You’ve reached the point where you’ve finished a song, or even enough songs to fill an EP or an album. So where do you go from here?
You could just toss a rough mix up on SoundCloud or YouTube, but you should really try to show all your hard work in its best light, and that’s where mixing, mastering, and packaging for release comes in. Although these sorts of things used to be available only to artists signed to a label, there are now many resources available to support DIY musicians in presenting their creations in the best possible light.
In this post, we’ll look at how you can use Streamline to organise the entire process: sharing files with a mixing engineer, managing a finished master recording, and organising audio files, cover art, liner notes, and metadata to make it easy to deliver to a streaming service or disk manufacturer.
What is mixing, and Why Does it Matter?
Mixing is more than just pushing faders around to make sure “everything is louder than everything else” in your recording. It’s an artform in itself, and a mixing engineer has a different set of skills than a recording engineer.
Describing all the duties of a mixing engineer is beyond the scope of of this article, but if you’d like to get some in depth information:
Berklee School of Music has a good overview of of the role of the mixing engineer https://www.berklee.edu/careers/roles/mixing-engineer
And Wikipedia offers a good breakdown of the tasks involved. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixing_engineer
How to manage a final mix with Streamline
Streamline can help you get everything organised for your mix so you can deliver everything the mix engineer will need and nothing more.
The composing and recording process can involve a lot of trial and error, and it’s likely that your work panel will be filled with multiple versions of takes and rough mixes. You want to ensure that the mix engineer only has access to the “keepers.” The first stage of this is to ensure that the most recent version of each of your stems is the one you want in the final mix.
To eliminate any unwanted stems, click on the version number then open the “edit” pane
Then go to the bottom of the edit pane and select “Archive.”
Don’t worry - this doesn’t permanently delete the file - it just hides it from the active window. You can easily restore any time you want.
Do this with every stem until you only have the versions you want to send to the mix engineer.
Pro Audio Files has a good guide on what files you will want to send to the engineer. https://theproaudiofiles.com/preparing-files-for-a-mix-engineer/
Now, go to your Dashboard and create a new project. Give it the same name as the original project, but add the words “final mix” to the name.
You’re now working with a brand new project with no files and no project members.
The first thing to do is to import the files from your original project.
Click on the blue “Add work” button on the upper right part of the panel. You’ll see the option to “Add previously uploaded files.” Click on this.
Navigate to the original project folder. You’ll see a list of all the current versions of the files in the original project.
Then select all the files you want to import into this project, and click “Import files.” You’ll see that all of the files from your existing project have been copied to the new project along with the original metadata.
Now, add your mix engineer to this project along with anyone else you want to participate in in the session with.
The Task panel will come in handy in this part of the process, as it’s a good way to communicate with the engineer as they work on the mix.
Finally the engineer can upload the finished mix and associated files to the project, where you can prepare everything for the next stage of the process - mastering.
What is mastering, and Why Does it Matter?
Once the final mix is finished, many people think that a track is ready to be released into the wild. Mastering can be viewed as an arcane art that is only used by people bankrolled by major labels.
If you’re only releasing one track, you might be able to get away without mastering it, but if you’re releasing a collection of songs in an EP or album, mastering is important to provide a cohesive sound across all the tracks. Consider the mastering stage as the final polish.
Once again, Berklee has a good explanation of the role a mastering engineer plays: https://www.berklee.edu/careers/roles/mastering-engineer
And Wikipedia gives you the nuts and bolts: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mastering_engineer
How to manage mastering on Streamline
The process of managing the mastering stage in Streamline is virtually identical to the mixing stage described above.
Create a new project, but this time add the word “Mastering” to the title
Then invite your mastering engineer and anyone else who needs to be involved to join the project.
And then import all necessary files from your Final Mix project.
Pro Audio Files has a guide to what you will need to deliver to the mastering engineer:
And, as with the final mix, the mastering engineer will upload the completed files to this project.
What do I need to put together in order to release my music?
There are many different ways to release music these days, from the bare bones approach of Soundcloud, to a physical release on CD, vinyl, or even a USB drive buried in a gummy skull. https://entertainment.time.com/2011/10/24/how-hard-is-it-to-listen-to-the-flaming-lips-gummy-skulls/
If you want to make sure that your release has the most impact and potentially earns money, it’s important to have everything organized. A release is more than simply an audio file. You need graphics, video files, liner notes, lyric sheets, and split sheets, among other things.
Although each distribution service has its own quirks, AWAL have a good article called, “The Journey of Your Music to Spotify, Apple Music, & More,” which hits all the key points. https://www.awal.com/blog/the-journey-music-to-spotify-apple-music-more
And Songtrust explains the importance of split sheets, lyric sheets, and metadata and why its important to have them in order to be paid fairly for your work. https://blog.songtrust.com/understanding-split-sheets-and-lyric-sheets
How to manage a release with Streamline
You can do more than manage audio files with Streamline. As a matter of fact, if it’s a digital file, we can handle it. That way, you and your collaborators can upload and share all the material you need to make your release successful. Masters, artwork, documents, and video files can all be contained in a single project. And you can use the Task panel to assign responsibilities, record when items were delivered, manage versions, and make comments.
The process is the same as described in the mixing and mastering sections above.
Just create a new project, invite collaborators, and upload files.
Assign tasks to individual collaborators or to the entire group:
Everything neat and tidy and in one location
The advantage of using Streamline for all stages of the creative workflow from idea to release are many:
Streamline manages all stages of the process from the spark of an idea to the finished version
Platform agnostic - use the creation tools you’re familiar with
All your assets are securely stored in one location - no need to manage multiple accounts with a number of different services
Access is limited by invitation per project so you only expose what you want
Versions are tracked from start to finish
Tasks can be assigned and tracked across all stages of the process
Ownership and attribution are registered along the way
Built by Musicians, Streamline brings together the essential parts of a modern music business. Streamline provides cloud-based workflow management, automated rights management and an Artist profile hub to manage your tracks, share your music, and build your business. These are just a few of the highlights of the fully integrated platform.
Be one of the first to join Streamline.
Streamline is growing. To help make the platform the best it can be, we’re offering 6-months free membership for Founder Members*
If you believe you can:
Start a project on Streamline
Complete a monthly survey
Participate in at least one interview (if called upon)
Refer 3 new co-creators / members over the course of the year
Then we would love you to join us.
What’s in it for me?
As a Founder Member of Streamline, you will have your say in how the platform grows.