The Importance of Mastering Relationships
As an owner of a Mastering business, I am, like many, concerned by upcoming and potential challenges in our audio business. What specifically keeps me up at night, you ask? Oh, nothing more than the fact that the industry, as a whole, is seeing significant change in consumer listening and music purchasing habits married with a persistent economic downturn! Perhaps we all share this?
I was recently alerted to the availability of an online, inexpensive, and automated, yes automated, mastering service. This concept makes me rather curious about the audio world in which we currently live. Can a song be instantly mastered using one click of a button by a computer server alone? Is this clever? Is this correct? It screams of the ‘that’ll do attitude’ we have all become used to with ‘we’ll fix it in the mix’ and the widespread adoption of substandard audio quality to CD.
Naturally, as an Audio & Mastering Engineer with 20 years experience, I would insist that this automated approach may not stack up to the quality, care, and overall results produced by a bespoke mastering experience involving a living, breathing, and experienced engineer. Indeed it does not sound quite like what we might do here.
Many traditional mastering setups pride themselves on the relationships that they have established with their clients, especially those who almost always come back time and time again. It is the importance placed on these relationships that allows them, myself included, to work closely with clients in order to understand their work. Often this collaborative process allows us to help shape the mixes before they even get to us for final mastering.
In my humble opinion, a Mastering Engineer is not only a second set of ears, but in many instances, is a trusted partner. In the end, music is shaped by the knowledge, and relationship of all involved, not a server.
Russ Hepworth-Sawyer is a sound engineer and producer with over 12 years experience of all things audio. He is a member of the Audio Engineering Society and the Music Producer’s Guild. Russ is currently Senior Lecturer of Music Production and Head of LCMselect at Leeds College of Music. Additionally, through MOTTOsound, Russ works freelance in the industry as a mastering engineer, writer and consultant. He has contributed to Sound On Sound and authored numerous books including From Demo to Delivery.