The way that I see mastering going in the future? It's not dying, for sure. In fact, I think mastering is more important now than it ever was.
Originally, it was just a transfer service where you would get a mix onto a vinyl or CD, and it always sounded the same way as the mix.
You would put cuts and filters on to be able to get it there, and that was all it was. Now, since people have been doing a lot more home studio stuff, it’s become a way for them to get professional feedback. I think that’s important because you get those fresh ears on your mix, and you also get some really nice high-end equipment and high-end experience to enhance the track.
Right now, there are three different ways to master. You can upload to sites like Lander or Cloud Bounce, where you get auto-mastering that’ll cost you next to nothing. The other way is for you to master it yourself using services like Ozone, which is like AI-assisted mastering. You can also go to professional mastering engineers like me. You tell me the kind of sounds you’re looking for, and I will do a bespoke job and get it exactly how you want it. That’s where I see the future going. I think there’ll always be bespoke guys like me, and then I think there’s always going to be products like Ozone or Lander. What will happen is it'll all come down to the budget. You can get your tracks sounding probably 70% good in something like Lander, but you’re not going to get that extra bit – that human ear.
I think it’s going to kind of progress a bit with the AI, but people are going to realise that mastering engineers are fundamental to the process of getting a song out there.
But then if you’ve only got the budget for Lander, then you’re probably going to use that kind of automated service.
On that note, it’s actually gotten quite cheap to master – between 50 and 200 dollars – depending on the experience and equipment involved. You’re going to hear that final track for the rest of your life, so it's well worth paying the money to have somebody as that final process and make sure that everybody hears it the right way.