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Mastering Survey
Old 22nd September 2017
  #1
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Mastering Survey

Hello. I'm an academic at Macquarie University. My colleagues and I are currently conducting a research project on mastering - how the practice is perceived and the impacts of 'DIY mastering' and online mastering services like LANDR. We're really keen to get the perspectives of professionals who master audio for a living.

All the questions invite open responses so the survey will take a bit longer than if just ticking boxes, but we'd really appreciate your responses. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, and please feel free to share the link around to anyone else who might be interested.

Thanks in advance.

Survey link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PLDBNNJ
Old 22nd September 2017
  #2
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Jerry Tubb's Avatar
 

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addendum! ok i participated in the survey, and voiced my views against any type of robot automatic "mastering".

Last edited by Jerry Tubb; 24th September 2017 at 04:31 PM.. Reason: addendum
Old 23rd September 2017
  #3
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I’m not sure what the problem is, but I’ve already spoken to Riccardo who seemed quite happy for me to post this here.
Old 23rd September 2017
  #4
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 

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It seem like we are getting these types of request about one a month. Why don't these "academics" contact mastering engineers directly on the phone and ask them the questions. This seems like someone is trying to do research without any effort on their part. When I did this type of survey in college I contacted the radio stations directly (my senior project was on how much different programming was currently being done on FM and why at a time when a lot of FM stations just rebroadcast what their AM counterparts were doing). I got a chance to talk to a lot of program directors and station managers and got a couple of really good quotes that I would not have gotten from a written survey. I also got a couple of "come see me about a job when you graduate" requests. FWIW
Old 23rd September 2017
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe View Post
It seem like we are getting these types of request about one a month. Why don't these "academics" contact mastering engineers directly on the phone and ask them the questions. This seems like someone is trying to do research without any effort on their part. When I did this type of survey in college I contacted the radio stations directly (my senior project was on how much different programming was currently being done on FM and why at a time when a lot of FM stations just rebroadcast what their AM counterparts were doing). I got a chance to talk to a lot of program directors and station managers and got a couple of really good quotes that I would not have gotten from a written survey. I also got a couple of "come see me about a job when you graduate" requests. FWIW
In generally, I´m for the research.
Of course, a totally other question is the representativiness of the survey, is the sample is based on the questionnaire distributed in this way. Both the validity and the reliablity of this kind of survey may be questionable, how to control replies etc.

At least I would complement quantitative survey by qualitative research, e.g. via the focus groups (or via WELL MADE, qualitative telephone interviews).
That is of course much more costly than a quick, non-representative quantitative survey, which, unfortunately, many of the survey-monkey -type of surveys are. Its sad that even academics are today pretty lazy to do a proper sampling, validity testing and cross-checking.

I think supporting the REAL academic research, or well made commercial survey (can´t judge this once by the present information, but looks pretty bad), can act for the community, in this case the Mastering pros (which I´m not, but a member of the GS community, and know something of the research/survey practicies).

On the other hand, badly made, GIGO-type study can just generate harmul disinformation.

The people behind the research should act in a more transparent way, this means, communicate
1. What is the research sampling universe, how to validate that the final sample (both in terms of companies and individuals) represents the universe?
2. Is there a qualitative section, how it is done?
3. Those who take part to the survey, how they get feedback, basic results, when?
4. How the informations gathered will be used? By whom? Further spin offs?
5. Which kind of publicatons, when?

Last edited by Harry_O; 24th September 2017 at 09:50 AM.. Reason: typos
Old 23rd September 2017
  #6
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Great, thanks for the feedback. For the record, we are also contacting engineers and studios directly. Promotion on forums and Facebook groups, however, give us the opportunity to cast a wide net - yes, it is quick and it is cheap, but please bear in mind this research is not grant funded. As stated in the intro blurb for the survey, the survey has its purpose in the study and will help us formulate more targeted qualitative interviews. In response to some of the concerns above, this isn’t a “quick non-representative quantitative survey”, all the questions invite open-ended responses for qualitative analysis.

I’m pretty sure the survey does say what the responses will be used for and that feedback can be obtained from the research team. If that’s not clear enough then I’ll happily amend it.

At the end of the day, if you don’t want to take part, no one is forcing you, although as professionals in your field, we really value your input, which is why we’re asking you in the first place.

Last edited by stevecollinsmq; 24th September 2017 at 12:13 AM.. Reason: Clarification
Old 24th September 2017
  #7
While I do think it would be useful to understand potential answers to some of the questions you raise and am glad to see some research into mastering, I don't believe that the results you get through this surveymonkey survey will get you there. I agree with Harry that there is a fundamental flaw in a self-selected survey. Your questions on this survey are a start, but again I think somewhat miss the mark. You don't control for people who premaster for vinyl or prepare lacquers versus those who only push bits around. Both nominally are "mastering" but we're talking about largely different technologies and skill sets.

I'd recommend first spending considerable time reading through some of the many threads where professional mastering engineers in different regional markets describe changes to their business practices and model. As you'll see, it's not just LANDR or DIY mastering that has affected business, but fundamental demographic shifts and many other socioeconomic factors. The viability of professional recorded music in general is also a fairly significant factor (which again is regionally variable)...
Old 24th September 2017
  #8
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Thanks oudplayer for your comments. As I’ve said above somewhere, this survey is paving the way for more in-depth interviews with individuals. We did actually discuss different ‘types’ of mastering but decided to keep it at a surface level for this stage of the project.

Whilst I sympathise with some of the objections raised here, I’m also very grateful to those on GS who have completed the survey.
Old 24th September 2017
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevecollinsmq View Post
I’m not sure what the problem is, but I’ve already spoken to Riccardo who seemed quite happy for me to post this here.
ok i participated in the survey, and voiced my views against any type of robot automatic "mastering".

best, jt
Attached Thumbnails
Mastering Survey-img_4514.jpg  

Last edited by Jerry Tubb; 24th September 2017 at 04:29 PM..
Old 24th September 2017
  #10
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Thanks Jerry, much appreciated.
Old 26th September 2017
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevecollinsmq View Post
Hello. I'm an academic at Macquarie University. My colleagues and I are currently conducting a research project on mastering - how the practice is perceived and the impacts of 'DIY mastering' and online mastering services like LANDR. We're really keen to get the perspectives of professionals who master audio for a living.

All the questions invite open responses so the survey will take a bit longer than if just ticking boxes, but we'd really appreciate your responses. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, and please feel free to share the link around to anyone else who might be interested.

Thanks in advance.

Survey link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PLDBNNJ
Have you tried emailing all mastering houses? I'm sure those websites listing mixing-mastering services (like Soundbetter) have a list of emails you could ask. You could also just email studio by studio. Using a forum seems a little ineffective imo. hummm... just thinking out loud for you mate.
Old 26th September 2017
  #12
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Thanks Jimmy. Yep, we will be contacting studios directly as well. We’re actually getting quite a number of responses from here and Facebook groups but will be approaching individuals as well. Feel free to share the survey link to anyone you might feel is interested.
Old 26th September 2017
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevecollinsmq View Post
Thanks Jimmy. Yep, we will be contacting studios directly as well. We’re actually getting quite a number of responses from here and Facebook groups but will be approaching individuals as well. Feel free to share the survey link to anyone you might feel is interested.
Defining the research universe is one of the fundamental, preliminary research tasks. What is the research universe in this case, which the sample/answers are going to represent? Of course defining the research universe may function as a study in itself. But no way it can be left undefined - or if that is the case, this must be spoken out in the report introduction and the research must avoid any kind of generalizations in reporting the results, the status of the researh is just a case study. This is, of course, the nature of most of the qualitative studies. But as said, in that case, ANY statistical generalizations must be avoided.

I don´t know what the research hypotheses are, what are the core objectives. According to what is said in this thread (I have not checked the query, because I´m not a mastering pro), one of the main targets is to study the role of the mastering services in the turbulent environment where music production value chain has radically changed, the music biz mechanisms have radically altered, as is the weight of the big studios diminished, and the number of project studios have increased dramatically.

From that point of view it would be essential to investigate, not only the mastering studios, but the whole value chain and its agents.


Anyway, coming back to the sampling universe and source, I wonder if the one source below is not already used - as far as I know, the idea of that data base was to collect all online mastering servies, globally, under one site. I really don´t know what is the present situation of that site, but worth to check, if that is not already done, its one under this same Forum, after all.

Online mastering studios full list - what do you think?

Last edited by Harry_O; 26th September 2017 at 09:01 PM.. Reason: typos
Old 26th September 2017
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harry_O View Post
Anyway, coming back to the sampling universe and source, I wonder if the one source below is not already used - as far as I know, the idea of that data base was to collect all online mastering servies, globally, under one site. I really don´t know what is the present situation of that site, but worth to check, if that is not the case, its one under this same Forum, after all.

Online mastering studios full list - what do you think?

I checked it out. That site seems to have been designed by amateurs and their list is almost useless, they even include Landr . Maybe if they kept their DB updated (found dozens of expired web links and inaccurate info). Soundbetter has at least real mastering engineers and don't list Landr.
Old 30th September 2017
  #15
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Hi Harry O

As we've already stated in this forum thread and the survey itself, we're interested in speaking to "mastering engineers". Yes, that is a broad term within the field itself; we don't have a problem with that as we're interested in how any aspects of technological disruption might be affecting any type of mastering. Thank you for the warning about statistical generalisations - we hadn't planned on any making any, but we'll be sure to avoid them.

The core objectives of this survey are to seek the professional opinions of mastering engineers on a few, stated issues. This is set out in the survey itself. Individual members of the research team have already investigated other issues in the value chain and its agent in the form of a number of peer reviewed articles and two books.

We've found another database of mastering studios that might be useful. We also have our own networks of professional contacts, but we're also relying on the generosity of the professional community to help us with a) spreading the survey and b) referring us to studios. So far, this approach is serving us well.

Thanks for your concern and advice for our survey, we feel like we have it in hand, but have noted your comments.
Old 3rd October 2017
  #16
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Lagerfeldt's Avatar
Survey answered. I don't see any threat from automated "mastering" services or DIY software, it's not in direct competition with a skilled engineer for a lot of reasons.

Maybe it will be one day when AIs are equal to or surpass humans, but that's not going to happen in the foreseeable future.
Old 5th October 2017
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lagerfeldt View Post
Survey answered. I don't see any threat from automated "mastering" services or DIY software, it's not in direct competition with a skilled engineer for a lot of reasons.

Maybe it will be one day when AIs are equal to or surpass humans, but that's not going to happen in the foreseeable future.
I second that! although in some parts of the market where quality ranks behind quantity and monney is tight as average revenues went down, automated "mastering" will be a factor, soon I guess (given the technology will develop further).
Old 5th October 2017
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mastermat View Post
I second that! although in some parts of the market where quality ranks behind quantity and monney is tight as average revenues went down, automated "mastering" will be a factor, soon I guess (given the technology will develop further).
Yes, perhaps. I'm not sure if that's something that will affect professionals in the near future.

I don't know anybody who has actual revenues (in decline or otherwise) from their music who would use robot 'mastering', but maybe it would affect the segment for very low price hobby engineers.

Currently I see the market for robot 'mastering' being for hobbyists or part-time musicians who feel they'll get something they couldn't do themselves for a cheap buck. And there's nothing wrong with that in my book.

There are so many aspects to real mastering that an AI or a clever system cannot get right that these kinds of services won't be a threat to mastering until AI's become so advanced that they can compete with the human mind and ears.

And once that happens I don't think losing the mastering profession to a machine is our biggest worry.
Old 5th October 2017
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lagerfeldt View Post

There are so many aspects to real mastering that an AI or a clever system cannot get right that these kinds of services won't be a threat to mastering until AI's become so advanced that they can compete with the human mind and ears.

And once that happens I don't think losing the mastering profession to a machine is our biggest worry.
very well put!

one thing to keep in mind is that the sense for quality is not the same everwhere.
there are many segments, especially in the electronic music market where even professional mastering has already lost market shares towards DIY mastering and also "robot" mastering. maybe hard to believe, but it definitely happens. thankfully I can say that I work in a segment of the market where I havn´t been affected yet - also thanks to the rise of small vinyl only labels where people are in it for the love of music and where the monney that comes in from music sales is not the main factor...many of those small labels are kind of marketing intruments for djs and people who earn their wages with gigs and events, so quality and personality is still a big factor. music is not always about monney (at least not always about monney being made from sales) and developing my customer base in this direction has been a benefit for me.
Old 5th October 2017
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mastermat View Post
one thing to keep in mind is that the sense for quality is not the same everwhere.
there are many segments, especially in the electronic music market where even professional mastering has already lost market shares towards DIY mastering and also "robot" mastering. maybe hard to believe, but it definitely happens.
I'm not sure exactly who this would be affecting in the pro segment. I'd say we're living in great times where a lot more people are making music from their bedrooms and more people need mastering than ever before - electronic genres or not.

Quote:
thankfully I can say that I work in a segment of the market where I havn´t been affected yet - also thanks to the rise of small vinyl only labels where people are in it for the love of music and where the monney that comes in from music sales is not the main factor...many of those small labels are kind of marketing intruments for djs and people who earn their wages with gigs and events, so quality and personality is a still factor. music is not always about monney (at least not always about monney being made from sales) and developing my customer base in this direction has been a benefit for me.
Yes, the vinyl comeback is great.

Also, there are a lot more versions being requested by default today.

On most pop/club/urban releases major labels and sub labels request a main 16 bit version, a 24 bit version, a TV version, an instrumental, an MFiT version and occasionally a vinyl version without even having a planned vinyl release. It's only a question of time before the loudness normalization on Spotify and YouTube will add more versions to that list or maybe replace the 16 and 24 bit version as we'll deliver a 24 bit -14 LUFS (I) or -11 LUFS (I) version as the main version (or similar, just an example).
Old 8th April 2018
  #21
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PLEASE NOTE: This survey is now closed. Many thanks to all who participated. We will be submitting the final article to the Journal of Popular Music and Society.
Old 11th April 2018
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevecollinsmq View Post
PLEASE NOTE: This survey is now closed. Many thanks to all who participated. We will be submitting the final article to the Journal of Popular Music and Society.
I believe many appreciated having the link (and permission to read without signing in or subcription) to the article, since its published.

Glanced through these, obviously its not yet out.
https://www.tandfonline.com/action/s...nalCode=rpms20
Old 11th April 2018
  #23
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Hi Harry. You are correct, it's not out yet; as I said in my post, "we will be submitting the final article to ....". If accepted for publication, it will go through peer review and hopefully be published in 2019 or 2020.
Old 13th April 2018
  #24
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you may need to hand over your survey to the historians:

Quote:
Originally Posted by stevecollinsmq View Post
If accepted for publication, it will go through peer review and hopefully be published in 2019 or 2020.
might look very dated by then!
Old 7th May 2019
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevecollinsmq View Post
Hi Harry. You are correct, it's not out yet; as I said in my post, "we will be submitting the final article to ....". If accepted for publication, it will go through peer review and hopefully be published in 2019 or 2020.
Any news concerning this?
As the previous commentor mentioned, the span of academic work, with all peer reviews etc, until its published, is out of the todays, modern communication cycle.
Academic community should change these practicies, and find out ways to step out its ivory tower.
Old 7th May 2019
  #26
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No, sorry, nothing to report as yet. The article was accepted for publication and I'm keeping an eye on https://www.tandfonline.com/action/s...nalCode=rpms20 as it'll be released online before in print.

Yes, academic publishing practices are slow, but there's not much I can do about that for a whole host of reasons that I won't bore you with.

In related news, we're currently writing a chapter for 'Mastering in Music', edited by Russ Hepworth-Sawyer.
Old 7th May 2019
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevecollinsmq View Post
No, sorry, nothing to report as yet. The article was accepted for publication and I'm keeping an eye on https://www.tandfonline.com/action/s...nalCode=rpms20 as it'll be released online before in print.

Yes, academic publishing practices are slow, but there's not much I can do about that for a whole host of reasons that I won't bore you with.

In related news, we're currently writing a chapter for 'Mastering in Music', edited by Russ Hepworth-Sawyer.
OK, let us know, and share links then.
Old 8th May 2019
  #28
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well any type of robot “mastering” cheapens the public view of what real mastering is.

there was a big article in the internet news recently,

where the naive music journalist lauded the robot (dis)service,

and said that expensive human audio mastering as no longer necessary...

major eye roll here !

cheers, jt
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