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Revisions in mastering - a controversy that isn't even one

I have had this topic on my mind for a few months and the recent episode of The Attack And Release Show (June 2020 // “Revisions”) inspired me, to finally put it to digital paper. Sam's and Matthew's take on this issue is very similar to mine or mine is similar to theirs, whichever way you want to turn that. They dive into a few more scenarios about why and how revisions can come about, which I don't want to pick up to keep this article my own take on the subject.

Check their podcast out, it's often specific to mastering.

This article, rather than being informative, it is much more about my own opinion on the topic of revisions in mastering or in mixing. I have a staggering amount of first-time clients come to me, asking for the number of revisions they would get from me. That being one of the very first and seemingly most significant questions, kind of rings an alarm in me and I always dig deeper, to find out why they’re asking. Turns out there are two main reasons: 1. A lot of those clients weren’t happy with their former mastering experiences because they couldn't get the desired result. This is clearly connected to revisions.

2. They have no or very little experience with mastering and are - for lack of a better word - "nervous" about the process.

“Do I only have x amount of times to get this right?” → I don’t think it is wise to spark that kind of thought in a client.

Audio engineers are working in the service industry.

I serve people (or organizations, companies) to a great result in mastering. On a side note, that is around 85% mastering and a few select mixing projects. But the point is that I serve people who put their trust in me and hire me. I don’t think it’s a great idea to jeopardize that trust - before it’s even fully formed - by saying: “You get the master and then you get one revision. And never be seen again, you...client!” :) I imagine reading this as a client and asking myself what that implies... Does it imply that after one or two revisions, I have to leave the shop and be unhappy with the result that I have paid for? That idea is unacceptable for me as a studio owner and I think it should be unacceptable for any client. After all, when I get hired, my job is to get the client's dream result. If I couldn't get there in one or two or however many tries I restrict my service to, that would in part be my own fault.*

*Abuse of revisions in the stage of mixing or mastering is a different story. You clearly have to protect yourself from abuse. It better be shut down or else it becomes unhealthy, to deal with that, psychologically and economically. I have had bad experiences with clients who kept wanting more and more changes. I have either quit working with them, if there was an abusive behavioral pattern there, or I have started asking for a clear outline of the road to a result that they want. When I realize that somebody is on the brink of stretching what I consider a fair treatment, I’ll ask once for clear notes on the project work, so that I can fix any of the concerns. From there I’ll have to see where it goes and make another decision. But a clear list of things to be adjusted, can act as the reference for client and audio engineer, to avoid revision abuse. Audio engineer has a guideline of what to fix and a client can't keep changing their mind.

Here is what I have in my terms & conditions: “Revisions are included and free within a reasonable time frame.”

I don't want to create pressure from the start by putting up a restriction that could create a concern. I'm using a different kind of restriction in terms of the time frame for a project. Nobody wants a mastering project to get stretched out over weeks for obvious reasons. I need the capacity for new projects and I need to get paid for my work, in order to keep the studio running and clients want their final products. This makes the most sense to me. I don’t have a problem revisiting a mastering session, when the process won’t get dragged out over weeks. Of course, a project has come to an end and an audio engineer, as well as client, both have to make an effort towards that. I know colleagues who don’t like to work on revisions and have different and even strong opinions about them, but I have always thought of it as part of my job. Every professional mastering engineer has done them, I have certainly done them and I think clients should have a right to revisions. I want an all around happy client who feels good about working with me and who comes back to me. When I take a project, I’m 100% confident that my set of skills in mixing/mastering in my work environment, will lead to a great result. But of course that would include doing revisions and there is no shame in them, whatsoever. Audio engineers are not psychics, they can't read minds and can’t look into their clients hearts and minds, but audio engineers have to make the effort to create a stunning result for the client - always! but - especially when it’s a professional service, a service that a person puts trust and money into.

Audio engineering is a job in the service industry!

Any questions ? Please hit me up at via email or leave a comment / use the contact form. If you think I haven't explained it properly, please let me know.

Until next time

Yours truly

Author: Robert Hundt // Date: June 15th, 2020

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