A few months ago, I added the skill “Mastering” to my profile on a couple of my social media pages. Like a number of my friends and colleagues, I’m good at mastering a mix of mine, or a mix of yours. Like a number of other mix engineers, I offer a lower priced alternative to a dedicated mastering studio, where rates start at $100.00 a track, minimum.
Personally, I started thinking about offering Mastering after hearing the work of a few bargain priced online Mastering sites. Often the finished product sounded as if the ‘Mastering Engineer’ simply ran the track through a preset mastering plugin, and moved on to the next track. I was not impressed. I spoke to my friend & insanely talented mixer, Ducky Carlisle, and he told me that he’d started offering mastering to his clients. I’d been mastering tracks for clients who were on a budget already, and decided to put it out there. Hang it on my shingle, so to speak.
Today, I get a pretty steady stream of inquiries.
I think it’s important to be totally forthcoming: there are a lot of projects that I send to an outside mastering engineer. At the end of the day, my work is not going to be the same as a Mastering Engineer who:
- Exclusively does mastering, and does it on a daily basis.
- Works out of a studio with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of dedicated mastering gear.
I’d love to tell you that my work is that good, but I can’t.
Now, with digital technology, there’s a tendency to take the attitude “I’ll fix it in the mix”. It’s not a smart way to work, but many of us do it. I’ve been guilty on an occasion or two…
The trend I’ve been noticing from my potential mastering clients has taken the “I’ll fix it in the Mix” paradigm to a new level, which is “Please fix it in Mastering”.
One problem: I can’t, and nobody else can, either.
Mixing is a skill, and there’s a whole lot to it. It’s one of those things where the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know. I love it for that, and that very dynamic is the thing that drives me to get into the studio in the morning.
My theory is that while mastering a track is a service that’s affordable to almost everyone, mixing is not. A great mix takes time, often lots of time, and a good mix engineer charges appropriately for his/her work. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut, and a mix that has issues will end up as a Master that has issues. Those issues will likely be even more pronounced in the completed master.
My feeling is that I cannot master a song that has major mix issues. Believe me, you won’t be happy with the results, and neither will I. I’m happy to discuss mixing it, I’m happy to give you some feedback. I won’t master it as is, though, and I hope you understand why.