Mastering and Mastered for iTunes Explained

This blog aims to cover the processes and benefits of mastering your recordings, with a specific look at the Mastered for iTunes feature.

Thanks are due to Barry Grint (BG) from Alchemy Mastering, and Stuart Stenhouse (SS) from EmuBands for their contributions.

Firstly – what is mastering?

BG: Quite often people who don’t have their tracks mastered wonder why their tunes just don’t sound as good as other releases. Mastering is the last stage of the creative process, and I always think of the Mastering Engineer as the first person outside of the recording process to hear the song.

We know nothing of the history, the fights, the software problems and so on. We are listening with fresh ears and possibly, for the first time the tune is being assessed in a properly acoustically treated environment. We will listen to the track and be thinking about the balance, is it too bright, too dull, does it lack punch? Most people are surprised at how much can be changed simply using EQ and Compression.

So, if mastering is fairly simple – can anyone do it?

BG: There are a number of online services offering mastering. Some will be people based in their bedrooms, and some will list vast amounts of outboard equipment, but in my opinion, the real indicators of quality are in their experience, track record and one other thing – do they master vinyl? Mastering vinyl isn’t something that just anyone can do, it is a craft that has to be learned. Alchemy have experienced and award-winning engineers, like Matt Colton who has just been named Mastering Engineer of the Year.

In terms of Mastered for iTunes, what are the benefits of this?

BG: Mastered for iTunes, or MFiT, is a higher quality download service offered by Apple. For a song to qualify, it has to be recorded at 24-bit (sample size) and preferably at better than 44.1 kHz (sample rate).

SS: Apple describe MFiT as being ‘music as the artist and sound engineer intended’. This allows you to deliver your audio in much higher quality specifications than is standard, giving your fans a better listening experience.

In order to have your release marked as ‘Mastered for iTunes’ within the iTunes music store, the mastering house used has to be on iTunes’ list of approved suppliers. We can highly recommend Alchemy Mastering, and have even negotiated a special discounted rate for EmuBands artists and labels (click here for more information).

If, however, you have used a different mastering house, simply get in touch with your EmuBands account manager and let them know the names of the mastering house and engineer, and they will check it against the list of approved suppliers.

If you have used an approved mastering house and engineer, the next step is to deliver your MFiT audio files to EmuBands for distribution to iTunes. Please note that we will still require ‘standard’ audio files if you wish us to distribute your release to other services, so you will need to supply us with two versions of each audio file. Please contact your EmuBands account manager before submitting your audio files. This will ensure that your release is correctly marked as an MFiT release prior to distribution.

We will then distribute your release to iTunes, notifying them that the release is to be ‘badged’ as a Mastered for iTunes release.

SS: Please note that Apple recommend allowing an absolute minimum of 2 weeks for the addition of Mastered for iTunes badges to be applied to the release. However, if your release date is within this timeframe, the release will still go live as normal, but without the MFiT badge in place – this badge will then be added later on. We highly recommend allowing as much lead-in time as possible for your release.

So, we can see that having your recordings mastered enhances their quality, and having them mastered for iTunes specifically can give your fans an even better listening experience.

Whilst you will need to submit two versions of your files for a Mastered for iTunes release, it won’t cost you any more to distribute this release through EmuBands. Just get in touch with your account manager and let them know that you plan to do this, and they’ll guide you through the steps necessary.

Furthermore, the retail and wholesale rates for a Mastered for iTunes release are the same as for a ‘standard’ release, so you can offer a greater listening experience for your fans without charging them more – or, if you prefer, you can slightly increase the price. Your EmuBands account manager will always be on hand to advise should you have any questions about this.

To take advantage of the special discounted rate for mastering through Alchemy Mastering, click here.

Blog Author: | Managing Director, EmuBands

POSTED: Friday 15th March 2013

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