Once the recording & mixing is finally finished, most indie artists ask themselves, “Should we have our album mastered?” Well, there are really three answers: YES, YES, YES!!! Seriously though, take a page out of the playbook of a major label release by a major artist. They record at the best studios with the best producers & engineers, yet they still have their projects mastered at a different studio by a different engineer.
We know what you’re thinking, “Yes” is an easy answer when you have the budget. We know that many indie artists are either recording DIY style in their homes or are scraping up every last penny to book a commercial studio to record their album. And let’s not forget the costs involved in duplicating or replicating the CDs, vinyl, or even cassettes. The costs for graphic design, printing and promotion once the project is ready for commercial sale. We get it and understand the budget restraints you are facing. Here are some things to consider and how you can add mastering to your next CD project without blowing your entire budget.
It is important to look at the mastering process in terms of adding polish to the overall album. It can be magical at times in its ability to accentuate certain sections and correct some deficiencies. One thing mastering cannot do is work a miracle. So, never let something go during the recording session and say “we’ll fix it in the mix.” Never let something go in the mixing session and say “we’ll fix it in mastering.” It’s probably not going to get fixed very easily, and even if it does, it will cost more time and money than it would have by just re-recording the line or redoing the mix. If you paid close attention to the entire process mastering can fit into your budget. There are many good studios that offer mastering packages for the indie artist which are affordable. In fact, there are many CD replication companies that offer mastering as well which can be added on to your CD duplication or replication order. Be sure to ask if they have a special rate if the mastering session is not attended by the artist or producer leaving the engineer to work as efficiently as possible without interruption.
Never underestimate what a set of fresh and well trained ears can do to finalize your master. Think about it, after writing, rehearsing, playing live, recording & mixing you have probably listened to the music on your album about a zillion times. This is where having an objective first time professional listener comes in handy. They haven’t heard it. They haven’t lived it. They are coming at it from a new perspective and have the ability to separate themselves from the music and complete the final step in the recording process.