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Author Topic: New perspective on mastering  (Read 3818 times)

Allen Corneau

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New perspective on mastering
« on: May 07, 2011, 08:34:00 am »

I was recently talking to a young man who is studying audio engineering at Houston Community College. His professor is a good friend, colleague and client who has me lecture on mastering each semester, so this young man just heard my lecture a few weeks prior.

He was telling me that when he talks to bands and musicians (as potential clients) and he tells them that he doesn't do mastering they look at him with a "what's the matter with you?" kind of look.

It seems that the expectation from these potential clients is that if you're not good enough to master your own mixes then why should I think that you're good enough to track and mix my band?!?
 :o

I found this perspective to be a very interesting (and disturbing) new twist on the idea of the new engineer that offers "soup to nuts" engineering services.

Has anyone else heard about this new "expectation" from the up-and-coming music makers?
 :(
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Tim Halligan

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Re: New perspective on mastering
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2011, 10:55:58 am »

It hardly seems surprising these days, especially given that musicians expect you to fix their performances - beat defective/outtatune etc - and that happens way earlier in the production process.

I wonder if the response is something along the lines of "Jack of all trades - master of none" vs experienced specialists all the way along the production chain? Do they want a GP cutting them open, or a highly trained surgeon?

Cheers,
Tim
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Thomas W. Bethel

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Re: New perspective on mastering
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2011, 06:53:09 am »

I am seeing a lot of DIY musicians that do everything themselves from recording to mixing to mastering to creating the artwork for their "album" to doing the shrink wrap and hawking their CDs at their concerts. I guess it is just the tenor of the times.

I know recently a lot of our clients are telling me that they are being harangued by their recording engineers to let them "do the mastering" so that someone else does not mess with their "sound". That may only be part of the story. I think a lot of recording and mix engineers are looking to pad out their bottom line with additional services and mastering, which a lot of people don't understand, is sometimes an easy sell.



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Thomas W. Bethel
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Allen Corneau

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Re: New perspective on mastering
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2011, 08:41:30 am »

I know recently a lot of our clients are telling me that they are being harangued by their recording engineers to let them "do the mastering" so that someone else does not mess with their "sound". That may only be part of the story. I think a lot of recording and mix engineers are looking to pad out their bottom line with additional services and mastering, which a lot of people don't understand, is sometimes an easy sell.

Yes, I've heard/seen this scenario plenty of times before. I found it interesting that it was the client's expectation that one person does it all, not the person providing the services.
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Thomas W. Bethel

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Re: New perspective on mastering
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2011, 09:52:26 am »

I, for one, do not mess with the sound of a client's mixes when I master it. I only master it and try to make it sound the best it can be. Since the idea of "messing with the mixer's sound"  seems to be a constant complaint at places like GS I guess this must be a fairly common occurrence OR mixers are getting really anal about their mixes.

Any thoughts?
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Thomas W. Bethel
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Acoustik Musik, Ltd.
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Waltz Mastering

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Re: New perspective on mastering
« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2011, 10:11:41 am »


He was telling me that when he talks to bands and musicians (as potential clients) and he tells them that he doesn't do mastering they look at him with a "what's the matter with you?" kind of look.

It seems that the expectation from these potential clients is that if you're not good enough to master your own mixes then why should I think that you're good enough to track and mix my band?!?
 :o

I found this perspective to be a very interesting (and disturbing) new twist on the idea of the new engineer that offers "soup to nuts" engineering services.

Has anyone else heard about this new "expectation" from the up-and-coming music makers?
 :(
I would look at it with a grain of salt...as with almost any generalization pertaining to the music industry.

For all we know these clients he's referring to might not and probably don't have the same definition of mastering that you or I have...sorta like "if you can't operate T rex, then you probably won't be able to record my music that good" mentality

...on the other hand, there is the mentality that when engineers started learning the ropes at Abbey Road,  they started learning in the mastering room, so that when they got to be recording and balance engineers they new how to work a project for the end result.

I would bet it's the first scenario.

I, for one, do not mess with the sound of a client's mixes when I master it. I only master it and try to make it sound the best it can be. Since the idea of "messing with the mixer's sound"  seems to be a constant complaint at places like GS I guess this must be a fairly common occurrence OR mixers are getting really anal about their mixes.

Any thoughts?
It all depends.. If it needs it, I'll mess with the sound quite a bit.

As far as "messing with the sound" being a complaint or generalization..it's hard to say what that means or went on or goes on with these particular projects.

lowland

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Re: New perspective on mastering
« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2011, 10:26:00 am »

Since the idea of "messing with the mixer's sound"  seems to be a constant complaint at places like GS I guess this must be a fairly common occurrence OR mixers are getting really anal about their mixes.

I don't often see this, but once in a while I'll get mixes where the mixer has clearly tried to present as 'finished' a piece of work as possible. My reaction to that may depend on the experience of the mixer: for example I had some fine blues guitar mixes from John Porter through recently which required little more than a few level nudges and transfer to DDP, but not long before I'd been babysitting someone new to mastering who'd gone overboard on 'making it sound like a record' to start with; some extensive conversations and mix rejigs later they completely 'got it' and were very happy with the final result. Both scenarios gave me a lot of job satisfaction :-)
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Nigel Palmer
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SafeandSoundMastering

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Re: New perspective on mastering
« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2011, 03:11:20 pm »

Along with the general demise of quality throughout the music industry (a generalization) confusion has also appeared in large amounts.

There are endless mastering websites offering mixing services, it is not at all a surprise.
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Barry Gardner
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Jerry Tubb

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Re: New perspective on mastering
« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2011, 09:26:13 am »

Many of our regular clients are producer/engineers who prefer not to master their own mixes.

A mastering budget is built into the project from the start.

Their mixes (as a result) are excellent, with good balance, plenty of headroom, etc.

In turn, I don't pursue mixing, and refer any mixing jobs to them.

It's a mutually beneficial arrangement.

It's been working for us for over 20 years.

JT
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SafeandSoundMastering

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Re: New perspective on mastering
« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2011, 12:05:49 pm »

It makes sense, and is a good relationship to have but sadly there can be a sense of desperation for those who make wrong moves. Humans do that from time to time. No one is immune from changes.
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Barry Gardner
SafeandSound Mastering UK based online mastering studio.

PBM

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Re: New perspective on mastering
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2011, 04:12:21 am »

Many of our regular clients are producer/engineers who prefer not to master their own mixes.

A mastering budget is built into the project from the start.

Their mixes (as a result) are excellent, with good balance, plenty of headroom, etc.

In turn, I don't pursue mixing, and refer any mixing jobs to them.

It's a mutually beneficial arrangement.

It's been working for us for over 20 years.

JT

Very much the same here: producers/mix engineers, not musicians, send us much the greater portion of our work. We couldn't survive without their word of mouth and regularly returning custom (which is why we're so nice to them on our web-page) ... 
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Philosophers Barn Mastering
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Thomas W. Bethel

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Re: New perspective on mastering
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2011, 08:01:14 am »

Many of our regular clients are producer/engineers who prefer not to master their own mixes.

A mastering budget is built into the project from the start.

Their mixes (as a result) are excellent, with good balance, plenty of headroom, etc.

In turn, I don't pursue mixing, and refer any mixing jobs to them.

It's a mutually beneficial arrangement.

It's been working for us for over 20 years.

JT

Until recently that worked very well for us as well.

I think that with the current economic climate in this area studios want any work they can get. Most have started up "mastering" operations so that the client stays with them from the tracking to the mixing and now mastering. A lot of studios that use to send us mastering work are now choosing to do it themselves. They say they are doing it to "preserve the musical integrity of their mixes" but I think it goes more to preserving their bottom line.

We do not do tracking or mixing (and I do not want to get involved in those areas).

A couple of the bigger studios around here have cut all their full time engineers and one major studio owner is renting out all his studios except one to outside engineers on a month to month basis. It is not a good time for anyone in audio in this area. Hopefully things will get back to "normal" sometime soon.

FWIW
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Thomas W. Bethel
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PBM

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Re: New perspective on mastering
« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2011, 09:12:16 am »

Until recently that worked very well for us as well.

I think that with the current economic climate in this area studios want any work they can get. Most have started up "mastering" operations so that the client stays with them from the tracking to the mixing and now mastering. A lot of studios that use to send us mastering work are now choosing to do it themselves. They say they are doing it to "preserve the musical integrity of their mixes" but I think it goes more to preserving their bottom line.


Completely the other way round here: most of the mixers I work with regularly offered some kind of `in-a-pinch mastering' before, but now they only do it when their client insists there's no budget for me - and they hate doing it. I have never heard that line about preserving musical integrity from anyone.

If you used to have good relations with these engineers `until recently' maybe you need to investigate a little more thoroughly what went wrong with those relationships? It's sad that you seem to think that maybe they don't respect you enough to tell you the truth (possibly genuine financial difficulties).

Eric
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MoreSpaceEcho

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Re: New perspective on mastering
« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2011, 01:01:35 pm »

i've no idea what sort of conversations bands are having with tracking/mix engineers, but certainly a good portion of my clients are young bands. i'm pretty sure the kids are alright.
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