Azalea Music Productions – Remote Mixing Services Overview
Thanks for your inquiry about our mixing services. We look forward to working with you and taking your music to the sonic and emotional level that we know it deserves. This overview should tell you what you need to know to get the process rolling…
How Does The Mixing Process Work?
We want you to be as pleased as possible with your completed mixes, and to turn them around for you in the shortest time with a minimum of hassle. We’ve mixed thousands of songs over the years, so we’ve had the chance to develop a smooth, streamlined process to best serve you and your musical and commercial needs. That process requires good, open communication in both directions, starting with this overview document.
Once you’ve had a chance to review this document in detail, please e-mail us with any questions you may have. Once we’re both clear on the contents of this document, we want to hear – in as much detail as you can provide – exactly what intentions you have for your mixes, and especially, how you foresee them being used in the marketplace. This information is critical, as it directly affects our approach to mixing each song (we don’t use a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to mixing), and specific decisions we make on your behalf. There is rarely such a thing as “too much information” in this case, so feel free to tell us everything you’re thinking about/intending for your mixes and their use.
Note: you can send us your files at any point during this discussion (see below for detailed file preparation/exporting/sending instructions). We’ll give your files a check to make sure everything is in order, and if we encounter any issues, we’ll resolve them with you before we proceed to mixing.
Once we have all of your files in the right format and condition, and we’re clear about what you’re after, we proceed with mixing. After we complete a mix, we send you a copy of it for you to listen to. At that point, it’s critical that you let us know of anything that you’d like to have changed in the mix. We’ve done this process quite a bit, so most of the time, we’re very close – if not spot-on – with the first iteration of the mix. But if for any reason you intended something slightly different from what you’re hearing, this is the time to bring it up, so we can make any necessary adjustments for you.
Based on our decades of experience with mixing songs in many styles for clients all over the world, it rarely takes more than one round of slight adjustments to get to the final mix. But we want you to be as pleased as possible, so we leave room in the process for a little back-and-forth to get it right for you. If we get to the point of more than a couple of rounds of minor tweaks, then we’ll discuss how best to proceed from there.
Once the final mix is completed and we receive final payment from you, we send you your mix files at full resolution. Unlike a lot of mixing services, we do not charge extra for instrument-only mixes without vocals, or for encoded versions of mixes. So, in addition to the “Full” mix with all instruments and all vocals included, we send you the following AT NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE:
- An instruments-only “Tracks” mix, with no lead or background vocals;
- If requested, a “TV” mix of instruments + backing vocals and no lead vocal (for use in live performance, e.g., on a television program – hence the name);
- High-quality, Fraunhhofer-encoded MP3 files of all mixes, with ID3 metadata tags filled in.
Note: we use the pro Fraunhofer MP3 encoder, rather than the consumer Lame (pronounced “lamay”) encoder used by many other mixing facilities, because, based on our extensive experience, we feel the Fraunhofer encoder provides far superior-sounding results. If you’ve ever played a Fraunhofer-encoded and a Lame-encoded version of the exact same mix side-by-side, the difference can be quite dramatic! We are happy to populate any ID3 metadata tags for which you provide us the values, saving you time on your end. Again, we provide this Fraunhofer MP3 encoding and ID3 tag population to you free of charge.
If you would like additional variations of your mixes beyond those listed above, we are happy to provide them to you, for a nominal charge. Fortunately, most additional mix variations do not take an inordinate amount of time once we’re already working with the completed mix project, so we can create each mix variation for very little additional cost. The most typical example of additional mix variations is for film and TV libraries, who often want fully-mixed “stems” of the various musical components of the mix, as well as some shortened versions of the musical arrangement. Examples include:
- “Stems” of drums + percussion + bass, guitars + keyboards, solo instrument(s), vocals
- “Stingers” of the song’s ending (and sometimes, the intro)
- Shortened arrangements, e.g., no solo section, no bridge section, no repeated end chorus
Compared to even a few years ago, all of the above are achievable with absolutely seamless results, given today’s technologies and our experience with having done this sort of thing quite a lot. If you think you might be needing any of these alternate variations of your mixes, please let us know as early on in the process as possible, so that we can anticipate them while we’re working towards the final mix results. It will save us time – and you money! 🙂
How Long Does The Mixing Process Take?
We can mix anything from a single song to a large, multi-song project. Once we’ve completed the up-front consultation process (described above) with you, we can usually turn around a mix for single song in a week, given our typical schedule. If we’re mixing a project with 10 songs or more, we recommend planning for several weeks’ turnaround time (less if we’re not too busy) in your project schedule.
How Much Does It Cost?
We have a sliding rate scale, based on the total number of songs in your project. The more songs we mix at a time, the more time-efficient the process becomes on a per-song basis, so we pass those economy-of-scale savings on to you. Here is our sliding rate scale:
|Number Of Songs||Rate Per Song|
|1 song||$650 per song|
|2 – 6 songs||$600 per song|
|7 – 12 songs||$550 per song|
|13 or more songs||$500 per song|
As an example, a “6-pack” EP project costs $3600 to mix. A 10-song CD project costs $5500 to mix.
Note: these rates assume that no “sonic surgery” is required (i.e., file repair, removal of noise, etc.) prior to mixing. If your files aren’t in great shape, we can certainly do any necessary sonic surgery (today’s digital editing/noise reduction tools are amazing!); we will simply add a “cleanup” surcharge that we will quote you in advance, and will not proceed until we have your approval. However, if you feel you have the tools and the skills, we would much prefer you do any digital editing/cleanup of your tracks before sending them to us, so that we can focus our efforts on getting the best possible mix for you.
How Is Payment Handled?
We require a 50% deposit in advance, based on the total number of songs in your project, with the balance due before we deliver your final, full-resolution mixes to you. Of course, if the number of songs in your project changes, we will simply adjust the final amount due accordingly.
We bill electronically over the Internet, so you can pay directly online. We accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover, as well as PayPal. Of course, if you want to pay the old-fashioned way by paper cheque or funds transfer, you are welcome to do so; we just won’t be able to start mixing your project until the cheque/transfer has cleared our bank. Some funds transfers (e.g., those from foreign countries) may require a nominal surcharge; if so, we will let you know in advance, and will not proceed until we have your approval.
What We Need From You…
Preparing and Exporting Your Tracks
Here is a detailed description of exactly how to prepare your tracks and export them to files to send to us for mixing. Understanding and following this process will go a long way to getting you the best possible mix in the shortest time frame. If your tracks have been recorded at a professional recording studio, they should understand exactly what these terms mean, and how to conform to them. If you have recorded all of your tracks yourself, some of these terms may be new, but don’t sweat it too much. We’re here to help, have done this process with hundreds of clients over the years, and can walk you through the process as needed. With that in mind…
- Make sure that all of your exported tracks are “dry,” meaning that you have all audio processing (volume changes, EQ, effects, etc.) turned OFF on each individual instrumental or vocal track before you export it, unless you definitely want the sound of that processing to be a part of the final mix. Once that processing is there, it cannot be taken out. For example, if you include reverb when exporting a vocal track, that reverb cannot be removed or changed after the fact, and will be included in the final result.
- On a related note, if you are “rendering,” “bouncing” or “exporting” your tracks through your DAW’s master stereo channel instead of batch-exporting them directly (see below), also make sure that you have all group/bus/aux, and master stereo channel processing turned OFF, or it will be included in the final sound of the exported files.
- It is extremely important that EVERY track you export, whether audio or MIDI, starts from the same, common “zero time origin” of the original project. In DAW parlance, just make sure that your project’s “Left Marker” is set to 0:00:00.000 time index (or Bar 1, Beat 1) before exporting, and everything will line up perfectly. The reasons for this are:
- It guarantees that every piece of audio and MIDI data lines up correctly time-wise in the mix.
- It guarantees that if you ever need to go back and revisit your song(s) at a later date (e.g., to add parts), then your original project and our resulting mix files will also line up with one another. You’ll thank us for that later – trust us! 🙂
- All audio should be exported as contiguous files, which means that they are a single, continuous stream of data from the project’s zero time origin through to the end of the song (the DAW project’s “Right Marker”). Please do not send us the individual snippets of audio from a track (e.g., where a few notes were punched in, or only the spots where an instrumental or vocal part is playing or singing). The reasons for this are:
- It is another guarantee that all of the data on every track lines up correctly.
- It guarantees that no music gets inadvertently left out during the original export of the tracks.
- Please export all tracks as mono files unless the parts on them were explicitly recorded in stereo, or are output from a virtual instrument. For example, a bass guitar or a vocal is typically recorded with a single input/mic onto a mono track, since there are no “left” and “right” sides of the audio. A piano part or string section, on the other hand, is typically recorded with different left- and right-side audio content, onto a single, consolidated stereo track, or generated from the stereo outputs of a virtual instrument.
The simple rule to follow is: if the track is recorded in mono, export it as a mono file; if the track is recorded in stereo or is the output of a virtual instrument, export it as a stereo file. The reasons for this are:
- Mono and stereo tracks behave differently when it comes to panning in the mix because of a technical detail called a “pan law.” If parts are really mono but are contained in stereo files, then we’ll be required to split the stereo files prior to mixing in order to give those parts maximum flexibility for panning.
- Stereo files take up twice as much disk space as mono files, so if the audio on the left and right sides of a stereo file is identical, 50 percent of the file is redundant, wasted space.
For parts that have been recorded with multiple microphones, please leave them broken out into their individual tracks, in separate files. For example, if you recorded an acoustic guitar using two different microphones at the same time, onto two different mono tracks (one for each mic), then please export each of those tracks into its own file. Do not consolidate them down to a single file. That gives us the maximum flexibility to process each acoustic guitar mic/track individually in the mix.
- For projects that contain MIDI/virtual instrument tracks, you have two options for how to export them, depending on what you want us to do with the sounds of the virtual instruments in your mix. If you want the tracks’ sounds to be the same as they are in your original project (which is often the case), then all we need is an export of the audio from each virtual instrument (see below). If, on the other hand, you want us to replace or augment the original sounds with different ones using our own virtual instruments, then we need both the audio from the original virtual instruments (for reference, at a minimum) as well as the raw MIDI data for each MIDI track.
Fortunately, exporting MIDI data is extremely straightforward in most DAWs today, and the resulting MIDI files take up a miniscule amount of space. Simply export each MIDI track’s data to a .MID file. If you’re not sure which option you’d like to take as far as the sounds of your MIDI/virtual instrument tracks, we’re happy to discuss it during our initial consultation. More often than not, audio-only exports are fine, and MIDI exports aren’t needed.
- If you have a MIDI/virtual instrument part that contains multiple instruments or components, in addition to exporting the stereo output of the entire virtual instrument to a single, stereo file, please also export each of the instruments/components into its own file.
An excellent example of this is MIDI/virtual drums: Most virtual drum kits include a minimum of 8 drum tracks/components, each with its own individual output, so that each drum component can be manipulated independently. That way, you can use different levels, panning, effects, and other settings for kick, snare, hi-hat, overheads, each tom-tom, room, etc. Each of these might then be played back through a single, stereo audio channel, but they are for all intents and purposes separate tracks in your project. If you send us only the stereo output of your virtual drum kit, then all we have to work with is the sound of the consolidated kit, in its entirety. If, on the other hand, you also send us all of the drum kit components broken out into their independent outputs and exported to individual files, then we can manipulate and balance every part of the drum kit to fit best into your mix, just as we would do with acoustically-recorded drums. So please take the time to export your virtual drum components as both a single, consolidated stereo file as well separate files. It is effort well spent. The same applies to other, multi-part virtual instruments like string sections, horn sections, etc.
- In order to get the maximum sonic quality from your audio, we need full-resolution audio tracks from you. In geek-speak, that means we need files in the original sample rate and bit depth at which the tracks were recorded. As an example, if your project was recorded at 48 kHz, 24-bit resolution, then the audio files you send us should also be at 48 kHz, 24-bit. You do not want to “resample” the files down from 48 kHz to 44.1 kHz, or dither or truncate them down from 24-bit to 16-bit. Ideally, the files should be a simple track-by-track, batch export of every track in your project, with no processing applied. Many of today’s DAW programs provide for this kind of direct, batch output of tracks. If yours does not, and you need to use its “render,” “bounce” or “export” function to individually export each track, MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE ALL RESAMPLING AND DITHERING OPTIONS TURNED OFF when doing so. You just want to export pure, raw audio that is unchanged from the original.
- You may send us your audio tracks in any full-resolution file format, the two most common being .WAV and .AIF. Broadcast WAV (also called “BWF”) is our preferred format, but is not absolutely required. Regardless of which format you use, PLEASE DON’T SEND AAC OR MP3 FILES! MP3s and AACs (iTunes’ default format) are severely data-compressed (“encoded”) files with a huge percentage of the audio data missing! We want your audio data to be in its full, original glory, so please don’t use any data-compressed audio formats.
- In addition to the specifics described for individual tracks above, we would love it if you could also send us a rough/test “reference” mix of the song if you have one. It doesn’t have to be perfect or polished (it’s our job to take it there for you), but having a “rough cut” mix that you have done at least gives us an idea of what you have in mind from an overall artistic/sonic standpoint. Over the years, we’ve found that clients have (inadvertently or otherwise) done some really cool things with mixes that we’ve ended up including as aspects of the final mix. Don’t feel like you have to spend a ton of time on the “rough,” but if you’ve already got something available anyway, we would really appreciate your sending it to us along with your individual tracks. Again, the more direction you can provide for us up front, the better/faster job we’ll do for you.
Here’s a convenient summary/checklist of all of the track-exporting guidelines described above:
- All tracks should be “dry” prior to exporting (no volume adjustments, EQ, effects, etc.)
- All group/bus/aux and master stereo channel processing should be turned off prior to exporting
- All files should start at the original project’s zero time origin (0:00:00.000 or Bar 1, Beat 1)
- All files should be contiguous, from the project’s zero time origin through to the end of the song
- Tracks recorded in mono should be exported to mono files; tracks recorded in stereo (and audio output from virtual instruments) should be exported to stereo files
- Multi-part virtual instruments (e.g., virtual drums) should be exported as both a consolidated stereo file and individual component/instrument files
- MIDI data tracks (if needed) should be exported to .MID files
- All audio files should be at the original project’s sampling rate and bit depth (no resampling, no dithering/truncation)
- All audio files should be in a full-resolution format (e.g., .WAV or .AIF). Broadcast WAV is preferred if available in your DAW. No MP3s or AACs!
- Include a rough stereo “reference” mix along with your individual tracks, if you have one.
How To Send Your Files To Us
Full-resolution audio files are too large to send as e-mail attachments, but in today’s Internet-based world, there’s no need to send tracks on a physical medium for mixing. Instead, we recommend sending your files directly to us using any of the Internet-based large file-transfer services available. Most of them offer a free option that allows you to send a group of files up to a certain size. We personally favor WeTransfer.com. It offers free file transfers up to 2 gigabytes in total, which is usually more than enough for an entire song’s worth of tracks, even at full resolution. If for some reason the total size of your tracks is larger than 2 GB, simply send them in multiple transfers. Regardless of which file transfer service you use, please use firstname.lastname@example.org as the “To” address when sending the files. If you use Dropbox, you can also share your folders to email@example.com, since that’s the address of our own Dropbox account.
How We Get Your Completed Mixes To You
We send your final, full-resolution mixes to you as soon as we receive final payment of your invoice. We’ll use WeTransfer.com, Dropbox, or a similar service to send them to you.
How can I get further information about mixing services, or have any questions addressed?
Hopefully this information hasn’t been too geeky. Needless to say, if you have any questions after reading the above, don’t hesitate to ask. We want the process to be as enjoyable for you as possible, and good communication is key! Feel free to contact me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by cell phone at 615-414-3582.
Azalea Music Group, Nashville