landrmasterrory

Why Master Your Music? Everything I Wish I’d Known

[Editor’s Note: This blog was written by Rory Seydel, Community & Content Manager at LANDR. It was originally featured on the LANDR Blog.]

When I first started producing, I struggled with mastering; the often misunderstood—kinda complicated—sometimes confusing artform…

I spent months mixing my first album – I thought it would change my life. So when I finished, I sent my tracks to a renowned mastering engineer.

It cost $1,000. He gave me the indie rate.

I was beyond excited. But after the first listen, I felt a little defeated. It wasn’t as different as I expected, and some parts were squished where I expected them to boom.

Remastering wasn’t really an option.

It cost a lot of money for something I didn’t really understand, and wasn’t sure it worked.

Create and Master

SO WHAT EXACTLY IS MASTERING?

In the days before digital, mastering was largely about duplication (remember vinyl and tape?). But as technology progressed, and digital recording became the standard, mastering has evolved into fine-tuning how your music sounds.

Still, it’s an often misunderstood—kinda complicated—sometimes confusing artform…

Mastering is all about making your tracks sound as good to everyone else, as they do to you – smoothing out the wrinkles of your final mix without losing the character that makes your music yours.

Using a combination of tools like tasteful compression, EQ, limiting, stereo enhancement plus other tricks like aural excitation – mastering is the glue, varnish and polish that makes your music presentable to the world.

IS MASTERING STILL IMPORTANT?

Yes, definitely! Done right, mastering should solve 3 problems you face with your music:

1. You’re not hearing your music the same way your audience does. Poor acoustics in your room, the quality of your reference monitors and your mixing skills can all have a huge impact on your final sound. Mastering should fix this.

2. Music sounds different in all playback situations (home, the car radio, the club, on a streaming platform, when your mom buys your single online). Good mastering helps you sound your best everywhere and in all situations.

3. It’s easy to lose perspective on your music. This makes it hard to tell if your music actually sounds good. The point of mastering is to take a step back, look at the whole picture and fix any major problems you might have missed.

If the goal is to a connect with an audience, mastering helps build that connection.

LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD

We created LANDR because we believe that mastering is often expensive and frequently misunderstood. We wanted to give our tracks – and yours – a shot at standing up against the big fish without limiting your creative input, or making you broke in the process.

LANDR is a studio-quality alternative to expensive mastering engineers. It’s a second set of ears you can rely as a benchmark for quality.

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Take Brooklyn artist Govales for example: He makes amazing music in his bedroom. He trusts his ears and room for mixing. But he uses mastering to make sure his ideas get heard while adding a final polish:

“With ‘Freakazoid’ and LANDR, one of the key things I’ve been looking for is to bring out the low end and make the track knock that much more. You can definitely hear the Rhodes piano better, the whole track sparkles more.”

Have a listen to Freakazoid, mastered and unmastered and hear more on Soundcloud.


MASTER WHILE YOU MIX

One of the coolest – and least expected – things that’s happened since launching LANDR is the mid-mix master. Just pop your track into LANDR and see if it resonates. You can then make adjustments to your mix before committing to a final master.

It’s great for getting perspective on your work:

“I had never tried to master my stuff… I’d hand it off to someone else.. but the process for these last two projects is about really trusting my own mixes and putting them through LANDR. It helps me adjust my mixes and know what will pop.” – Govales

Why Master Music

ACTUALLY FINISH YOUR TRACKS

Finishing music is the hardest thing to do, I get it. But it’s also the most satisfying part of making music. In essence mastering IS finishing.

“LANDR can actually help you FINISH your music… that critical, final, elusive, mysterious step has been demystified. And the results speak for themselves.” –Tiga

So give mastering a try, and let us know what you think.


Rory Seydel is a lifer in the music game; When not busy recording, he’s writing or chatting with producers as LANDR’s Content and Community Manager. Ask him about making music, touring the world, and releasing albums. He will not shut up. Read more.

  • Farcus

    I have used this process and have to say I am very satisfied with the results. I do a little mastering in my home studio getting the echo down and some pitch changes but having this tool to back up what I’m hearing is great. Makes me feel comfortable with my final cuts.

    • Rory Seydel

      Glad to hear it @Farcus

  • Wheel House

    Does the LANDR service allow you to encode ISRCs into the master tracks?

    • Rory Seydel

      Hi @wheel_house:disqus ISRC’s have been discussed. Is this something you’d like to see in the service?

      • Wheel House

        Yeah, we own our own publishing company and assign our own ISRC’s, so they’re a vital part of the mastering process for us. We would be stoked if LANDR could do that too for an affordable price.

        • Rory Seydel

          Good to know! I’ll share with product!

  • Audio Engineer

    As a professional mastering engineer, I have to say, LANDR is miles away from good sounding results. Really, don’t use the service for music that should sound good or is intended for critical use (serious publishing or as demo for record companies, as they need a highly refined product nowadays, not a sketch of what the music could sound like in the future). For first attempts of newbies, OK. But isn’t making music normally all about art and the human touch? This is something LANDR does not give. Instead it makes everything sound boring and the same.

    • tunecore

      Hey there,

      Thanks for your feedback! We also offer our artists of varying career levels the opportunity to take advantage of Professional Mastering Services, as well.

      • Audio Engineer

        That has nothing to do with “career-levels”. Otherwise I would say. I strongly advise EVERY musician to get in contact with a professional mastering engineer, not to upload to a cold and impersonal digital-service that does more harm than good to the music. Especially music that has NOT been professionally mixed needs the help by a serious mastering-specialist, not a one-size-fits-all-upload-approach. Really. Please musicians, get in contact with a mastering-engineer or even better: a mixing-engineer and they will recommend a mastering-engineer, too. And there are also good people in different price-categories. So no need to differentiate between LANDR and Univeral Mastering. There are many more mastering-houses around the world inbetween doing good work also. Why don’t you offer a directory of mix- and/or mastering-studios instead to let the musician choose, instead of limiting to LANDR (too cheap to be good) and Universal (too expensive for most of the musicians. That would be the right way to go.

  • StevenCravisMusic

    LANDR question: Can we upload 24 bit audio, and get back a 24 bit audio master?

    • tunecore

      Hey Steven –

      LANDR always recommends uploading high-quality WAVs (24bit is great) for best results on their platform, no matter what format you’re mastering to.

      If you’d like to get a 24bit master back, you can purchase an HD WAV master on LANDR.com (TuneCore only offers masters back in 16bit).

      • StevenCravisMusic

        Okay. Any sample rate okay? 44.1, 48, 88.2 etc..?

        • tunecore

          LANDR suggests exporting your mix at the highest possible bit depth (ex: 24bit) and sample rate (ex: 48kHz). This shouldn’t make a huge difference over 16bit / 44.1kHz, but the more resolution LANDR has to read from, the more precisely it will make its adjustments.

          • StevenCravisMusic

            Thank you.