If Mixing & Mastering are separate professions and skills, why do so many individuals offer both services?

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jamcat
KVRAF
3133 posts since 2 Sep, 2019

Post Tue Jan 24, 2023 4:39 pm

No, it's still the same argument:
  • Mastering is necessary to prepare music for physical media.
  • Mastering is elective for purely digital distribution.
  • Benefit of "mastering" digital music is subjective, and anything beyond raw volume is likely to go unnoticed by the average listener.
All of this discussion has had an emphasis on what is practical for the typical bedroom producer, having originated from a question about "mastering engineers" selling services on Fiverr. These aren't exactly sought-after record industry veterans, after all.

I'm not going to deny that record labels still send albums out for mastering. But they're also still manufacturing CDs and even vinyl records. And to the extent of what mastering engineers are doing for digitally distributed music, that has changed, and it is far less crucial than mastering for physical media.

The move to predominantly digital forms, starting with CDs, caused an identity crisis among mastering engineers, who were no longer primarily concerned with getting the music to sound as good as it could within technical constraints, so they started proving their worth by showing how loud they could make it within digital constraints. And that led to the loudness wars and a lot of ruined albums on major labels from some of the supposedly best mastering engineers in the industry.
THIS MUSIC HAS BEEN MIXED TO BE PLAYED LOUD SO TURN IT UP

Scotty
KVRAF
2619 posts since 23 Dec, 2002

Post Tue Jan 24, 2023 5:17 pm

That is your very selective and incomplete interpretation of history mixed in with enough truth to require more time to debunk than I’m willing to give. You dismissed an entire field now you are back peddling and throwing in the loudness wars and economics of casual musicians to obfuscate. I truly hope you have the experience to justify your bravado. You’d be foolish to pretend otherwise. Someone might call you out on your cold hard facts. That’s it from me. Have a good one.

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jamcat
KVRAF
3133 posts since 2 Sep, 2019

Post Tue Jan 24, 2023 5:24 pm

Scotty wrote: Tue Jan 24, 2023 5:17 pm You dismissed an entire field now you are back peddling and throwing in the loudness wars and economics of casual musicians to obfuscate.
No, those are just more reasons to dismiss it.
THIS MUSIC HAS BEEN MIXED TO BE PLAYED LOUD SO TURN IT UP

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Bombadil
KVRAF
8094 posts since 31 Aug, 2013 from Not far from Mordor

Post Wed Jan 25, 2023 8:19 am

Hmmm. I've seen stuff on the difference between mixing and mastering. A proper, professional Mastering engineer will likely have a great room and very, very, expensive hardware, especially the speakers. I mean 30,000€ + speakers. I'd imagine the other bits like the amp are not cheap, either.
I would assume 'A' list acts use such services. Us Plebs have to either learn to DIO or engage with someone who may or may not be able to do the job. I mean, if you have a file sent to you by someone who has little clue as to how compression is used (me, until circa 2005) then just slapping on a limiter and adjusting the EQ a bit will easily impress them.
“We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

vurt
addled muppet weed
98421 posts since 26 Jan, 2003 from through the looking glass

Post Wed Jan 25, 2023 10:59 am

one time, in this house, my landlord himself came to do the regular check, rather than the agent (they like to make sure you're not f**king their properties up).
so im showing him around, all good, hell f**k off soon and i can get on with my day...
open the studio door, his eyes light up.
starts going on about his studio and bands he has worked with.
asking do you know these or such and such? turns out i own quite a few records he had mastered.
small world.
stuck there all bloody afternoon chatting :x
if you don't want me to destroy you
take a leaf out of my book, turn it round and have a look...

djingram
KVRer
Topic Starter
5 posts since 29 Jan, 2020

Post Wed Jan 25, 2023 6:49 pm

Just reading all the replies. Here's a quick summary:
  • Most people agree that Mixing & Mastering should be separate
  • Jamcat doesn't think most people should bother with mastering, and that mastering isn't needed today
  • Others strongly disagree with Jamcat, but haven't provided any notable rebuttal against Jamcat's points on why mastering is outdated and not needed for most people
Also, please correct me if I'm wrong, but one difference between Mixing & Mastering is mixing involves multiple tracks and building a single audio file. Mastering involves taking that single audio file, not multiple tracks, and optimizing it further.

With this said, I wonder if the endless people on Fiverr that offer Mixing & Mastering follow this process, where they do Mixing & Mastering in separate stages like I've outlined here, where the mastering part only uses a single audio file that is already mixed. Or I wonder if they don't do this, and are actually only mixing it, not actually mastering it?

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jamcat
KVRAF
3133 posts since 2 Sep, 2019

Post Wed Jan 25, 2023 8:18 pm

djingram wrote: Wed Jan 25, 2023 6:49 pm Just reading all the replies. Here's a quick summary:
Pretty good on all accounts.

A few minor points:
djingram wrote: Wed Jan 25, 2023 6:49 pm
  • Jamcat doesn't think most people should bother with mastering, and that mastering isn't needed today
I'm not really saying that most people shouldn't bother with mastering. I'm saying what people casually call "mastering" isn't really mastering. It involves some aspects of mastering, but not the most specialized processes that made dedicated mastering engineers so valuable and necessary in the past.


djingram wrote: Wed Jan 25, 2023 6:49 pm Mastering involves taking that single audio file, not multiple tracks, and optimizing it further.
Yes and no.
No, because the bigger picture has been about also making that single song sit comfortably among other songs to be experienced as a complete album. You want uniform levels and a compatible global EQ curve and dynamic range from song to song. So you're really working with multiple songs together to create a singular, unified experience. That was the other important responsibility of a mastering engineer.

That still should apply today, though iTunes and YouTube and streaming have moved the music industry closer to what it was in the '50s and '60s, with a focus on individual songs ("singles") and not as album oriented as it was in the '70s, '80s, and '90s.

Pressing a whole 12" record was more economical than a bunch of 45s, and the record label could charge more for it. That was a big motivating factor for the move towards AOR ("album oriented rock") in the '70s. But now, people can make a song and make it available for the whole world to hear an hour later with zero overhead cost.

That said, I think albums still matter. And songs still need to be processed ("mastered") for packaging together as an album. And even one-off songs still need the proper dynamic range and perceived loudness, and need a pleasing global EQ curve.

My argument isn't that you don't still need to do this. My argument is that these processes aren't voodoo. You can do it yourself well enough for your humble needs. In fact, it's just part of the process that goes into song creation today, and you're probably already doing most (if not all) of this on your master buss already. Just don't call it mastering, and don't bother paying someone else to do it. At least not unless you're producing a complete commercial album that you expect to make some decent earnings from. And at that point, other people are probably handling it anyways.


TL;DR:
You should still do it. Just don't call it mastering, and don't pay someone else to do it for you.
THIS MUSIC HAS BEEN MIXED TO BE PLAYED LOUD SO TURN IT UP

Aceituna
KVRer
22 posts since 19 May, 2018

Post Wed Jan 25, 2023 9:53 pm

+1 for jamcat

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Synthman2000
KVRian
746 posts since 27 Apr, 2016

Post Thu Jan 26, 2023 2:00 am

Unless you have heard and worked with high end mastering grade equipment in a mastering grade acoustic you will be much more inclined to spout a load of mistruths about audio, some really need that validation. If you were with me in my room it would take your a full 30-60 seconds to utter the words.. ok I was wrong. :lol:

You either know or you don't. The very worst thing is people who hold onto views, repeat them and don't even know they don't know ! It is totally laughable.

Be really careful about who you believe on the internet about audio. There are lot of people with delusions of grandeur who do other producers and musicians a disservice who have never even heard top flight monitoring in a great acoustic.

The difference between your average £400 - £ 600 near fields in a room and a mastering grade set up is nothing less than astonishing for those who use such set ups every day. Literally a "I never knew" moment. It cannot be over stated.

When choosing mastering you do have to be very vigilant I will agree with that. However everyone is capable of doing that as long as you apply common sense.

Everyone has to work through these investigations for themselves in the end.

Scotty
KVRAF
2619 posts since 23 Dec, 2002

Post Thu Jan 26, 2023 5:26 am

Skepticism can be healthy but it can also be caustic. Denigrating an entire field whilst misrepresenting what they do is not only unfair to the true professionals in the field it is intellectual dishonesty at worst; hubris masquerading as confidence at best. It is so easy to behave this way if you refuse to share your musical output and hide your identity.

Watch out for the pretenders. They are out there. That includes some mastering engineers and various cats that like to jam.

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jamcat
KVRAF
3133 posts since 2 Sep, 2019

Post Thu Jan 26, 2023 1:23 pm

Scotty, have you actually paid someone to master your music?
THIS MUSIC HAS BEEN MIXED TO BE PLAYED LOUD SO TURN IT UP

vurt
addled muppet weed
98421 posts since 26 Jan, 2003 from through the looking glass

Post Thu Jan 26, 2023 1:28 pm

Scotty wrote: Thu Jan 26, 2023 5:26 am It is so easy to behave this way if you refuse to share your musical output and hide your identity.
not to get involved in the argument, but this, or rather mastering or mixing engineers, get them to share some work with you, listen to what they have done before. send a file, get a short section (a verse and chorus maybe) sent back, so you can hear if what they are doing is worthwhile before paying.
if you like it, you pay, they send the whole shebang!

anyone who wont do this, ignore.
if you find someone, ask for previous work and a demo, anyone who is worth it will be happy to oblige :)
if you don't want me to destroy you
take a leaf out of my book, turn it round and have a look...

Scotty
KVRAF
2619 posts since 23 Dec, 2002

Post Thu Jan 26, 2023 1:56 pm

That is good advice Vurt and exactly what I do
When I hire a mastering engineer, I pay for one track even if they insist they do 1 for free, if the work is better than I can achieve ( and I try hard) there is a good chance I’m coming back for more.

vurt wrote: Thu Jan 26, 2023 1:28 pm
Scotty wrote: Thu Jan 26, 2023 5:26 am It is so easy to behave this way if you refuse to share your musical output and hide your identity.
not to get involved in the argument, but this, or rather mastering or mixing engineers, get them to share some work with you, listen to what they have done before. send a file, get a short section (a verse and chorus maybe) sent back, so you can hear if what they are doing is worthwhile before paying.
if you like it, you pay, they send the whole shebang!

anyone who wont do this, ignore.
if you find someone, ask for previous work and a demo, anyone who is worth it will be happy to oblige :)
Last edited by Scotty on Thu Jan 26, 2023 2:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Scotty
KVRAF
2619 posts since 23 Dec, 2002

Post Thu Jan 26, 2023 1:58 pm

Of course. I wouldn’t be in this conversation otherwise I’m just talking out of my rear end.
jamcat wrote: Thu Jan 26, 2023 1:23 pm Scotty, have you actually paid someone to master your music?

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jamcat
KVRAF
3133 posts since 2 Sep, 2019

Post Thu Jan 26, 2023 2:12 pm

Scotty wrote: Thu Jan 26, 2023 1:58 pm Of course. I wouldn’t be in this conversation otherwise.
jamcat wrote: Thu Jan 26, 2023 1:23 pm Scotty, have you actually paid someone to master your music?
How much did you spend?
THIS MUSIC HAS BEEN MIXED TO BE PLAYED LOUD SO TURN IT UP

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