THE VALUE OF MASTERING
If you are skeptical towards the necessity or the worth of an additional mastering because your mix seems to sound good enough you should consider the time and the effort you invested into your production up to this point. And if you can quantify its value you can get an idea of the possible budget for an additional mastering. If maybe 10% of the whole production costs could enhance the sound quality recognizably ... and thus lift the success of your production to another level ... – why not invest?!
How to find a fitting mastering service?
Once you have an idea of your budget for mastering you can try to find a fitting service. There exist a wide range of services with very different quality claims and prices.There exist a wide range of services with very different quality claims and prices (from 40,- up to 150,- EURO per track and in case of very prominent mastering studios rather four-figure amounts). The most fitting provider also maybe depends on the destined final media. In the special case of a production only for a vinyl record it may be an option to hire the vinyl cutter also for other mastering tasks like sound treatment and the length of pauses between the tracks. Better than that could be to hire an other (standard) mastering engineer for those tasks and to let the vinyl cutting engineer only do his special cutting job – comparable to the division of labor between mastering engineer and pressing plant. The advantage of this choice would be that each one has to contribute only his special skills. Every sophisticated mastering engineer should know all about the preparation of audio material for pressing on vinyl (see also VINYL MASTERING IN DETAIL).
How you can see here, the prices for mastering on sono-works.com are a bit higher than the prices of a few online mastering services but on the other hand much lower than the average prices of the most mastering studios. The reasons:
- In opposite to the cheaper online mastering services you can get here master drafts for free before any binding contract. Additionally at least one revision is included (if necessary more than one) – in other words a kind of "satisfaction warranty". If you are unsatisfied with the expectable mastering results from the preview or draft - no costs and no problem. And if you have special wishes in terms of other needed audio formats (e.g. in addition to the cd master the tracks as AAC files for iTunes plus) in most cases we can deliver that without or with minimal additional costs. All additional options and their costs can be negotiated freely and flexibly.
- In opposite to the most mastering studios with higher prices (often with prices per hour) the pricing on sono-works.com is oriented only on the aimed result. A billing for the needed working time seems to me unfitting at all, if – how in my case – the studio has not to add the rent for studio rooms into the billing. It shows the advantage of hiring an experienced mastering engineer with his well-selected tools instead of renting a whole mastering studio. But this causes also the disadvantage that the possibilities for attended sessions in my case are limited. Regardless of the impossibility of attended sessions through geographical distances or schedule limitations I highly appreciate the value of communication between all involved. It's an important precondition for an optimal result. Because I also like to work spontaneously and without a fixed schedule, is an often proved way to schedule at least one attended session for the very final mastering works – if it would be easy for the artist(s) to visit my rooms on a short date. If it's not possible, the alternative way to reach good results without restrictions will be the communication via phone, email or skype and the transfer of audio files with up- and downloads. In this case I provide every audio files or master versions via ftp download – if necessary with comfortable tools for checking it.
PREPARATIONS FOR MASTERING
Whether or not attended sessions are planned – in every case it would be helpful to contact the mastering engineer already while mixing process. The goal is to clarify which data are needed by the mastering engineer. Beside the audio data in their best possible resolution, maybe additional Stems and reference tracks it means at least information about the desired track sequence, the ISRC codes (if available) and other meta data like cd text (if desired) – thus album title, track names, album artists and – if they differ from track to track – track artists.
If you are unsure about the pricing options – on this YouTube blog you can get more about it: The Cost and Value of Mastering (by Jonathan Wyner).