Mastering rates start at $50 per song for songs up to 8 minutes in length, and are billed at $7.50 for each additional minute. Alternate versions (e.g. radio edit, extended mix, etc.) can be prepared for $15 each. Interludes of 2 minutes or less can be mastered at a rate of $15 per minute. Stem mastering is billed at a rate of $70 per hour. DDP and Red Book CD-R masters can be prepared for $40 each
Albums of 10 songs or more receive a 15% discount.
Q: What do you need to make my music shine?
A: Ideally, all files should be 24-bit (fixed) or 32-bit (float) at a sampling rate between 44.1 and 96 kHz (more on why I don't accept 176.4/192 kHz sampling rates here), with the highest peaks between -8 and -4 dBFS. If sending a 24-bit file, please export with TPDF (or equivalent) dither. If you are using any processing on your master buss that is solely for the sake of loudness (e.g. compression and limiting), please send clearly named versions with it both enabled and disabled. Compression that is purely for vibe or color can be left enabled. If you have been mixing into a compressor and/or limiter and your track is peaking above -4dBFS once you disable them, it is crucial that you either send a 32-bit float bounce or trim all your channels/busses until your peaks are in the -8 to -4 dBFS range. Please do not simply turn down your master fader as this can damage low-level detail.
Q: What do I get when you're done?
A: The standard rate includes the following: up to two revisions of each master transmitted as iTunes Plus quality AAC files, 24 or 16-bit .wav or .aif files of the approved final masters (check with your distributor or aggregator to see which they prefer), and a reference CD. Additional reference CDs can be made for $10 each, with free shipping in the continental U.S. If purchased, DDP file-sets will be digitally transmitted and Red Book CD-R masters will be mailed.
Q: What is stem mastering and is it right for my project?
A: Stem mastering is perhaps better described as a hybrid mixing and mastering approach in which you can send me a few sub-mixes (or stems) of different groups of instruments which I can then tweak individually before applying any master processing. Typical groups may be as minimal as drums, instruments, and vocals, or as granular as drums, bass, keyboards, synths, rhythm guitars, lead guitars, backing vocals, and lead vocals (other combinations are of course possible, but the total number of stems should not exceed 8). Whether or not stem mastering will benefit your project depends greatly on how confident you are with your final mix. If you've been working with another mixing engineer and/or producer you will certainly want to get their input as I would hate to step on their toes and change some balance they've spent hours working on. If you have any uncertainty as to whether or not stem mastering is the right approach, I will be happy to listen to your mix and give you my candid feedback.
Q: Do you offer Mastered for iTunes compliant masters?
A: Provided I receive 24-bit files at 44.1kHz or higher sampling rates, every song I master will be Mastered for iTunes compliant. While files in this format are fractionally quieter than they could be otherwise, the extra headroom ensures that your music will not clip or distort when converted to lossy files such as MP3 or AAC for download or streaming. Depending on which distributor or aggregator you use your songs may or may not receive the Mastered for iTunes badge in the iTunes store, but rest assured: they will meet or exceed the minimum criteria.
Q: Can I use your masters to press vinyl?
A: While I can't claim to have ever cut an acetate or lacquer, I have certainly done my research and chatted with a number of professionals who have. I make every effort to produce masters that will work well on all mediums, vinyl included, as history has shown that some of the most sonically pleasing records ever made have been cut to 12" discs as their final destination. If your cutting engineer finds some issue that they feel would be best for me to correct, I will be happy to work with them at no extra charge to produce a master they feel is suitable. If you do plan to press to vinyl, there are sequencing and length considerations to be made which I will be happy to advise on at the time of mastering.
Q: What is this DDP that you speak of and do I need one?
A: DDP, or Disc Description Protocol, is a file set that that is used by many professional CD replication plants. The file set is more robust than a CD-R master and includes several layers of error checking and correction. For this reason some replication plants prefer them as it will help them keep errors on a CD to a minimum, and ensure discs with longer lifespans which are compatible with the greatest variety of players. When in doubt, confer with your distributor.
Q: Do you provide UPCs or ISRCs?
A: At this time it is not practical for me to manage and provide UPCs or ISRCs, however you can obtain codes at www.gs1us.org/get-started and www.usisrc.org, through certain duplication services, or at ISRC.net.
Q: Do you have any examples I can listen to?
A: You know it! Scroll down to check out some of the fantastic artists who have asked me to put the final polish on their records.
Walking On by Technicolor Lenses, Mastered by Ian Stewart
Don't Shoot by Bodega Dream, Mastered by Ian Stewart