DO YOU CHARGE A FLAT RATE OR BY HOUR?
At OnlineMastering.net, we charge flat rates for unattended session.
For attended sessions, we feel that an hourly is fairest way to bill. Attended sessions can vary quite a bit in length. Some of the reasons for that are that some clients are more curious about the process and we are happy to explain the process. As you can imagine, if the mix engineer comes to the session, he may want to know in detail what we are doing! Picture the band that brings in all their members, including the drummer! The more people with opinions, the longer the job takes. We don't mind at all but do want to have our time covered!
We only present this as a hypothetical because if you take into consideration the above criterion, OnlineMastering.net is by far one of the least expensive major label quality mastering studio in Canada (and probably the USA) and so flat rate vs hourly will not normally be a consideration. Compared to the very few good mastering places in Canada that offer flat rates, even a rare 10 hour session at OnlineMastering.net comes in at less than their flat rate.
Also a reminder that there is no use in comparing our rates to a mixing studio whose mixing engineer will master your album with plug-ins. You have to compare apples to apples and that means knowing how to evaluate a mastering studio. 99.9% of the albums released by major labels, indie labels with national distribution and savvy indie artists are mastered by full-time mastering engineers in a studio designed for mastering and equipped with the appropriate gear. Check the credits of your favourite albums. You will rarely see the same credit for mixing and mastering, and for a very good reason!
Very few mix engineers excel at mastering. This is because it is a different mental approach plus a full-time mix engineer only masters whereas a mix engineer is spending most of his time mixing and only puts on the mastering hat for a very small percentage of his work schedule! Then there is the tuned room, audiofile speakers and specialized gear that gives us a big advantage in getting great results.
WHAT ABOUT TOUCH-UPS?
Typically, touch-ups are needed if after repeated listening on multiple outside speaker systems, an unwanted general pattern emerges or a similar negative observation about 1 or more tracks is noticed. For example, the entire album is just a little too bright or too bass heavy. Global problems are very rare at OnlineMastering.net. More common touch-ups would be that 1 or 2 tracks might need to be equalized/compressed differently or have the volume raised or lowered or maybe a space between a song(s) need to be adjusted and lastly, someone may decide that the order of songs need to be changed.
At OnlineMastering.net, we include some touch-ups and charge for others so please see the revision schedule as follows:
* 1 to 5 songs: 1 revision incl. n/c * 5 to 10 songs: 2 revisions incl. n/c * 10 to 15 songs: 3 revisions incl. n/c * 15 to 20 songs: 4 revisions incl. n/c Additional revisions not included in the above are $20. ea.
The exception would be a technical error (a click, pop or distortion not in the original mix), even when not noticed by the client during the studio monitoring of that track.
However, it should be noted that distortion, especially momentary incidents, can sometimes be subjective as to whether acceptable or not. This is especially true with much of today's pop music and in particular, punk/pop and alternative music. Sometimes overall level requests, or during the process of matching of reference tracks, distortion can be induced. And just to complicate matters, sometimes the mix has incidents of very slight distortion which then get enhanced in the mastering. There are many examples of distortion of all flavours in loud commercial CDs so ultimately the mastering engineer has to be the judge of what will be fixed for n/c or not. In other words, there is a loose "standard" where certain types of tracks do not have to be "pristine" in these genres and therefore is up to the client who is attending to establish the standard for their music by listening carefully. For online clients, you will initially receive "test masters" and should take your time to make sure the work is to your satisfaction.
There could be other reasons for not charging but they would be on a case by case basis. In other words, if the engineer felt in any way responsible for the necessity for a touch-up, we might not charge for the work or give a discount. This is rare because the producer/artist makes the final decision on the sound of each master and so almost all touch-ups are as the result of reconsidering a decision that was made at the original session.
Mostly revisions of albums are limited to about 10 to 15 % of the work done here and 90% of those are done because the client liked it a certain way at the mastering session and changed their mind later. By the way, many albums mastered for major labels are touched-up and in some cases, remastered at least once. That is probably because so many people at the label have input and because the budgets are higher than for indie albums.