Would like some input on mastering...
...songs that have been recorded for promo purposes with a tribute band.
Been having issues with a BL in a tribute band regarding some recordings we've done. It's become a somewhat volatile situation, so I'd appreciate the input of TB, and I will do my best to remain open minded about the subject.
We have recorded a handful of songs that we are going to use on our website and wherever else necessary to get bigger and better gigs. We are not doing our own renditions of the songs, performed them pretty close to the originals, and it's a 70s band we pay tribute to. BL is insistant about having the songs mastered, and while he hasn't told us how much he's found someone to do it for, I've done lots of recording of original material and know if done by someone who knows what they're doing, this can cost us a small fortune. I'm against the idea of mastering these songs for many good reasons, but would like to hear others thoughts before going head to head with this guy. And it will be battle as I refuse right now to drop any significant money into mastering these recordings. Before I spill my reasons I'd like to hear others thoughts on this.
Would you master cover tunes you were using for promo purposes, and if so, why?
PS. Not against a quick going over that I can do for free in my own studio to make sure the tunes are all relatively the same volume, and maybe throw in a pinch of compression and eq... I'm talking all out mastering that will most likely cost upwards of $1000.
I would have to hear the songs. I'm leaning towards, "no."
I do master everything now because, if done right, it just sounds better to my ears and to those I've played the "unmastered" vs. "mastered" songs to.
I do my own mastering in my own studio, though and have good equipment and mastering software. Also, I've reasearched, read and worked at mastering, so I've "paid for it" in resources and my time.
Still, knowing what I NOW know about mastering, if I didn't have my own studio, etc., I'd still have it mastered. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
Having something mastered imho is just what you have to do if you are intending on having someone other than the band listen to the tracks. You don't necessarily have to have it done by the best, but I'd have it done. YOu could look up L.Nix mastering in Memphis. THey are in Ardent studios and do fantastic work at a great price.
Thanks for the input. I've decided to share my thoughts since I believe this thread is going to move along slowly.
As far as I know, the point of mastering is as follows:
To put the songs in order.
To put the proper amount of space between each song for pressing to cd.
To do any fades necessary.
To compress the music so it can be played as loud as possible without any instruments peaking or distorting.
To EQ all the songs so they sound like they all belong with each other.
To make sure all songs on a CD are the same volume.
And most importantly - to make sure that if your song gets any radio or club play, that it holds up to the 2 songs it's sandwiched between.
Since this is being used for promotional purposes only, and I don't see any reason for it ever getting any airplay or being played in a club... I don't believe any of the above is necessary. BL wants to press it into a CD, which is fine by me - but as stated, I can do the limited amount of mastering that would be needed for that.
And, aside from the fact that I don't want to drop any more money into this, I believe that mastering will hurt, not help, our recordings - given their purpose. The recordings are full of dynamics as they are. My guess is that whoever masters this is going to be mastering to todays standards, NOT the way they mastered things in 1970. IMO the mastering will bring us further from sounding like the original group, and not necesarily make the songs sound "bettter".
Am I wrong on any of this? Would like to hear any arguments, or agreement for that matter. Thanks.
Mastering = commercial polish.
When you promote yourself do you want to be a "polished" act or something raw/lofi?
Let's not forget the part of mastering that makes the music sound proper on the vast majority of systems.
You are intending on handing this out as promo material, right? That's your 1st impression. You don't get another and you can't be standing there to tell them that you didn't have it mastered. These folks are just gonna pop it in the CD player and hit play. If it's mastered, you can bet it will sound right. If not it's kinda a crap shoot.
Aside from that, a great sounding track never made anyone lose a gig. A bad sounding one sure might. Why take the chance?
You said "well done mixes (which these are) don't sound unpolished or lo-fi IMO". Here's the problem, it's not your opinion that matters here. It's the folks that are listening to your tracks opinion that matters. What is their opinion? You have no idea.
I'd say that you should find a decent mastering house that will work for a good price and get it wrapped up. L.Nix in Memphis is more than fair and they are fantastic. Most mastering houses will offer a clip of the product before you pay for it.
If nothing else, don't let this issue fester too badly. Make a band wide decision and move on. Things like this can lead to a split if they aren't handled properly.
Good luck with whatever you choose man,
You have to realize that most people don't want to go overboard with mastering. Most local mastering is done tastefully. I've even found that I wish local guys would do MORE compression than they do. It's usually only when the shirts and ties get involved that they compress music into a squashed mess.
I wouldn't be too concerned about mastering. I'd be very surprised to find out that the music was actually made less appealing by mastering it. Also, keep in mind that it's hard to find non "remastered" albums from that time period these days anyway.
Hard to say without hearing it.
For something like this, I'd initially lean towards no with a couple of big if's.
-- Have you all listened to you mixes on the cheapest speakers you can find?....because you need to. Cheap little boomboxes, craptastic car radios, $6 computer speakers, etc. If it doesn't get the point across on those, you're not done. You also need to convert it to mp3 and listen on a phone or ipod with earbuds you got at the dollar store.
This is for promotion and booking. It's your only first impression.
Unless you're looking to sell the music, which it doesn't sound like, I don't see the point. Put the money into your live show, or some new gear, or something. No point spending a fortune if it's just for people to get an idea what you sound like online. All you really need to do is run the recordings through a plugin to increase the volume, the rest of the mastering process is unnecessary just for putting songs on your site.
A bar owner/promoter/whatever may very well pop in the promo CD after/between listening to songs that are mastered. As ddhm said, you have no control of the environment it will be played in.
The people you are sending this to are unlikely to know what a "good mix" is, but will be able to tell that it isn't quite like what they hear elsewhere.
Another idea to throw into the mix - if you're planning on posting these online using some type of lossy compression (ex: MP3), the quality going in can effect the quality coming out.
For example, lower volume signal, especially high frequencies, will not get encoded/reproduced faithfully, and end up sounding garbled or jangly. More pronounced signal is less likely to be ignored by the encoder, and thus gets reproduced more accurately. This is why a louder version of your song can sound better than a quieter version going through the exact same encoding process.
Now, if that's important for your use or not is your call.
If you opt for mastering, I'd try to set a budget, and find someone who can stick to it. Perhaps see if they'll do one song (or a clip) as a free sampler of their work before you have them do the whole project.
Mastering by a good mastering engineer that understands dynamics and when not to touch them is worth his weight in gold. I recommend Bluefield Mastering out of North Carolina. If you are just mastering a few tunes you'll come in well under your fearful number.
I would never release an unmastered track to anyone. It's like making a really nice cake mix, serving it uncooked in the bowl and calling it a finished cake.
Depends mainly on two things, IMO: 1) the quality of the mixes, and 2) who's gonna be listening.
Do you have a lot of confidence in the mixes? Are they already pretty even when listened to as a group?
Are you guys targeting club/bar owners and festival promoters? IME, they generally don't have the best ears. Obviously, there are exceptions, but there's usually a world of difference between a club owner's ears and an A&R rep's ears.
$1k is a lot unless you're talking about a very busy band that does frequent corporate gigs. So, I'd share your hesitance about sinking that money into something if I thought the impact was likely insignificant, especially if I could do a decent job of it myself like you say you could.
Can't say whether the tracks should be mastered without hearing them first. I just say get someone cheap to do it, or even try it yourselves. If you don't like the end product, no harm done, and you might even learn something in the process.
So i don't see why you SHOULDN'T get them mastered, unless the tracks truly sound great as is.
FYI, some people will master your tracks over the internet for free or low cost.
Try Har-Bal (short for Harmonic Balance) mastering software and do it yourself for, I think, around $175.
Real mastering engineers scoff at the idea of self mastering. But for your purpose, it's probably more practical.
It basically scans your audio and shows you a visual graph of its harmonic balance. Then you can very easily eq the peaks and valleys out of the spectrum. In fact, you can even have Har-Bal eq it automatically for you.
You can scan the old recordings you want to emulate and see their spectrums.
Has a nice compressor that excels at lite to moderate compression ratios (not the best at extreme top 40 limiting).
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