Creative work like music and art, are subjective – they are “subject” to or attached to a personal feeling. And different people have different tastes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, etc. And so if your music sounds exactly how you want it to sound, your album is done, right? From a listening perspective, the answer might be “yes”, but beyond the many musical adjustments that can be made during the mastering process, exists a number of technical, organizational and QC (quality control) items to check before releasing your music.
- Levels & Loudness – Mastering engineers use various tools and meters to measure levels (RMS) and loudness (LUFS) and can provide different file sets depending on how you intend to release your music. Oftentimes, a one-file-fits-all approach is sufficient, sometimes it is not.
- Sample Rate/Bit Depth and File Management – Be mindful of these settings as you may need to provide different sets of files depending on what you are doing with them. For example, CDs are 16 bit, 44.1khz (a.k.a. Redbook) and are most commonly delivered as a DDP (Disc Description Protocol). Online players/distributors may prefer higher sample rates and resolution when available, especially as more HD streaming services are becoming available.
- Quality Control (QC) – Make sure the songs are free from instrument buzz, mouth clicks, hiss, and other noises that can be especially apparent to a mastering engineer at the project layout stage. We have fancy denoising software, can draw specific fade in’s and out’s and even apply automation to help decrease or disguise a noisy track.
- Balance & Consistency – The goal of all this is to create a consistent listening experience from song to song in any listening environment. Even highly skilled mixers will send their files to a trusted mastering engineer for a final objective listen and to provide some of the work discussed above. Finally, make sure all of your tracks are consistent across all platforms with regard to “tops & tails”. At the top, I like to leave 250-300ms at the start of every file before the first music is heard. At the tail, l leave enough space to where I believe the next song should start, minus 250-300ms!
Whether it’s me or another person familiar with how to perform these tasks, I would encourage you to check the above items to ensure that your music makes its way through your distribution channels successfully.