Mixing and Mastering Buyers Guide For Artists
There is a lot confusions for artists when it comes to picking the most optimal mixing and mastering service that meets their specific budget and needs. People who are purely artists can get tricked by technical jargon that is used by mixing engineers which leads them to pay more for less. On the other hand, some artists like to believe that mixing and mastering a song should be very cheap, which leads them to book poor services that ruin their songs.
In this article I would like to give artists perspective on mixing and mastering business and give them information that would help them to make better decisions when deciding upon mixing and mastering engineers.
Your Needs And Your Budget
First of all, every artist must obviously know whatever he is a hobbyist, musician or businessman. Every category has its own budgets and its own goals (this article is written in 2023 so please adjust for inflation).
Hobbyist is a someone who does music for fun. He or she never intends to leave his day to day job. Since there is no concrete future goal, the money that a hobbyist is willing to spend is low. Hobbyists have small projects and small commitment for their projects. If a cheap mixing and mastering job makes their song much worse, it is still ok, since there is no expected return of investment. For those people Fiverr and Upwork might be the best places to finish their project quickly and cheaply.
Fiverr and Upwork have a lot of mixing and mastering offers ( Fiverr has more than 12 000 ). In such a vast market, people obviously compete in price and the outcome is obviously poorer by default. If I charge 10-50$ for a mix, then I need to do as much of mixing and mastering as I can, which means that my incentive is to spend as less time on your song as possible.
In addition to that, people who charge that low, only get hobbyists as clients, where the recording quality is poor and the outcome doesn't matter. That means that there is no real growth for that engineer and no real challenge to make the song stand out from the rest. It leads to the paradigm where even if such a person has 5 or 20 years of experience, his or hers service would still suffer in quality, no matter the years of experience.
Musician is someone who works part time in the music industry or someone who wishes to earn an income as a musician. In this category the outcome is important. However, the budget is always limited. For musicians with limited budget there is one very important advice that I could give - Instead of wasting money and effort on more than 8 songs and spreading thin, try to pick out the best 1-3 songs and invest all the money and effort into those songs.
In this category, it just doesn't make sense to do everything at once and spend money on everything, since the outcome is important and can determine future success, we want to prioritize the quality of the individual product. Fiverr and Upwork might be a good place to find the right person, but we must look at a price 250$+ for a song.
Soundbetter is a step up from other platforms and you would always find better engineers there. The engineers themselves must pay 99$ a month to be visible for your, so there is a certain filter of quality.
It is also helpful to search outside those services for independent mixing and mastering engineers. I think that in the independent / freelance sector you will always get a better service for your money, because providing a personalized service to someone is always result oriented and not speed oriented. If I gave you finished mixing and mastering song after an hour of mixing, so that I can go and do the next one, would you be happy?
Music is business and there is nothing wrong in investing money and effort into a product to yield a return on investment. A businessman is a musicians who does have a plan and experience. For those people independent freelance mixing engineers and engineers available at Soundbetter are obviously a way to go. In this category the price range goes up from 300$ to 1000$ per song.
For business oriented projects there is probably a good reason to have a dedicated mixing and a dedicated mastering engineer, because mixing and mastering in its essence must be done by 2 different people.
Mixing and mastering are projections of an opinion. Every engineer hears differently, thinks differently and has different studio setups. When we are talking about music as business, we obviously want to involve as many professionals as possible. After receiving a completed mix, mastering engineer might think differently about a bottom-end of the mix and make his own adjustments.
In this category, it is better to spend extra 100$+ for a dedicated mastering engineer.
Analogue Equipment Will Not Make Your Music Sound Better
This is not my opinion. Michael Brauer, who has all the analogue equipment in the world, decided not to use it and mix completely on his computer. I wrote extensively about this topic in another blog article - "Shocking Truth About Analogue vs Digital Mixing Today" There is still a lot of "analogue jargon" when it comes to mixing and mastering services. People use the word "analogue" as a proof of quality and platforms such as Fiverr, Upwork and Soundbetter ask their engineer whatever their mix and master their projects on analogue gear. A lot of mixing and mastering engineers also offer "analogue treatment" for extra charge.
Never pay extra for analogue mixing and mastering. If an engineer loves analogue gear and mixes and masters with it, it is fine, but paying extra money for analogue mixing and mastering wont all of a sudden cure engineers ears. As written in the mentioned article, the outcome of the mixing and mastering service depends on the professional who provides it, not on the gear he uses. "Analogue gear wont cure engineers ears".
Mixing and Mastering Is A Part Of Production
When we look at a 250-1000$ price range for mixing and mastering, we must also be conscious of the fact, that the mixing and mastering engineer makes adjustments to your composition. He or she might bring certain sections louder or quieter as you would expect. An engineer will also use delays, reverbs and distortion creatively to give the song flavor and create unique experiences that stand out.
Mixing and Mastering is about creativity and that's why the songs done by better engineers stand out. Those people inject their own creativity into the music which makes the final song better.
Obviously, being a professional, those people would remove their own creative ideas, in case you don't like them and find them too much, since they provide service to you and your song.
I hope in this article you learned more about mixing and mastering services and this knowledge will help you to make better decisions about your project. If you want your music to be mixed and mastered you can contact me - https://www.elvismix.com/