Azalea Music Productions – Remote Mastering Services Overview
Thanks for your inquiry about our mastering services. Here’s what you need to know…
How Long Does Mastering Take?
We can master anything from a single song to a multi-disc project. We can usually turn around a single song in a couple of days. If we’re mastering a project with 10 songs or more, we recommend planning for a couple of weeks’ turnaround time 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 master 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:
|# Of Songs
|Rate Per Song
|$120 per song
|2 – 6 songs
|$110 per song
|7 – 12 songs
|$95 per song
|13 or more songs
|$75 per song
As an example, a “6-pack” EP costs $660 to master. A 10-song CD costs $950 to master.
These rates assume that no “sonic surgery” is required (i.e., file repair, removal of noise, etc.) prior to mastering. If your files aren’t in great shape, we can certainly do 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.
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 masters (to you or to your CD manufacturer). Of course, if the number of songs in your project changes, we will simply adjust the total 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 mastering 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 Your Mixes
In order to get the maximum sonic quality from your audio, we need maximum-resolution mix files from you. In geek-speak, that means we need “original-sampling rate (i.e., un-resampled), un-dithered, un-encoded stereo files at the maximum-bit-depth that your recording system will allow.” If your mixes are being produced at a professional recording studio, they should understand exactly what these terms mean, and how to conform to them.
As an example, if you recorded your project at 48 kHz, 24-bit resolution, then the stereo mix files you send us should be no less than 48 kHz, 24-bit. If you recorded your project at 44.1 kHz, 16-bit resolution, then the stereo mix files you send us should be no less than 44.1 kHz, 16-bit. In the case of bit depth only, if your recording system allows you to “render,” “bounce” or “export” your mixes at a higher bit depth than that of your individual tracks (e.g., 32-bit float), then use that higher bit depth when creating your stereo mix files. More is definitely better when it comes to bit depth.
As a convenient way to create “CD-standard resolution” files in a single step, many recording systems allow you to apply certain final processing to the mixes as they’re being written to files. The two most common processes are “resampling” and “dithering.” Their purpose is to reduce the resolution of files to fit them into a specific format, and that’s not something you want to do prior to mastering. PLEASE TURN ALL SUCH OPTIONS OFF (or explicitly specify the final audio parameters yourself to avoid their “automatic” application)! In particular, dithering prior to mastering can be very problematic because the process actually adds low-level “musical noise” to the audio data that can’t be removed once it’s there. If that “noise” exists, it will be mastered along with the rest of the musical information, which can result in nasty sonic “artifacts” in the final result.
Remember, the goal is to start with the absolute maximum amount of audio information in your files BEFORE mastering to preserve as much musical nuance, etc. as possible. Any resampling, dithering, etc. (if even needed) should only be applied as the absolute very last step in the mastering process (using our very high-quality mastering tools) – never before.
Similar to resampling and dithering, many recording systems offer the option of applying extra audio processing to the final stereo “master bus” when producing a mix. These typically include “finalizers,” “maximizers,” EQ (equalization), compression and limiting. In essence, these are mastering processes, so unless their application is critical to your musical sound, we recommend turning them off. Or better yet, feel free to send us two versions of your final mixes: one with these “master bus” processes turned on, and one with them turned off. Then we can decide whether to start with your “pre-mastered” versions of your mixes or not. But keep in mind that our mastering-specific finalizers, EQs, compressors, limiters, etc. tend to be of higher quality than many multi-track recording systems offer, so we’ll likely get you a better sonic result with our versions.
What Kind of Files To Send Us
You may send us your stereo mixes in any full-resolution file format, the two most common being WAV and AIFF. PLEASE DON’T SEND AAC OR MP3 FILES! MP3’s and AAC’s (iTunes’ default format) are severely data-compressed (“encoded”) files with a huge percentage of the audio data missing! As with resampling and dithering, encoding should only be applied at the end of the mastering process. We use very high-quality Fraunhofer MP3 encoding software that will give you much better-sounding MP3 files than typical consumer encoding software. We offer these Fraunhofer-encoded MP3’s AT NO CHARGE as part of our mastering process, so there’s no need to create your own MP3’s from our mastered files. Just let us know in advance if you want us to create them for you.
How To Get Your Files To Us
Full-resolution mix files are too large to send as e-mail attachments, but in today’s Internet-based world, there’s no need to send mixes on a physical medium for mastering. Instead, we recommend sending your mix 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 files up to a certain size. We personally favor WeTransfer.com. It offers free file transfers up to 2 gigabytes in size, which is usually more than enough for an entire CD’s worth of full-resolution mixes. If for some reason the total size of your final mix files is larger than 2 GB, simply send them in multiple transfers. Regardless of which file transfer service you use, please use email@example.com as the “To” address when sending the files.
Other Helpful Info You Can Provide To Us
The more we know about the intended purpose of your mastered music, the better. So, any information you can provide to us about what intended market(s)/genre(s) your music fits into, how the mastered results will be used (for radio airplay, digital download, etc.), and how you expect it to be listened to (car stereo, earbuds/iPod, computer, home hi-fi, etc.), it will be invaluable to us as we master your material. If you foresee multiple genres, uses, and listening media, that’s fine; by telling us about all of them, we’ll have the right information to reach compromises and get you the best listening experience across the board. So please provide us that information in writing via e-mail or such. You’ll be glad you did!
How We Get Your Masters To You
We will send your final masters to you as soon as we receive final payment of your invoice. If all you require from us is audio files of your masters, we’ll use WeTransfer.com or a similar service to send them to you. We can also upload your mastered files directly to your CD manufacturer (e.g., Disc Makers, Oasis, etc.) in any format(s) that they require, including the industry-standard DDP format. If you (or your CD manufacturer) require a physical, “Redbook-standard” CD Master Disc, we can provide that as well and send it in the mail.
How can I get further information about mastering 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