Warning: There are Two Kinds of Online Mastering

You might think there are twenty or fifty different kinds of companies doing audio mastering on the web. In one sense you would be correct—indeed, the variety is incredible. You’ve got Abbey Road of Beatles fame offering many different engineers. There’s the Grammy Winning Mercury Mastering with one engineer, Blake La Grange. They both offer the experience and equipment and expertise of the full on, record label sort of mastering studios. But they are different. As Plato argued, the one and the many (in our case, engineers). Then there’s the guy in his room using Beats Headphones as his monitors and asking you to Paypal him. There’s variety there too—some guys have NS-10s in their room. But we’ve all heard the phrase: there are two kinds of people in this world. Sometimes, when that phrase is used, there is some real insight there. There’s wisdom. Having referenced Plato, it can only be appropriate to offer some additional wisdom. Here it is: when it comes down to it, there are two kinds of music mastering companies on the internet: Legit and Not Legit.

One day we will finally produce that all encompassing, exhaustive guide to the world of online mastering. Today is not that day. But it is Monday. And it’s a nice time for a list of ways to tell the legit from the not legit in music mastering services.

Credits From People You've Actually Heard Of

     Legit: you’ve heard of at least some of the artists they’ve done work for in the past. Maybe it’s not Beyonce, but there should be at least someone. You should also try searching some of the artists they feature. Maybe you haven’t heard of them but they actually have a ton of plays on Soundcloud? That works too.
      Not Legit: you get the idea. If you’ve never heard of a single artist they’ve done work for—if you look around and the artists have a solid 43 plays on their songs—well, that’s not legit.

Working Website

     Legit: it seems obvious, right? Their website is functional. You are able to find their prices. Things look nice. Legit companies have legit websites…especially if the website is the company. We’re not talking about a local auto shop. Who cares about their website? But these are online mastering companies and their websites should be working, functional, aesthetically pleasing. If they have some back-end functionality (like user accounts) that’s a great sign. It means the website was expensive and the company has invested some capital.

    Not Legit: it’s like the first category. There’s legit, and there’s the opposite: websites that look super old, websites where you don’t know what to do, websites where you can’t figure out what to do next. If it’s an online mastering company and their presence online is terrible, that probably means they aren’t too legit.

PayPal Only?

     Legit: they accept all major credit cards.
     Not legit: they say, “hit me up and you can paypal me.” Does Amazon only offer PayPal? No, because they’re legit.

Decent Web Presence

     Legit: they at least have a presence. Maybe they don’t have a gazillion followers and epic content on social media, but they have social media and it’s been used. When you Google them they can be found.

     Not Legit: if you search for the company, the first four listings have nothing to do with the company, and their website is the fifth listing…that’s not a good sign. If they don’t have any social media, that’s also concerning. Real companies have a robust presence on the web, but companies that aren’t so trustworthy, they simply don’t.

Longevity

     Legit: Coca-Cola has been around a long time. You may prefer Pepsi (I doubt it) but you’d never doubt the credibility of their company. Amazon has been around for a while. When you order from them you’re not scared. Bad companies go out of business thanks to capitalism. The opposite? Good companies stay around.

     Not Legit: when you order from them, you are scared (or you should be). There are many, many online mastering studios out there. It’s a relatively easy way to make a few bucks. So people may fire up the Wordpress website for $50 total, do a few projects, and get over it. You may send in for a sample track and never hear back. Or worse, you may PayPal them and never hear back. Time often equals credibility. That’s why Grandparents are also legit—they’ve been around a long time.