Mastering Engineer vs. LANDR
In the last couple of years, a lot of online services have sprung up offering almost instant mastering of your song at a subscription-based price model. Maybe you’ve heard about LANDR, emastered or CloudBounce? Since you ended up here, your question is probably whether or not to choose a real-life mastering engineer or go with the automated algorithms, like LANDR. Let’s dig into it: Mastering engineer vs LANDR (or similar services).
First of all, let’s understand these online automated mastering services. LANDR, e-mastered, CloudBounce etc. are all automated algorithm-based mastering services. A computer masters your music based on different attributes in the specific song. They first classify your song to a library of already released songs to figure out what your song should sound like. Afterwards, they’ll apply the processing based on the first step and some simple categorical selections made by you as you upload the track – mostly about loudness intensity and overall style. The services will let you compare the before and after of the mastering and let you download the mastering almost instantly.
A real-life mastering engineer basically goes through the same overall process when mastering. Although there are some defining differences between the two. Let us have a look at some pros and cons of the choice between a mastering engineer vs LANDR.
Overall sound and vision
When you started writing your song, it probably all started with a feeling, a thought or some kind of vision. This vision has to be carried through the mixing and mastering stage. This reveals the first problem with the automated online mastering services out there. You can’t tell a machine about your vision for the song. You can’t talk to it. A good mastering engineer will talk to you, ask you questions about you as an artist. The mastering engineer will try to understand the vision of your song. Algorithms like LANDR can’t do that. They don’t have feelings and can’t relate – at least not yet :-3 This also means that you can’t do anything new or out of the ordinary; the automated mastering services master your music based on historical data from other released songs. A mastering engineer can try new stuff and maybe evolve your song even further.
Price & convenience
It’s no secret that automated mastering services like LANDR beat a mastering engineer at price. That’s for sure. A good mastering engineer can cost anything from 60$ to up in the hundreds per mastering, while a service like LANDR costs 25$ per month for unlimited masterings. Likewise is the convenience in being able to master whenever you want almost instantly very powerful. A mastering engineer will probably take a couple of days before delivering to mastered file back to you. What you don’t get in the automated mastering services is customer service in the form of personal contact – in addition to the above point about the importance of communication and shared vision between artist and engineer.
The automated mastering services lacks overall control of your mastering. When it’s done it’s done. You can tell the LANDR that you would like a little more bass or that you feel some of the punch has been lost. It’s basically a hit or miss situation. On some tracks, an automated mastering service will shine – on others it won’t. A good mastering engineer will listen, encourage and implement your feedback, while also using their knowledge and expertise. This will get you a release that’s up to all standards as well as being exactly and hopefully better than you imagined.
So, when should you pick one over the other? What’s the final score in mastering engineer vs LANDR. I would say, based on the above pros and cons, that you should go with an automated mastering service if you’re doing a quick release or demo where the overall vision or degree of control doesn’t matter too much and where the budget is very limited. You might get something good or you might get something not that good. But when you’ve spent countless hours writing, producing, re-writing, re-producing and mixing, I would say spend the extra bread and get a good mastering engineer. It doesn’t have to be a 150$ per song mastering engineer. There’s plenty of proper engineers in the 60$ range – you just have to look for them. Many mastering engineers do a free mastering sample so you can hear exactly what they can do. There you have it. The pros and cons of a mastering engineer vs LANDR.