Cloud Computing | Mastering

May 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Barbara Schultz

TOP ENGINEERS ON COLLABORATIVE MASTERING

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Marcussen says that some of his Japanese clients do visit him in California. The band Spitz, for example, who are on their 13th album with Marcussen, came over last year with their producer and engineer. “There’s usually somebody who comes over with a band like Spitz who speaks English, but if not, there are project coordinators in America who will help artists like this get set up, get comfortable, get to their recording or mastering sessions, and work with the band on getting their points across.”

Andrew Mendelson prefers when clients are there for the mastering sessions.

Andrew Mendelson prefers when clients are there for the mastering sessions.

For Andrew Mendelson, who heads up Georgetown Masters in Nashville, the art of collaboration begins at home, in the relationship he has with his assistants. “Most of my credits will read, ‘Mastered by Andrew Mendelson,’ but I was probably assisted by two or three people,” he says. “Like other assistants, they do all the setup and production work, but they also do all of my loads, all of my doc’ing and most of the editing. It’s very much a team effort. If people come back for a tweak in editing of spacing, for example, they don’t always have to come to me for that. A lot of mastering engineers do work alone, and a lot of the ones I know who use assistants use them more to set up and do the production end, but here they help oversee an entire product, front to back. All of them do their own projects here as well, and that’s a way we can get people into our facility who can’t necessarily afford my rates, which is important as record label budgets keep coming down.”

Mendelson says about 50 percent of his sessions are attended and comprise local Nashville clients and those who come from as far as Europe and the Middle East. For those who can’t be there in person, he says, “We talk on the phone, we email, we use Skype. I think there’s a future in setting up real-time participation in sessions that way as bandwidth gets better, but I do like it when people are here. To me, it’s the difference between being a solo artist and being part of a band. I like that band dynamic, that back-and-forth. I’ve heard stories of other guys who don’t want anyone else sitting in their chairs; it’s bizarre to me. Why would someone screw up their own project?”’

Mendelson acknowledges that a lot of the “family vibe,” as he calls it—the collaborative spirit he shares with his colleagues and his clients—began under the previous president of Georgetown, the late Denny Purcell. “Denny created an environment that people wanted to come to,” Mendelson says. “He was a master of people skills. He knew how to put clients at ease, how to deliver a great product and conduct a session where he’d do great work but have fun while doing it. That’s a legacy we’re trying our best to live up to.”

Ayan also sees his mentor, Ludwig, as an important collaborator. The two engineers rarely combine forces on an album, but they do work on identical setups, and sharing information can save some of those all-important billable hours. “We have the advantage of shared knowledge and experiences,” Ayan says. “We’ll see each other at lunch or in the hallway, and say, ‘Oh, I just found a bug in this program; look out for this.’ If we’re both unattended and I find something important, I will buzz Bob’s studio or run down there, and say, ‘I found this wrong with this piece of equipment,’ and he does the same for me.”

Along the lines of the collaborative spirit, it’s also worth noting that Ayan founded the Portland Music Foundation, a nonprofit that sponsors educational workshops and events designed to unify the local music community. “You get this feeling of folks working in their own project studios now,” Ayan explains. “They can work when the moment strikes them, spend as much time as they want without being on the clock—all of those good things. But the negative side is they don’t have anybody to bounce ideas off of. They don’t collaborate even in the minimal way that Bob and I do. We’re off the beaten path, but we have a pretty cool, thriving music community here, and the Portland Music Foundation is a way to bring that community together, anchor and strengthen it.”

For most mastering engineers, the new normal of working alone in a project room may not represent a radical shift as it has for the recording community, but the era of the “6-word email” has made the opportunity to collaborate with real live clients a rare treat.

“It’s nice to work with somebody here because I enjoy the company,” Marcussen says. “And there’s more [to collaborating] than just words. There’s body language, facial expression, the look of, ‘Wow, that’s great!’ or, ‘I’m not sure I’m getting that.’ It’s much more immediate, and working with people is still my ideal scenario, but if they’re not able to attend, you can still accomplish quite a bit.”


Barbara Schultz is a freelance journalist and editor.






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