At this time, I do not offer attended mastering sessions. This is not because I don’t want your input and feedback, I want lots of that. The reasons are more about logistics, expediting your project, keeping rates low, and getting the best end result.
What I do offer is a free test master of one song, unlimited revisions of the test master, as well as unlimited revisions of your full project master until you’re 100% happy with it. However, if new mix files are needed because the wrong file was sent (it happens), you decide to change something about the mix (big or small), or for any other reason, a nominal fee is added because of the extra work involved to master the new mix file. No matter how simple the mix change is, a certain amount of work is needs to happen to work the new file into the project master. It’s usually not a one click situation. This is especially true if any analog processing is used on the project which it usually is.
I don’t require any payment until you’re 110% happy with the entire project. So while I can’t offer attended sessions, I do offer a few layers of risk free options to help ease any concerns of not attending the mastering session if that is a concern. The main reason I can’t offer attended sessions is because I don’t often do the work in one sitting. It’s often a nonlinear process.
Before I stopped doing attended sessions, I can’t tell you how many times a client showed up only to realize they had brought or sent me ahead of time the wrong file for a song or multiple songs. When this is discovered at the mastering session, this becomes a serious misuse of time for both parties.
There were also too many situations where an attended mastering session was booked, but then the mixing sessions took longer than expected and it becomes an unnecessarily stressful situation that can be easily avoided. Other unexpected scheduling conflicts or changes were also not uncommon resulting in too much juggling of projects, and less time actually working.
Now I work on a first come first serve basis which allows me to get all projects done sooner, more affordably, and with more focus. There are special options for rush situations if needed.
Here is a typical album or EP project workflow:
First, I analyze and prep the files to make sure all is good and the files are ready for mastering. Sometimes new files are required before I can start which would complicate things with an attended session. Then I do the majority of the audio processing to all the songs to get them sounding their best, and working together as a group of songs. I often take ear breaks as needed before committing to anything. For most projects, the audio has to print through the analog gear in real-time so this can result in a lot of downtime. As a one man business owner, it allows me to take care of other tasks while things print. Ability to multitask and be flexible allows me to keep rates as low as possible. Otherwise, you’d be paying extra to hang out with me and be entertained while things process.
I often finish up the first version of the master the next morning (or later in the day for shorter projects) with fresh ears. This entails doing a focused listening session (often with headphones and eyes closed) to catch any blemishes such as clicks, crackles, pops, ticks, and another noises that may have become more audible after the main audio processing has been completed, and may need to be removed. Things like this can easily go unnoticed unless you are listening with 100% focus to every millisecond of audio. In mastering, we often raise the average loudness of the material quite a bit, which can cause these blemishes to become more apparent and/or unnaturally loud. So, part of why I don’t offer attended sessions is because some elements of the job require extreme focus which is something that is hard for me to do when others are present.
Another reason why attended sessions are not as beneficial as you might think is because I have a very neutral, natural, and accurate listening environment. I think it’s best for you to listen to the master in the environment where you most often listen to music and are most familiar with. I remember before I was a full-time mastering engineer I would sometimes go to the mastering session (usually out of necessity to drop off the analog tapes or the digital files before the Internet was fast enough to send large files), and while it usually sounded impressive in the mastering studio, I never knew what it actually sounded like because I was not familiar with listening to music in that room on those speakers. It was not the most effective use of my time, and I now know that having somebody present in the studio at a specific time can be a distraction and compromise to the task at hand.
Once the project is sequenced, finalized, and ready for listening, I have a very smooth, easy, and foolproof system for you to audition your master and any revisions remotely via your computer (Mac or PC), or if you have an iOS mobile device (iPhone or iPad). I hope this message helps you understand why attended mastering sessions are not offered and may not be best for your project in the long run. I’m always happy to do a test master of one song for you before committing to anything.