your forum, "Death of the Mastering Engineer". I am of the opinion that this profession is on its way out and the next to follow will be mixing engineers and the tactile analogue production techniques that go with it.

    With software companies such as Izotope developing intelligent mix and mastering software, like Neutron and Ozone 8, surely it's only a matter of time as to when these professions become obsolete. As a musician, I found out early on in my career that it helped if I turned my hand to a variety of different skills to survive in the music business and that's why I do so many different things.

    The job market all over the world seems to be getting harder and I believe a lot of this is to do with the advances in technology as well as a few other things. Musicians have been losing work for many years now with the development of sample library software so what are the prospects of the future mix and master engineers going to be in 10-20 years and what is the technology going to do to jobs in other areas? We live in a world where technology is meant to help us out and improve our lifestyles, the irony of it is as technology advances and starts doing more for us we will be heading backwards as we become poorer through lack of work - that's a cheery thought.

    Anyway, if you have any info on the future of mix engineers perhaps you can point me in the direction of this.

    PS. I am quite a cheery person so please don't get the impression I am a profit of doom. I do think it's important that these things are addressed though.
     
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  2. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

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    Welcome to RO, Glad to have you onboard.
    In my point of view, too many people calls defeat on very important expertise such as what a Mastering engineer needs to be a ME..
    I do know well the diffence between mixing and mastering and the knowledge, experience and gear needed to achieve a true mastering.
    Of course I might be guilty of using some plugins and do pseudo mastering jobs because many musician don't have enough money to bring my mixes to a real Mastering engineer.
    But in no case I will pretend to be a ME and I make it clear with my customers...

    I think people will return to quality seeking in a few years as this is a cycle. Many are already turning from earbuds to highend headphones.
    I'm sure some will start to reseach quality recording as well at some point.

    I think we are a few here at RO who still resist the Lowfi frenzy and try to hang tight until the good days come back (if ever)
    I turned from a 32ch mixer to a setup with highend preamps and an honest mic locker because I realised that the part that mathers the most is the audio capture.
    Where many fails is when recording with a 199$ interface/mic combo and thinking those amazing plugins will make the sound.. Most of the time they don't have the proper listening environement and monitoring to make good decisions and no plugins don't make audio, room, instrument, players, mics and preamps do.
    I guess many RO members try to break illusions like that while focusing on what counts the most.. ;)
     
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  3. Makzimia

    Makzimia The Minstrel Well-Known Member

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    I'll echo part of what Marco has said. The original capture is the biggest thing, and is highly overlooked. Mixing it all well afterwards is much easier, but, without that first step, you're toast. I will however throw one spanner in the traditional wheel, environment is much less an issue today if (and this the only reason IMHO) you are working mostly on your own. The moment you have a band involved, better get that room sorted :).
     
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  4. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

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    mastering engineering i think will hang around for a while. between mastering level acoustics, and extremely precise ADDA conversion and monitoring, its something most mix/tracking just cant engineers cant afford to incorporate in their rooms. ME's are putting all their investment into a single room, where mix/tracking engineers are spreading between several rooms, tracking gear, and creature comfort.

    talking about 'serious' projects, most people are inclined to track and mix themselves, thats much more common, than them putting the same time and effort into the mastering phase. we all use mastering style processing, for various reasons, from budget, to experiment, to just keeping things closer to a finalized thing. if your talking something released on even a small label, it's likely to be professionally mastered.

    the objectivity is something thats priceless. by the time im finally 'done' with a project, ive likely been sick of it. having another new set of ears has worked well, even if they arent true ME's.

    archiving is another area more prone to be giving to a mastering engineer, as well as making various formats of a final product ready for release on the plethora of different platforms. i think alot of ME's are getting alot of mix stems to work with, so they're actually doing more mixing than ever before. mastering has always been around, and largely unnoticed, so i think maybe part of the reason it seems to be "dying" is simply because more people realize it exists.

    what i see with so many people mixing everywhere is a centralized tracking studio that services several engineers, and clients, who then take them into their own mix room, on premises or elsewhere. people will swear that the commercial studio is dead, but ive built 2, and they are still going, over 8 years later. there's always a certain type of person who'd rather leave it up to a pro.

    what i dont see is another heyday, or golden age like we saw in the 60's-80's. commercial audio recording and mixing is largely a break even business, with the payoff being a great experience, tons of insane work, and ideally a nice piece of real estate and equipment to cash out when its time. for all but the select few, cash will always be a rare commodity, as bands and musicians, are largely, broke. i know some very well paid musicians and some who work for beer.

    the reason to do audio for a living is because you cant be happy doing anything but audio. that is the reward, to do what you love as much as possible while getting enough cash to survive. if you can do live sound you can work pretty easily every weekend, with a couple good bands/clients. its always worth pursuing what you love, as everything else will still be there should your heart change, or it doesn't quite produce enough for a standard of living you want. its the love that drives you thru the slumps on your path. and driving thru the slumps is what makes you available for opportunity.

    if your open to new things there's tons of opportunities that creep up that are audio related, but perhaps not just putting a mic in front of an amp. as a tracking and mixing engineer your largely as good as your clients and the songs, so being selective or at least careful in that reguard can help you not get bogged down. you'll notice the highest level mixers are mixing either high level acts, or new acts that have some backing behind them.

    as one thing turns automated or obsolete, the next thing takes its former place, and as long as you arent afraid to keep learning, and keep a reasonable overview, you can ride the wave all the way in. for instance my mentor, a berkley music school graduate has been working for 3 decades, and has even designed an entire audio curriculum for a technical college. the odds of doing nothing but recording and mixing as a full time job are relatively low, even at large world class studios, but it can be a significant part of it. between gigging and your engineering skills, you have plenty enough to offer, and keep busy enough to never punch a time clock. welcome to RO.
     
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  5. adyG

    adyG Active Member

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    Many thanks for the welcome guys. I will try to respond to those points.

    With regards to headphones and earbuds, I see a lot of wireless headphones/earbuds out there now which seems to be the way it is going, they will be implanting them in peoples heads next. I was always under the impression that the sound quality of wireless headphones was not the greatest but I guess this depends on if it's Bluetooth or connected via wifi. I'm sure this will eventually improve but if the sound is compromised is it a waste of time mastering it to a high standard in the first place?

    I guess audio capture all depends on what project you're working on. If you aim is to capture a full orchestra an array of microphones set up is the go-to method I guess but I do know bands that use sample libraries very successfully nowadays. I've recently bought 'Midi guitar 2' software, this allows me to connect my electric guitar direct to my interface and trigger great sounding sample libraries which negate the use of a microphone. Don't get me wrong, I like nothing more than positioning different mics around a cab or acoustic guitar to achieve the sound I am after but some of the sample libraries are so good is there really a need for this and will it eventually lead to the next progression of capturing sound?
    Obviously, you need to capture the samples in the first place but I am currently laying down an acoustic guitar track using a sample library by directly plugging my electric guitar into my interface, as a guitarist, it's quite scary how convincing and easy it is to do and achieve great results. In the last 100 years, we've developed from recording using horns to microphones and it now looks like this is starting to evolve again. If the sound of a drum recording is bad that's fine because you can just use trigger software to fix it, a lot of engineers do this convincingly already.

    I agree that it is good to get a second pair of ears to listen to the project then give their input and master it, this is something I don't do but you can pay an online mastering company to do this for you, Landr being a prime example.

    I went into music for the exact reason of enjoying my job and can't complain. If I wanted to earn lots of money I would have gone into finance and got away with screwing people over. The music business seems to get harder every year with venues continuing to cut their entertainment budget and opting for cheaper bands, which usually doesn't work, and when they realise they aren't making the money they just cut the live music not realising that it's quality rather than cost that wins in the end. This is the case with most professions.

    I like the hands-on approach and don't want to lose that. I am pretty sure this is going to be around for a few years yet but if you think about all the different formats we have had in the last 100 years, and that is a very short period of time of recording and mixing, I'm sure by the end of this century there will be a lot more intelligent software and automation involved in the profession as the record companies look at increasing their profits even more which will see these jobs diminish even more - I sincerely hope not though.

    Anyway, I've gone on too much. Enjoy it while we can.
     
  6. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

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    I get what you are saying, why bother if people can't tell the difference right ? Thing is I DO HEAR the difference and it's enough for me to go the extra mille.
    It's easy to shovel your grave into the lowfi easiness. All the youngster do it, low fi is good easy and free... (NOT !! )

    Of course if all you are doing is your own demo at home it's all fine.. But if you ever want to charge for a service, it better be a few step up from what people makes in their bedrooms. That's where I stand, I charge 30$ and hour and I want the customers (even if there isn't many) to go wow, I couldn't have done this good it at home....

    One other thing, VSTi and amp simulators rarely sound great on the get go. A person that knows how to mic a cab has twice the chances to tweak a good sound in an amp simulator

    So I guess it gets down to what you want to do and what effort you want to invest into learning the craft.
    Here I'm at it for the past 30 years and still learning ;)
     
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  7. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

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    ive been interested in this for a while now, but havent purchased anything related to midi guitaring yet. how is the response as far as feel and latency?

    in the mix crutuque here at RO, felow emgineers will gice there thoughts. for freeeeeeeeee :)

    i got to the end of year 3 with a major in finance abd a 3.7 gpa. i left before the start of the fourth to "give music a shot" professionally, and 12 years later, i'm still going. They profess in the text books to 'put your morals aside for business', it was a whole section in the chapter about ethics, ect. im no saint, nor am i religious, but i am stubborn and hold on to my beliefs of righteousness, and altruism as a foundation of my existence. The day they taught that lesson in business school is the day i started to believe i could and should walk a different path. funny thing is, most shady business people are not successful long term. there's a fine line between pushover and thief. now perhaps they were talking about things like child labour, cutting peoples benefits, ect for profit, not "illegal, or unethical" technically, but still, the implication of the chapter was all is fair for profits. walmart fired me xmas eve one year after my shift 'because i was only a seasonal employee' lol. nice.

    or Dj's. it seems to me its not about the quality of the band, but how many people show up and buy drinks, that determines weather they get hired or not by local clubs.
     
  8. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

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    This was a pain being in a band and trying to book shows. In my early days, bars had their clientel and they just had to entertain them. So having a band was a way to keep people coming back and spend hard money. It was easy and paid well.
    Today's bars and restorants hires a band or musician or karaoke or DJ not to entertain their already owned clientel but to bring some in. How on earth did it become the responsability of a musician to make a bar profitable by bringing the clientel himself/herself ?? In interviews I have been asked many times how many people can I bring to the venue... WTF ??
    If I need to do everything, publicity, promotion, PR, learn to play, perform etc.. Who needs a bar? I better rent a small place, sell tickets and keep the money for myself ??

    OK my steam is out... ;)
     
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  9. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

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    LOL, i thought it was just a standard question.. ive never not been asked that.

    it's bad enough for cover bands, nevermind originals! :(

    my old band was booked at a place were you had to sell a certain amount of tickets, or pay the difference, or you couldnt play. the drummer father had died the week of the show, and we canceled the date, and never got booked at that place again. lol the name of the place was The Church- Boston. they expected something like $200 in ticket sales (20x$10). we typically brought in 10-15 people and it would have left us paying, or asking for ticket sales form people who'd buy a ticket but not end up going, like family members.

    all a bar has to do is have a couple drink specials, and be decent, and people flock there. nobody cares about the Local Joes up on stage much, as long as there's a dance able beat, and the bass bumps.

    Dj's, get to play pre recorded music, they didnt have any part in the creation of, from a laptop or flash drive. lol minimal setup, minimal work.

    there are Dj's who spin vinyl still, and really perform, and do song selection based on the crowds mood and reactions, but those are much less common the the ipod dj's.

    then theres the regoinal booking agents, who''ll get you the A and B rooms (1500-5k per night) for *only* 15%. one phone call, gets them 15% every single time you play. talk about stealing from the poor.

    at least nobody says music is an easy career. lol the truth is told from the get go.

    if your a single performer, or a duo, you have a chance at gigging 4-5 nights a week, and making a decent living from it, with minimal setup and teardown.
     
  10. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

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    That makes me old, I guess. When I played back in the day, bars had a ton of customers and bands never asked to bring people..
    there wasn't any facebook back then so calling friends one by one would be tedious... ;)
     
  11. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

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    i actually did that for an important show a few years back, i made 40 individual phone invites lol. we packed the place (120 capacity) so it worked. i really feel like i missed the golden age of music. im somewhat jealous of the era you've lived thru.
     
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  12. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

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    Let's hope it's a cycle and it's coming back soon...
     
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  13. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    it wasn't all that it's cracked up to be. club owners, drunks, schlepping a pa and amps .... have to drive a van. drummers .... :rolleyes: lol.
     
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  14. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

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    oh yeah.... drummers... lmao.
     
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  15. eternalsound

    eternalsound Black-top!! Active Member

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    I suspect doom for most ME's - I mean they close their doors everyday. Let's face it, the big guys will be around for major label productions but everything under that will go to online auto-mastering. Personally, if I were producing music I'd just go to an online auto-mastering site and give it a run a few times 'til I got what I wanted. It's cheap and is MORE than sufficient for amateur to semi-professional productions.

    I think most ME's are in denial about their coming extinction, and their fear tactics regarding room treatment and speakers used to deter people away from "online" mastering are dead in the water - no one cares because they just want something that sounds good to them; and it can and will be achieved sufficiently through online auto-processes.

    Now ...long live the computer programmer! :LOL:
     
  16. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

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    i recently discovered a pro ME (Nick Moon- Tone Proper) who mastered one of my favorite records (Emancipator- Safe in the Steep Cliffs), who's rates are surprisingly affordable- $17 per minute. hes got the real deal mastering rig- lavry gold, jbl master reference, shadow hills compressor, and more, including purpose built mastering room. i am planning on sending a song to him to see what its like to have a dedicated mastering engineer. he even linked RO in one of his links, so i know he's got great taste.

    im not sure the auto-mastering is running thru actual analog gear, which is the un-affordable part of mastering for most mix guys.

    i also think that any sort of algorithmic based auto mastering will be made available in a pluggin as direct competition to the auto online method. at the end of the day whatever works best for the song.
     
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  17. eternalsound

    eternalsound Black-top!! Active Member

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    Good point! Online is doomed too. :sneaky:
     
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  18. Makzimia

    Makzimia The Minstrel Well-Known Member

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    Ozone 8 advanced does a great job :). Just saying.
     
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