MIDTOWN WEST, MANHATTAN: Scott Hull officially launched his new venture, Masterdisk Indie, this week.
The acclaimed mastering engineer — who came up at Masterdisk, later opened Scott Hull Mastering, and returned to Masterdisk as its owner in ’08 — has a major agenda in rolling out this new “indie” mastering program: 1) to service independent musicians, 2) to mentor up-and-coming mastering engineers, and 3) to adapt the NYC music institution for a bright and busy tomorrow.
Masterdisk’s crew of senior mastering engineers includes Scott Hull (Steeley Dan, John Mayer, Panic At The Disco), Howie Weinberg (U2, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins), Andy Van Dette (Rush, Deep Purple, Skillet), Tony Dawsey (Nine Inch Nails, Jay-Z, DMX) and Randy Merrill (Seether, Danielia Cotton, Surface Wound). With Masterdisk Indie, a younger wave of engineers — all of whom are experienced engineers and many of whom have advanced through the ranks at Masterdisk — will take on projects at a reduced rate.
“From my perspective, there’s a lot of mastering work coming from independent musicians,” says Hull. “Many of these bands and solo artists need quality mastering, but are choosing quick-fix and cheap mastering with generally poor results. Our indie engineers can draw on the knowledge of about 100 years of mastering experience collectively. And our senior engineers are experienced in all genres of music, there is always someone to get a second opinion from.”
“In this batch of indie engineers, there’s one that’s a web/IT specialist, one with a sound design and synthesis background, one that has spent most of his professional life restoring and archiving very delicate historic recordings, an engineer with extensive video and sound for picture background, one that has experience managing bands and engineers, a couple pro mixers and a mastering engineer that is ‘moving up’ from a smaller market,” Hull describes.
“And, all with a passion for mastering. This widens Masterdisk’s base of knowledge. It’s a lot more than just letting the kids use the gear after hours. We have weekly team meetings, discuss solutions to their issues of sales and mastering, and focus on how to offer first quality service at very competitive rates.”
OK, sounds legit, right? Now get a load of the pricing…
Masterdisk Indie will master a sample track for free; then it’s $50 per song and $650 an album. Skeptics can simply upload their free sample track to MasterdiskIndie.com, and judge for themselves if this process is worth their money.
MENTORING IN THE AGE OF ISOLATION
The new “Indie” division at Masterdisk is going to provide a much-needed training ground for the golden ears of tomorrow.
Of course, the Indie service makes great business sense, as it accommodates more clients in a growing market and utilizes the existing studios and equipment during all hours of the day and weekend. But, what Hull refers to as the “less obvious” goal of Masterdisk Indie, is “the synthesis that can happen between the more experienced engineers and the younger engineers: team building, new ideas and services, engineers with very different experiences learning from each other.”
The mentorship aspect of Masterdisk Indie is huge, as more often in this day and age, engineer/producers work in solo operations for better or worse. And, as large mastering facilities, like Sony, have closed, more and more one-man-shops have cropped up. In interview earlier this year, Hull explained why he thinks this phenomenon may be problematic.
“There really isn’t any stepping stone studio that I can think of at this point in mastering,” said Hull. “If you want to be a mastering engineer, you either buy the gear and figure out how to use it in your own space, or you come here [or one of the other few mastering facilities in town] and do an apprenticeship. I’m suspecting that as mastering progresses, the individual self-taught engineers will have some issues dealing with new technologies and even older technologies, because they just won’t have all the skills. They’ll fall short in one aspect or another.
“That’s one of the things that made Masterdisk and Sterling and Bernie Grundman and Precision, etc…successful — it was their ability to adapt very quickly to new technologies and new formats. They could set an experienced technical staff to a task and say, figure out how we’re going to do this, and then how we’re going to make money doing this.”
And now, how to adapt once more? How do you accommodate a potentially high-volume of indie artist clients at extremely competitive prices, all within Masterdisk’s already full-time mastering schedule? “I had to develop strategies for sharing the room and sharing the calendar,” Hull explains. “Creative use of the schedule creates some opportunities for the indie engineers, who are under the constant supervisions and scrutiny of me and my other senior engineers. We are not renting our studios out to outside engineers — all of these engineers are Masterdisk team members and have the same support as all of our engineers.”
It’s business development, plain and simple. Masterdisk Indie is the future. “Some of these younger engineers will become the next generation of full-card engineers at Masterdisk,” Hull acknowledges. “And, now, these younger engineers are not too ‘big’ to work with any local and indie band project. They can give very personal attention to smaller projects.”
And we don’t have to tell you that today’s up-and-coming artists in NYC are tomorrow’s big stars. And that could be tomorrow, as in the day after today, the way that buzz races through the indie music blogosphere…Check ‘em out at http://www.masterdiskindie.com.