It’s hardly news that the marketplace for music is much different than it was when many of us started in this industry and built our studios and businesses. Our capability to produce audio to the highest technical standards is easier than ever, even as the trend has been to consume music at low resolution. But this is changing, at least incrementally, as high-resolution downloads are available for sale from several Websites. When iTunes starts to offer 96k downloads, the market for high-quality audio will greatly increase.
It’s a great opportunity for the recording industry, and we should encourage our clients to take advantage of it. With few exceptions, I always create a high-resolution mastered version of every project that passes through my studio, and I’ve adapted my workflow to make this an efficient process. I’m always surprised when I hear of mastering engineers who only create high-resolution masters “when the client asks for it.”
To produce better-sounding CDs, we’ve been asking for high-resolution tools, and manufacturers have obliged; we’ve asked our clients to record and mix at higher sampling rates and bit depths, and a great many have done so. Now it’s finally time to insist on end-to-end high-resolution productions. It’s pretty simple to produce an excellent-sounding CD or lossy download version from 96k or 88.2k masters, but when a client returns and asks for those non-existent 96k master files and the only option is to redo the session, that’s a real impediment. I think we should encourage our clients to always request high-resolution masters of their music—it’s “future-proofing the music,” a win for audio quality and an opportunity for studios to offer additional services.
These days, more and more of our clients are independent artists, many of them new to the world of music production. It’s up to us pros to recommend best practices and to guarantee high-quality masters for any and all future formats. That should include recording, mixing and mastering at the highest-resolution possible.
David Glasser is the founder of Airshow Mastering in Boulder, Colo., and Takoma Park, Md.