FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

General

What is mastering and why do I need it?

TLDR: Mastering is putting the finishing touches on your music and preparing it to be released.

 

Mastering is the process of using various effects and processes to make your music sound its best. This often includes EQ balancing, compression, stereo width management and enhancement, saturation, limiting and more. This is always tweaked by hand in a tasteful and appropriate manner. It is not just slamming a limiter and making it “louder”. There’s much more to it.

Mastering also includes checking the files for errors, putting the tracks in order, adjusting the spacing between them, rendering different file types and preparing DDP files for replication as needed.

Every record needs quality mastering to put that final polish on it and make it sound balanced and “finished”. I’m here to help. Send in a song for a free sample now to see what mastering can do for you.

You offer a Free Sample Master? What is that?

Yes! I am happy to offer a FREE no obligation sample master for serious prospective clients to show you what I can do with your music and hopefully win your business.

Perhaps you are new to mastering and not sure what it is or what it can do for you. This is the perfect way to find out. Just send me your mixed song and I’ll work my magic and send you back a mastered version.

This is also great if you are not sure who you’re going to go with for mastering. You can simply get a free test master from a couple of different people and then decide which you like better. No hard feelings if you don’t pick mine.

The sample master may be either an excerpt of the song or watermarked and it is NOT for release of any kind. Sample masters are for evaluation only.
Free sample requests are not guaranteed. All free samples are sent at my sole discretion. Please don’t abuse it.

Are you Apple Digital Masters (MFiT) certified?

Yes! I am an official certified Apple Digital Masters provider.

Please see more information here.

What genres do you work with?

I am very happy to work with ALL genres of music. That’s what keeps it interesting!
I have worked with just about every type of genre there is and I’m excited to work with the ones that I haven’t.
A brief list: Rock, Pop, Hip Hop, Metal, Folk, Indie, Punk, Hardcore, Classical, Jazz, Electronic, Country, Emo, Screamo, Black Metal, Acoustic Singer Songwriter, etc etc.

Who is Michael Briggs?

Hello! Read more about me here.

How long does mastering take?

The standard turnaround time is usually 2-4 business days. I will often get it back to you sooner than that, sometimes as fast as 1 day. This time starts after I have received your files and verified that they are all in good order and without technical problems and let you know that I am starting on your project. Rush service is available for an additional fee on the order page.

Do you offer revisions?

Yes! While most clients are extremely satisfied with the first master, I am more than happy to make any tweaks you want and offer unlimited free revisions within the first 30 days after the initial delivery of your files. Your satisfaction is my top priority.

Do you also offer mixing?

Yes, I do. Please visit my mixing page here.

Do you do stem mastering?

Yes, I offer stem mastering. Please select this while getting your free rate quote.

Stem mastering is basically like a very simplified form of mixing where you provide the basic “stems” of the major parts of the mix and I will mix them together and master the result. For example, the stems would usually be: vocals, guitars, bass, drums, keys, percussion, etc.

What Digital Distribution services do you recommend?

Many of my clients have had great results with both Distrokid and CD Baby. Here is a quick comparison:

Distrokid

  • Cost: $19.99/year for unlimited releases (no charge for UPC)
  • Best for artists who release more than 1 time per year
  • You will need to continue paying the annual fee indefinitely or your music will be removed
    (there is an option to pay an additional one time fee of $49 to archive your release permanently and still keep 100% of royalties)
  • 0% commission on your sales (after the fees charged by the individual stores/outlets)
  • Supports Apple Digital Masters at no extra cost

CD Baby

  • Cost: $29/album or $9.95/single + $20 for UPC code
  • Best for artists who release 1 time or less per year
  • Your music stays up indefinitely with no annual fee
  • 9% commission on all sales/royalties
  • Supports Apple Digital Masters but charges twice for a duplicate submission

Those are most of the relevant differences. Just about everything else is the same.
I would not recommend Tunecore. They do not support Apple Digital Masters and I know several clients have had trouble with them.

What payment methods do you accept?

I can accept any type of major credit card as well as PayPal.

Do you offer attended mastering sessions?

Yes, I do offer attended sessions at my studio in Denton, Texas. Please contact me for details.

Where can I hear samples of your work?

Just go to the front page of this website to hear before and after examples of masters that I have done.

Technical

How to I prepare my mix for mastering?

Please see the File Preparation guide.

Is it ok to send mixes that have a limiter on the master?

Yes and no.
It is fine to include effects on the master bus if they make your mix sound the way you want it to, but just don’t go overboard with limiting. It limits what I can do with your mix when it has already been limited in advance.
It is most ideal to not include or bypass a limiter on your master and to keep your peaks below -1db so they don’t clip. You can also upload 32bit WAV files so that clipping is not an issue.
Feel free to add some bus compression, EQ, tape simulation, etc to the master. Whatever you need to do the mix, go for it. Just try not to squash it to bits before sending it my way.

Do you master for vinyl?

Yes, I do. Vinyl pre-mastering is very similar to regular mastering for digital or CD, but there are a few extra steps that have to be taken to ensure ideal playback on a vinyl record. I do not do physical lathe cutting.

Please select a Vinyl master on the quote page if needed.

Do you master for cassette tape?

Yes, I do master for cassette tapes. I can either provide the individual songs separately or combine them all into single files for Side A and B.

Please note that most inexpensive cassette tape duplicators are mono and not stereo and will not sound very good. I would recommend using a professional duplicator such as Duplication.ca for quality stereo tapes.

Let me know if you would like your tape master to be provided in mono or stereo.

What file formats do you accept?

The most common file format for uncompressed audio is WAV. I prefer to receive WAV files in the source bit depth and sample rate that you mixed them at. You may also send .AIFF or .FLAC files.

All sample rates are accepted, ranging from 44.1k to 192k. Please send at the same sample rate it was mixed at and do not convert.

I prefer to receive either 24 or 32bit WAV files but you may also send 16bit if that’s all you have.

Please see the File Preparation Guide for more info.

What is a DDP and do I need one?

A DDP (Disc Description Protocol) is a file that is sent to CD duplication/replication plants that includes the entire image of the disc with all songs in order including any metadata like track titles, ISRC codes, album title, etc.

The benefit of sending a DDP file is that you can check to be 100% sure that everything is exactly as you want it with no issues. I will set the spacing between songs in the DDP and they will then be printed to CD exactly as intended.

DDPs are only needed if you are making CDs and if the plant/company you are using accepts them. Please verify with them to see if they prefer to receive a DDP or WAV files directly. DDP files may be requested when you are requesting your custom rate quote.

How long can a song be?

For the purpose of charging for mastering, songs can be up to 8 minutes long.
After 8 minutes it is counted as 2 songs. After 16 minutes it is counted as 3 songs.

On the other hand, I won’t charge you for very short interludes or other tracks that are not actually songs.
When ordering mastering on the site, you may leave out tracks that are less than 20 seconds long and are not an actual song.

Can I update the mix after receiving the first mastering pass?

Yes you can. You can do a mix revision after receiving the first version of the master if you hear anything in the mix that needs to change that could not be changed sufficiently in the master. The first mix update is free but after that there is a $10 charge per song per updated mix.
Make sure that when you send the update that the file is the exact same length as before with the song starting at the exact same time.

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