What exactly is mastering?

In the classical sense, mastering is the process by which the final mix reaches a data storage device (the master), the gateway between production and consumption.  In today's world, mastering usually refers to the process by which a track is made to adhere to common standards for loudness and frequency balance.  The final touch, if you will. It requires a great room, an experienced set of ears, and proper equipment.  For music to be commercially viable in the saturated marketplace, good mastering is an important step towards catching the ears of listeners and potential fans.  A well mastered tune will always stand out in your listener's feed compared to one done unprofessionally.

What is the best way to prepare my music for mastering?

1) Make sure your session sounds the way you want and that you are happy with your mix.  

2) Try to leave at least 3 decibels of head room, 6 is preferred. If possible, bypass anything on your master channel.  If it is absolutely essential to the sound of your track, leave it - but it will give me much more flexibility if the track is delivered with no compression, EQ, and especially no limiting on the master channel.  

3) Once everything is ready, render your audio as a 24-bit WAV or AIFF file, complete the order form, and upload.

For further information on preparing premaster files, check out this great guide from the folks at Zeitgeist mastering.

Can you master an MP3 file?

No.  MP3's are what are referred to as 'lossy' audio.  They have been compressed from their original form ('lossless') and information has been removed.  This is done to shrink the file size so the music can be easier distributed via digital means.  Most listeners can't tell the difference.  But think about this: a 320 kpbs mp3 typically contains less than one third the data of it's lossless counterpart.  On a high-fidelity or club sound system, that missing information makes a big difference.

I need my song mixed and mastered.  What is the best way to prepare for mixing?

I can accept project files from Logic or Ableton Live and audio stem bundles. If you're sending an Ableton Live session, make sure to collect all and save.  Zip your project file before sending.  If you choose to send a project file, get in touch with me personally about any third party plugins you are using.  It is likely that you will have to bounce in place or flatten some tracks that have extensive third party processing, especially if you work on a Windows system.

If you choose to send a stem bundle, export all tracks from the session as 24 bit WAV or AIFF files and make sure each track is not clipping.  For information on head room, see the above section about preparing for mastering.  

Finally, complete the order form and upload.

There are people on Fiverr who will master my music for $5. Why should I pay you $30?

Simply put, anybody performing audio mastering services for $5 is not going to give you the quality you deserve.  Often these people offer to "spend at least one on hour on your track" or provide some similar extra service for a higher fee.  Any mastering engineer worth their salt should be spending an hour on a track, period.  Even if that just means listening to it for an hour and deciding it doesn't need anything!  A $5 master is likely going to get you a quick pass through an Ozone preset (maybe).  These people are taking advantage of artists who do not know any better, knowingly sacrificing the quality of the music and their own credibility.

Also, compared to top-tier studios that charge as much as $400 per track, $30 looks pretty nice, doesn't it?

Do you offer discounts?

Yep, send me a valid student ID or recent transcript and I'll take 10% off your project.  I can also provide discounts for bulk work.

How do you accept payment?

Once the work is complete and you are happy, I'll send an invoice for the work with my PayPal and Venmo account information.