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5 Reasons Why Mastering Matters

5 Reasons Why Mastering Matters

Mastering is the last step in the music production process.

It’s the phase where your song gets its final polish and presentation for release.

But mastering isn’t just an extension of the mix. And it’s a lot more than window dressing.

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Mastering plays a crucial role in your listener’s experience—in more ways than you might think.

In this article I’ll go through the top 5 reasons mastering is essential to how we listen to music today.

If you’re on the fence about whether to master your track before people listen to it, this guide will explain why skipping mastering is a mistake.

Preview of youtube video

Let’s get started.

1. Modern music is loud

High budget tracks from pro producers sound fantastic. They’re big, bold and punchy even when you listen on small speakers.

But above all, they’re exactly the right volume—for the available headroom in the medium!

One of the most important jobs in mastering is to bring the level of your mix up to match with the rest of the tracks in your library or streaming platform.

But loudness and the level of audio signals is more complicated than it might seem.

Getting a track to sound loud, balanced and punchy without clipping the listener’s playback system is a highly technical feat.



Keep good gain staging throughout your mix, but leave it to the mastering process to maximize the loudness for playback.

Here’s what an unmastered track sounds like compared to mastered track, using LANDR’s AI mastering algorithm.

Try LANDR Mastering on Your Own Tracks

 

It’s completely possible for your tracks to sound great everywhere people hear them. But there’s no chance with a raw, unmastered mix.

2. Your fans listen everywhere

Remember those small speakers I was talking about? They’re everywhere.

From earbuds to Bluetooth speakers to iPhones, many listeners’ first experience with a new artist is under less than ideal conditions.

It’s completely possible for your tracks to sound great everywhere people hear them. But there’s no chance with a raw, unmastered mix.

Another key job in mastering is to optimize the frequency balance of your track so it works anytime, anywhere.

That means fans will hear your song as you intended it whether they’re listening on a massive club sound system or a pair of earbuds on the bus.

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Unlimited mastering & distribution, 1200 royalty-free samples, 30+ plugins and more! Get everything LANDR has to offer with LANDR Studio.

The mastering process takes your mix as a whole and brings its overall sound into balance. Getting it right requires some sophisticated tech and know-how.

3. Streaming services have standards

The most important platforms for today’s artists are the major streaming services. These are the libraries where the majority of listeners go to listen to music and discover new artists.

But Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and others have strict standards for the content they host. After all, these platforms put your songs up alongside the biggest names in music.

That’s why digital distribution requires a certain level of quality. This is true for your album artwork and metadata, but also for your sound.

Get something wrong and your release could be rejected. That’s the last thing you want after working hard on your songwriting and mix.

Mastering takes care of your audio quality control. With mastering you never have to worry about audio issues in a raw mix stopping your release.

4. Mastering fixes problems you might have missed

It’s easy to get lost in your own world while working on a track.

Without an outside perspective you can mix yourself into a corner without even knowing it.

Producing music from home has never been easier, but there’s still a lot to overcome for truly great sound.

Most beginner and intermediate producers underestimate the effect of their listening environment on their end result.

If you’ve only just started setting up your home studio, you probably don’t have any acoustic treatment yet.

And even if you only mix on headphones, you’re still up against the main problem with DIY mixing—you’re not hearing a neutral, transparent version of your tracks.

Preview of youtube video

That doesn’t mean you can’t get a mix that sounds great to you. It just might not translate to other listening environments, and that’s a problem.

Mastering is the critical, unbiased ear that can solve these issues. A good master should help your mix sound its best even when you can’t identify the problems yourself.

A good master should help your mix sound its best even when you can’t identify the problems yourself.

That’s not to say that mastering can fix a mix that’s not working. But it can help reduce the effects of producing music in situations where truly accurate monitoring is impossible.

5. Mastering is part of the creative process

Mastering used to be nothing more than a technical process to transfer a recording from the production medium to the playback medium.

Not anymore.

Today, mastering is part of the creative life cycle of a song. Modern mastering is an art form with a high level of attention to detail.

The mastering style used says a lot about the identity of the song and the stylistic elements of the music itself.

Do you want a warm, dynamic master with smooth vintage highs? Or a loud and hard-hitting one with airy, open top end?

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Preview of youtube video

That decision is a part of the creative process that’s as important as the arrangement or mix.

Missing out on the chance to sculpt your sound during the mastering process is a mistake. You want to make your mark on every single phase of your song’s development, don’t you?

Mastering matters

Modern mastering is an art form with a high level of attention to detail.

So much effort goes into making the recordings you love.

As you develop as a producer you’ll see more and more how each part of the process adds its own magic to the end result.

Mastering is no different. A great master can enhance your songs in ways that make a massive difference to your listeners’ experience.

 

Now that you know the basics of why mastering is important, get back to your DAW and keep working on your tracks.

LANDR

Various contributors from the LANDR team of music mentors.

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