1. Don’t limit your final mixes.
2. Refrain from over compressing your final mixes. Over compression and severe limiting leaves the mastering engineer very little room to do what he/she does best.
3. Double check your final mixes for glitches, clicks and distortion. Remove them, as mastering tends to bring out these blemishes. The same goes for bad edits and things like untidy double tracking, crossfades within mix parts etc.
4. Deliver files as data (e.g. AIFF, WAV) and at the highest sample and bit rate. Always deliver in 24-bit. Don’t up-sample though. If you work in 44.1 kHz, leave the files there. There is no need to bring them up to 48, 96 or 192. And when you export your mixes, leave the dither option off. And don’t forget to check that all your final mixes are in the same sample rate. Delivering certain files in 44.1 and others in a different rate, can cause confusion and problems. If you have to deliver in various formats, make it very clear in the naming of the files.
5. Provide accurate artist name, album title, track titles and running order.
6. Have International Standard Recording Codes (ISRC) ready as they will get encoded onto the master. For more information on ISRC, visit the PPL website at www.ppluk.com. If you have a barcode, provide that information as well.
7. Mastering can fix a wide variety of problems, but don’t expect the process to perform miracles. Make sure you are entirely happy with your final mixes. Mastering will polish and gloss a mix, but if the source material isn’t right to begin with, it will not make it right. Delivering mixes that are not up to scratch may result in a re-master and you’ll incur the extra cost.
8. Do not use the normalize function when you export/bounce your mixes, as this also leaves mastering engineers with few options to work with.
9. Make sure your mixes aren’t mono and fill the stereo field nicely.
10. Be reasonable in your “loudness” expectations. Final masters have become louder and louder over the years, whilst sacrificing the dynamics and quality of the music. By limiting your tracks into submission you lose the dynamic structure of your songs and inevitably end up with distortion on your finished material. Also, the various data compression algorithms don’t handle this very well.