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The dream has been achieved! I am living the life I've always wanted and it feels great to work in my own studio everyday. The rewards are tremendous and there is nothing I'd rather be doing with my time. Being so immersed in my work on a constant basis has given me the knowledge and experience that is required to work at a professional level in this industry. I know many of you are looking to attain the same goal, so let me share just a fraction of my awareness with you.
First, running your own business, regardless of what you do, is no easy task. There are quite a few things you need to consider before diving into starting up a recording studio. Consider this, you'll need to cover your overhead and start up costs before you see a dime of profit. The initial investment is what overwhelms most entrepreneurs and that is just the tip of the iceberg. You're going to need a computer that is powerful enough to handle the processing, a DAW software program, an interface, lots of cables, mics, mic stands, headphones, headphone mixers, racks for gear or road cases, power conditioners, external hard drives, and potentially a studio space. This is just the foundation, there are plenty of other bells and whistles that you'll need to pull off a professional studio.
Now that that idea is rattling around in your head, tackle this notion, you will need to budget for electricity, water and sewage, garbage service, insurance, a security system, and rent. So your budget on a monthly basis is around $2,000 just to keep the doors open. That's the cheap end of the spectrum, which will probably not be adequate enough to compete in the market.
Now if you've invested a large chunk of change into an education in audio production, owning your own studio is the ultimate goal. These startup and recurring monthly costs are just scratching the surface of what you need to consider for operating a steady and reliable studio business. I just wanted to get your mind in motion for all that needs to be considered. Check back in soon as my next few posts will dive deeper into the elbow grease that is needed to keep a studio running smoothly and having the stamina to build a solid reputation to keep the machine well oiled.
Now that you've done a load of leg work to get your music out in the public and build a strong web presence, you need to focus on your fans. Gathering fans is like a wildfire, it can spread quickly or burn out in the blink of an eye. You need to keep your fans engaged in what you're doing as a band. This requires some attention to your social media content and the pace at which you release music and music videos.
Be sure to announce when you are going to release music and videos. Just as you would promote a show, you need to promote your music releases. Record Labels and licensing firms like to see that you are supplementing your hard work with an effort to reach out to the public and let them know about what you've been doing. Get in the habit of taking photos at band rehearsal and at recording studios. Post them on your social media and keep your fans engaged in every step of the process that you're taking to compose and create music. When you have a consistent following, it will grow and spread like a wildfire throughout social media. If there is a buzz about your band, then people will hear about you and at least get some exposure to you and your music. If you think your music is just that good and people will find you anyway, you're in for a rude awakening.
Now that you have created a web presence, you need to get into the public eye. Promoting your website and your music starts with good press. Find someone who will write a professional press release for you and your music. The press release should exemplify the unique qualities of your band and music. Focus should be on the sound and style of the music to draw in readers. To draw attention to the music, draw ties to influences and similar artists. Just keep it short. About 300 words is all the attention a reader will give a press release, so get to the point.
Be smart about it and provide contact info and links back to your website. Possibly set up a show that the press release directs readers to attend. Break into the music scene with some gusto. Maybe throw a house party and play in your backyard or garage. Get a keg and invite folks over. People may not be familiar with your music, so it's a good idea to turn the event into a party.
You should have a good song and a well produced recording of the music at this point. Now we need to wrap it up and present it to the world. This is where your creative ideas can come to life. Get a few good photographs of yourself that exemplify the attitude and image that you want to associate with your music. This is really half of the success of your music and career in the music industry. You need to be able to captivate the listener and get them to feel the emotion that is embedded in the music. Record labels and movie producers will take you seriously if you appear to believe in your own music, so you need to create an image that they can market with the music.
You don't have to go way over the top like Lady Gaga or Marilyn Manson, but it is very obvious that they succeeded in the music industry because their music was good and they had an image that captivated people's attention. I don't think either of them would have been such a success story if they took photos in jeans and t-shirt hanging out in their backyard. Now you don't have to get crazy with the editing in Photoshop, but I'd suggest that you hire a professional photographer and get some shots that have good lighting and are framed with an interesting background. Black and white photos are always classy and have a sense of professionalism to them. That's why so many band photos are black and white that accompany a press kit.
Once you have a few good photos, you need to get some sort of web presence. You can get a free band account on many different websites. I'd highly recommend one that offers licensing opportunities. There are a bunch to choose from, but I'd suggest starting with sonicbids.com or musicclout.com. Both of these sites allow you to upload music and create an artist profile. If you have about $10 to spare per month, I'd highly recommend you build your own website and have control over the design and look of your online presence. You can easily build your own custom site with squarespace.com or wix.com for about $10/mo. Check out some of the websites built by our studio clients: The New Position & Justin Fawsitt. Both of these sites were constructed by the musicians and only took a few moments to setup and live on the web.
This is a step that you cannot afford to overlook. You need to believe in your music and developing your image will be the foundation for the career you are going to build. Just as you got feedback from your friends and family for your music, you should also get feedback on your image. If you want to accelerate your career, hire a producer that has experience in developing musicians in the public eye.
Now that you have chosen the best song to market, you need to prepare it for presentation. This next step is definitely the most important, it's time to record your music. The "sound" of your music will be the foundation of your marketing campaign. So this is where you need to slow down and evaluate the best option for moving forward. You need to invest and believe in your music, so you need a quality recording with a producer that shares your vision. Cutting corners on recording your music will hinder the success of your efforts and only wind up costing you more money in the long run.
The main focus is to get a high quality recording to exemplify the ingenuity of your musical abilities. To achieve this, you need to make sure that you're recording is done right the first time. Saving a few bucks on a unprofessional recording will only add to the cost that you'll wind up investing when you go to a professional studio and get a higher quality recording. If you want to be the best at what you do, then you need to work with professionals who can give you top quality production. Project / budget studios are great for demos and hashing out ideas, but when it comes to making the final recording, you need to invest in quality. You will only get one chance to make an impression, so there is no time to waste on mediocre sound.
When you spend all your time trying to get licensed, the music has to be spectacular. If the recording is sub-par, it will reflect poorly on the content of your music. A good engineer / producer will have the skills and knowledge to ensure your music pops! Choose a studio with a proven track record and an engineer that has serious interest in your music. A good engineer will encourage you and support you along the way. Getting guidance from someone who has experience in the industry is a wise choice. This will help you avoid common pit-falls an maximize the efficiency of your production time.
Stay tuned for step 3. We'll cover the advantages of preparation and time management.
You want the world to hear your music. Thus, you need to get it licensed in a movie or TV show that reaches a large audience. This is the best way to get recognition and propel your music career into a full-time job with a stable income. Over the next five days I'm going to give you some insight into how you can go about getting your music licensed.
Step one: picking the right song to market to record labels and producers. It's good to have an arsenal of songs to choose from, but you need to focus on pushing one song. How do you choose the right song to market? Easy, ask your friends, family, and fans which song is their favorite. This simple poll will give you all the insight you need to make the choice. You can post a survey through email or your website and use the data to narrow down your most popular song.
It's crucial to let your fans make the choice because this is a sample pool of the potential listers that will hear your music. This is something that a marketing rep looks for when choosing music to license. Music in a movie or a TV show can be pivotal in the success of the production and popularity in the public eye. If the music is popular on its own, then it already has established success. This is a big deal to producers.
Once you have made the choice, it is important to make sure the song is ready for submitting to licensing opportunities. We'll cover this in the next posting. Please leave any questions or comments below.
Playing concerts is what we all love to do. Playing to empty rooms is never fun. Here are a few tips on how to get more people at your shows.
First, do a little bit of research on the venue that you want to play. Does the venue have a history of hosting musicians or music similar to the music you play? It is a good idea to go and see a show at any venue that you're considering before you book your own show at that venue. If you have a chance to talk to one of the bandmembers it's playing at the show, ask them questions like how easy it was to book the show and how much fun they had performing there. Gather as much information as you can about the venue before you even start to talk to the booking agent for the venue. Once you have a good idea of whether or not you want to book the show at a certain venue, that is when you contact the booking agent. You want to speak with them confidently about performing at their venue. Book a show far enough in advance so that you have time to do adequate advertising. You want people to come to your show so you need to give them time to plan on being at the show for the date that you are about to book. Most folks have plans for about 2 to 3 weeks in advance on weekends, which is probably the best night for you to try to book a show.
Next comes the hard part. You need to find a way to get people interested and aware that you were playing a show. Don't rely on the venue to do all the promotion for your show. You need to get out there and do some good old legwork and word-of-mouth promotion for your show. Get some posters made and find good places to put them up so they will be visible and draw people in to putting your show on their calendar. Just a little bit of good advertising and promotion will bring probably 10 to 15 folks to your show.if you get more that's awesome. However playing a show for a few people or a lot of people shouldn't matter or affect your performance. Even if one person comes to your show, put on the best show of your career.
Thinking about getting a microphone to start or build on your home recording studio? Here are 10 mics you should consider. Ranging from Dynamic to USB mics that are great for singing or podcasting.
Starting a home studio can be confusing at times. There's so much information on the web that you don't know where to start. Here are a few helpful tips on how to get your studio going.
Start with a budget. Stick to the budget. You're not going to build a world-class studio overnight. It takes time to develop a feel for how a studio operates. Buy affordable gear at first to determine if you have the talent and stamina to run a studio. Running a studio is a full-time job and will consume all of your free time. So it's best not to invest all your money into the studio up front.
Get a decent interface. One that has a few mic preamps and some routing options. As you grow, you can upgrade your interface. There are so many options, but you can find used Digidesign 192 HD interfaces on eBay for about $500. Start with one of these if you can afford the system setup. If you're on a tighter budget, I recommend an interface that has been modified by Black Lion Audio. They offer superior A/D conversion and at a price that won't break the bank.
This will be the core of your studio, so spend a little bit of time researching what will work best for you. A good computer is also vital and there are many PC & Mac options. We'll get into that tomorrow.
I respond to internship requests on a daily basis. Many of the requests are one-sided and offer no benefit to the studio. Here's the deal, an internship is beneficial to both the studio and the intern. If you want to intern at a studio, you have to possess some sort of value to the progress of the studio. The studio is going to give you experience and education so you can be a competent member of the industry. If you have nothing to give back, you'll never get an internship.
Before you go and start pestering studios, you need to do a little prep work. Start with reading a few books on Pro Tools and recording principles. You can read books on many different topics and learn quite a bit about the industry at your own pace. Educating yourself adds so much worth to your assistance in the studio. Once you know the difference between XLR & AES cables, you will move quickly through patching and studio setup.
Buy some gear and do some home recordings. Get a little bit of experience with using a DAW and play around with the settings. If you want to learn Pro Tools, go to www.avid.com and sign up to receive Pro Tools First. It's a free version of Pro Tools that will get you started. Most professional studios use Pro Tools HD, so there will be a slight learning curve, but getting familiar with the fundamentals is important.
Watch a few videos on YouTube and ask some questions in forums. Do not show up to the studio with a bunch of questions. When you're in the studio, just observe! You're there to learn and the engineer is there to work. If clients are on the studio, keep your yapper shut. If someone asks you a question, answer them, but that should be the only time you speak.
If you do have questions during a session, write them down and save them for after the client's session. It all boils down to manners and common courtesy. You need experience and that is what you should absorb. Being in the room while a session is happening is chalk full of experience. Pay attention to how the engineer conducts the session. Keep track of how many takes are recorded and how they're recorded. When the session is over, start to help with the break down. Ask the musicians if they want help loading their gear. Be helpful and it will be rewarded.
Not all audio engineers are the same. Some specialize in a particular field of audio production. Others focus their skills on a certain genre of music. Choosing the right engineer is a very important part of your album. The right engineer will produce your music and essentially become a member of the band. Without the right engineer, your recordings will fall on deaf ears.
How do you choose the right engineer?
Start by talking to a few different engineers. You can tell a whole lot about a person just by having a simple conversation. Talk about your music and the vision you have for the finished recordings. Talk about things that interest you and find out if you share any common interests. You don't have to be good friends with the engineer, but you should at least get along. You will be spending many hours in the studio with the engineer and you need to make sure that you will be productive. So before you spend hours on end with an engineer working on your music, make sure you can see eye to eye on the vision of the project.
A good way to gauge an engineer's potential is to listen to some of their past recordings and projects. Any professional engineer will have a few examples of their work out on the internet. If you like what you hear, then you will be happy with what the engineer can do for your music. The engineer doesn't necessarily need to be an expert in the genre of music you prefer. Some of the best albums have come from an engineer that specializes in a completely different genre of music. Sometimes a fresh set of ears on the project is the key to success.
Getting excited about your music is a great feeling. Everyday I work with musicians that are motivated and driven to compose and create new music. I see first hand the creative process that goes into the labor intensive tasks of developing ideas into new songs. Many musicians start sending out info on social media while they are still amidst the recoding session in the studio. Some leak videos and audio recordings of the music before the recording session is complete. Though you may be excited and eager to share your excitement with the world, you have to stay focused and maintain a professional attitude. No one will take you seriously unless you have some element of intrigue.
When you prematurely release media and info your image and reputation becomes amateur. My years working with CMJ, Live 105, and Shine On Studio have given me ample opportunity to work with some of the most accomplished and successful musicians in the music industry. Let me share a few ways you can avoid ending your music career.
1. The element of intrigue
It is a good idea to engage your fans and followers on social media, but don't over-saturate your feed with mundane info. If you tell everyone everything you do, then there is no mystery about you. When this happens, people loose interest in what you're doing. Then when you finally have something special to share, it gets over-looked and has no impact on the world. Cut back on talking about yourself and sharing every moment of your life. If you must engage the social media, talk and comment about what other people are doing.
2. Rough drafts are not public
When you leave the studio with rough draft mixes, take them home and review them. That is the purpose of a rough draft! These mixes should not be posted on your website or social media. When you release unfinished work, your reputation and image are permanently scarred. Listeners don't care that you label the track "rough mix" or that you will be making changes to the mix later. They just absorb what they hear and immediately decide if they will follow or forget you...forever. You should always strive to put your best work forward and impress the world with your musical talent. First impressions are vital to success in the overcrowded modern music industry. Wait for the final mix to be finished and then release all of the tracks at one time for the best impression you can make on the music community.
3. Keep you personal & professional lives separate
As an entertainer, you must constantly entertain. Sharing your personal life with the public does not bode well for your professional career. The moment that the public does not view you as a unique individual in the entertainment industry is the moment when you lose all credibility. You must stay focused and keep all your public interactions on a high level of professionalism. Separate your social media and keep your personal life private for your friends and family. The public likes entertaining distractions, so be their entertainment with your music.
These few guidelines can lead to the foundation of a successful or unsuccessful music career. It takes a great deal of effort to maintain a professional music career. Think about what you do before you actually do it. Ask your friends and family for feedback before you present yourself to the world. Hire a producer that you respect or that has a good reputation. Hire a manager or a publicist to maintain your public image. These are things that professional musicians do and they are successful. You get out of it what you put into it, so be aware of what you're putting in.
I've been out to see some local music this past month and wanted to make a few comments on stage presence and what to do when you're on stage. The first thing to remember is that you are the one on stage, so you provide the entertainment. All eyes in the room are on you, so be the artist and give the audience something to watch. The last show I went to see had two bands performing. The first band was impressive. The music had motion and a creative element that was engaging. The musicians were very emotional and it was obvious that they loved their music. The singer was dancing and really putting on a show. Bravo!
The second band started their set and all the musicians were standing still and starring down at their instruments. The singer started the set by saying, "This is a new song, so we may mess it up. Really hope you like it." These are horrible things to say when you're on stage in front of a crowd. It sounds like you don't rehearse and you're insecure about your own music. What do you care if anyone likes the music or not? Will you stop playing a song just because someone says they don't like the song? I certainly hope not. Everyone has a different taste in music, so some will like your tunes and some will not. That should have no relevance on how you compose and perform your music.
The attitude you have on stage transfers onto the crowd. If you're timid and nervous, the crowd will be shy about listening to you perform. When you show emotion and feel the music when you're on stage, it energizes the crowd and they open up to your music. Music is passionate by nature, so release the emotions that inspired you to compose the music and put on a good show for the audience. Please, rehearse your live performance! Don't just meet in your everyday clothes and robotically practice your songs, pretend you're on stage every now and then. Maybe set up a camera and video yourselves so you can see what you look like to the crowd. The stage performance is just as important as the music. Please, for the love of sanity, mute your amp while you tune your guitar. There is nothing that will kill a buzz faster than a lame guitarist plucking random strings to tune a guitar. You never hear a big time guitarist on stage tuning their guitar, so neither should you!
It's OK to talk to the crowd and get them amped up, but keep it short. Unless you're a natural stand up comedian, the longer you talk, the faster the crowd looses interest in your performance. Save the chit chat for after the show. If you need some guidance, just look up some videos on the web of your favorite bands performing live. Take notes on what they do well and how they keep the audience entertained and engaged in the performance. A good live show will propel your music career and news will spread of how impressive your live show can be. That's how you draw a crowd to your shows. Stop asking all your friends to come to each of your shows. You need to reach people you don't personally know.
There are certain things that contribute to a great recording. The first is the interface that you're using. You can go and spend some $$$ on a HD converter and get great results. However, there is an alternative for great sound at a more affordable price. Black Lion Audio (www.blacklionaudio.com) is a company based in Chicago and they have some modifications that rival some of the big expensive converters. For under $2,000 you can get the BLA Signature Mod on your 002 or 003 rack. We currently have one that is used as our mobile rig and it holds up quite well. Many of the live recording that Shine On has been hired to record have been tracked with our modified 002r.
The Signature Mod will improve your converters, clock, and mic pres. These are huge improvements over the Digidesign stock interface. They also beef up the headphone amp to provide a more accurate monitoring option. The A/B recordings we did with the interface are jaw-dropping. There really is no comparison between the recordings. The mod improved the attack of transients and the depth of the EQ range. Drums have more punch, guitars roar and scream with more intensity, bass is bigger and richer in the low end, and vocals just rip through the mix to sit right in the pocket. These improvements are well worth the investment. You'll save time in the studio and your mixes will have a brilliance that just cannot be matched at this price point. If you'd like to get more info or experience with the interface, sign up for one of our Pro Tools lessons and an engineer will show you the ins and outs of this impressive upgrade to your studio.
You've decided to start a recording studio. Now comes the planning for how to build your studio from the ground up. There are so many options, so let me help you consider a few that are crucial to the success of your new studio. I've been in the business for over 20 years now and I've seen what works and how well everything works. There are many different types of audio production studios, but for this segment, I'm going to focus on the beginner's project studio. Though you may have already started to build your studio, I'll be offering advice on things to consider for the success of all levels of studio production.
Before you spend too much time planning or spend any money on gear, take time to hash out your budget. You'll need to make some tough decisions about what is necessary now and what can be purchased down the road as the studio grows. Start a spreadsheet of your available finances and keep track of what you're spending. The last thing you want to do is buy a bunch of gear and then not have the funds to connect the pieces. There are things that many new studio engineers overlook and this is one main reason I'm writing this article.
First, you have to decide if you're going to be a PC or a MAC based computer system. You could get a new MAC and load Windows with the Parallels program. That's all up to you. There are advantages to both OS systems, so this decision has to fit with your configuration and your budget. PC systems are typically more affordable, but do carry the risk of more frequent crashing and data loss. MAC systems are more expensive and not as flexible as a PC based system. I'm not going to get too in-depth here, but if you'd like to post a comment, I'll do my best to respond.
For now, we'll assume that you've made your computer decision and you're ready to move on to the core of your system, the DAW. The DAW ( Digital Audio Workstation) is the heart of all digital recording studios. This is the interface that will provide recording and mixing capabilities for your studio. Most DAWs come with a hardware interface which does the A/D & D/A conversion for your audio. This is by far one of the most important choices to make when building your studio. The quality of audio conversion will ultimately impact the detail of the audio that comes out of your studio. The higher quality converters will give you a more accurate monitoring sound and yield a more dynamic range to your mixes. The beauty of most DAWs today, they will work with almost any interface you choose. This makes the options more bountiful and presents the opportunity for 3rd party companies to get into the market. Ultimately, this allows engineers the ability to mix and match software and hardware to customize a studio setup that is just right for their needs. Customize is such a great word and it is such a liberating concept!
I've personally worked with many different DAWs in my career and they all do a fine job of recording and mixing. There are some that only work on PC and some that only work on MAC, but most are cross-platform, so do pay attention to what is compatible with your system. The most widely used DAW is AVID's Pro Tools. Virtually every professional studio I've been in over the years is running Pro Tools as their primary DAW. It's not cheap software, but it is very user friendly with a mild learning curve. There are tons of books and videos out there to get you started working in Pro Tools and I'd recommend this as your primary DAW. The new line of AVID HD I/O interfaces have excellent converters and the audio quality is pristine. However, Pro Tools HD systems are not cheap. The entry level system is the Omni HD + Pro Tools HD Native and that starts at $4,999.00. Now there are some upgrade options, but just to get into Pro Tools HD, you may be spending a big chunk of your budget. If you can afford a quality interface, it will pay dividends down the road. Just be sure you are buying fear that you can grow into and not grow out of quickly. One pit fall I regularly encounter is folks who buy bargain gear with the intention of selling it when they need to upgrade. My warning is that you may not be able to sell the gear for a decent price, so don't rely on this strategy to recoup your capital funds.
Hope this was some useful insight for you to consider. Keep in mind there are many options out there and I highly recommend that you at least consider multiple DAWs and Hardware interfaces before you commit to purchasing. You should also look into financing your purchases and Sweetwater (.com) has some nice 0% interest for 24 months financing options. If you want to talk with my sales engineer, Joseph Secu x1232, he'll give you some good advice on what would work best for your setup. He's helped many of my clients purchase the right gear for their home studios and he's been helping me for over 14 years. I only have great things to say about Sweetwater and Mr. Secu.
Please leave any comments and I'll respond as soon as possible. Thanks for reading part 1 of this blog article. The next section I'll be discussing vocal microphones and preamps.
Everyone is trying to figure out the recipe for composing music that will appeal to the listeners of the world. Today so many believe that you have to be flashy and jiggle your money maker on YouTube to make it to the top. That may work, but it could just as easily backfire and permanently halt your music career. So let's take a more productive route to the top of the charts by composing music that is emotional and has a unique sound. Original music is always embraced by more listeners than the copycat sounds of past musicians.
For starters, keep the lyrics slow and broad. The more you can dial in a larger audience, the more your popularity will grow. By this, I'm suggesting that you sing about things that affect all humans on one level or another. Songs about human emotions are usually the one that most listeners can associate with on a more personal level. If you can express an emotion through your music that resonates with an emotion that the listener regularly feels, this will establish a connection on a deeper level. Lyrics alone are usually not enough to make this connection, the music has to carry just as much emotion to make the bond solidify.
Now you don't need to compose a symphonic masterpiece to capture emotion in your music. In fact, I'd suggest you keep the music more sparse and focus on making the sounds very dynamic and rhythmic. Space between notes and sounds can be deeply emotional. When the groove has moments to breathe, it creates a more dramatic sense to the music. Now not every song you write has to be slow and sparse, but finding a common thread to weave through all your songs will help listeners find appreciation in your music as a whole instead of just the one hit song.
I'm always happy to listen to your music and give you my feedback. My opinion is just that, my opinion. I'm not the one to make the ultimate decision on what is a hit record, I'm just one person in a huge sea of music lovers. Keep in mind that not everyone is going to love your music. Make music that sings to your own soul. That's the first step on the road to making a hit record.
Being in a band isn't always easy. There are many commitments and everyone has to work together to make the music cohesive. Everyone needs to have the enthusiasm of the music or the listeners will hear the lack of emotion. Let me offer a few tips to help your band fuse together and start composing that hit record that will be heard around the world.
Find a time that is convenient for everyone to get together and jam. Now there may have to be some sacrifice and some rescheduling. Take turns being the one that has to rearrange the schedule to get everyone in the same place at same time.
Record all your jam sessions. When a good idea or groove comes up, make a note of it and review. This is a great way to develop songs and mold them into hits.
Take turns bringing drinks and snacks to the jam sessions. If everyone pitches in, the band will grow and be productive. Every now and then have a BBQ party and just chill with your band mates. Take time to do other things together and get to know one another on a more personal level.
These are just the first few steps to take on your way to making a hit record.
The loudness war is finally coming to an end. Many of the studio clients are asking me to determine the overall level of the mixes. This gives me the ability to mix more dynamic range into the audio instead of smashing the audio to squeeze as much volume as possible out of the tracks. This makes me so happy to hear quality music being produced at the studio.
Mixes that are smashed and hyper-compressed are lifeless and have no soul. The industry is flooded with this garbage and now we have a generation that will have to live with some form of hearing loss. I'm not sure what record execs were trying to achieve. They didn't sell any albums this year. Only Taylor Swift went Platinum and her album is not hyper-compressed. Go figure.
I'd like to offer some advice about mastering. Many tracks come in to the studio for mastering and sometimes the mixes are not ready to be mastered. So here are a few tips on how to get your mix ready for mastering.
The primary thing to keep in mind when mixing is to make sure that you leave enough headroom in the mix for a mastering engineer to work their magic. So many times I get a mix that has absolutely no headroom. The dynamics of been squished to a point of no return and it is virtually impossible to master these tracks. Be conservative with the volumes of your mix. If you want your music to be louder just turn up the volume on your monitors. Do not use a limiter or a compressor to squish the music and boost the level. It's a good idea to not sacrifice the dynamics of your mix for increased volume levels. Use meter software and make sure that your mix has at least 6dB of headroom. This means that the maximum peak level of your mix does not exceed -6dBFS.
Dither is another area that can be confusing. To keep things simple, don't use dither if you have no idea what it does. If you track at 48KHz | 32 bit when recording and mixing, then make your mix at the same settings. The mastering engineer will do the dithering for you and make sure that the audio fidelity is maximized. If you convert your files to a different sample rate w/o dither, then you could induce artifacts or digital distortion into your mix.
If you're not quite sure how to deliver your files for mastering, then just ask your mastering engineer. Be sure to send the best quality files, too. Don't send MP3 versions if you have WAV files available. There are many sites that allow you to transfer big files for free. Sites like wetransfer.com is a great site for file sharing.
Hope this gives you a little more insight. Please leave comments and questions.