2017 Agenda: Musicians ought to invest in Audio Mastering before release.

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Nicholas Kalungi
Throughout 2016, there was growing talk around Ugandan musicians going international. Not international in terms of music playing in two countries or an artiste performing in another country. But international in the sense of going ‘platinum’; becoming sought after across the world, signing to major record labels, topping continental music charts, leading Africa in bookings, digital music sales and popularity. I mean to say; becoming a ‘legit’ and real international artiste.
First, we have very few international artistes, several semi international artistes and many aspiring international artiste.
For those targeting to become ‘legit’ and real international artistes; you guys must master your audios before release.
But before I proceed, let me not that for the coming weeks, I am going to dedicate time and share a few things that our artistes must do in order to become better. Code Named, the #2017Agenda, I will try to devolve, dissolve and discuss matters that are essential for becoming a music superstar.
Today, I discuss mastering of Audios. Like it is my norm, my arguments are based on scientific findings and popular views from key players. You have the right to disagree!
In December, I had different discussions with respected audio producers, music investors and musicians. The focus was on mastering audio music.
In the Uganda Music Industry setup; a composer or singer writes down a song. The song is then taken to studio for production. The production includes voicing, formation of the beat and adding of backups. When this is done, the producer is given time to spice up the song before release. At the end, you have a song mixed and ready for release. The next day, you listen to it playing everywhere and fall in love with it. This has been the norm since time immemorial and has indeed paid off. Almost all our artistes have had mega hits produced this way and thus profited from this approach. Some songs produced our way have gone ahead to become massive regional and continental hits. None of these was mastered!
Ironically, while we have achieved some good success with such music and our way of doing things, the same music has been failing us in equal measures. Because the audios are not mastered, they are ignored by the bigger audiences. A mastered song always has better sound and ‘listenership longevity’ than a merely mixed song.

Part of a mastering studio equipment. Photo got from the Internet.
Part of a mastering studio equipment. Photo got from the Internet.

So what is mastering?
According to Wikipedia notes;  “Mastering, a form of audio post production, is the process of preparing and transferring recorded audio from a source containing the final mix to a data storage device (the master); the source from which all copies will be produced (via methods such as pressing, duplication or replication).”
Award Winning and famous producer, Henry Kiwuuwa, broke it down for all to understand.
In a recent chat, he noted: “Mastering is the last stage of production also called post production. When the producer is done with the first stages of production; recording voices, formulation of beats and mixing, he/she has to share a WVA file with a mastering expert. There are studios and people that only do music mastering. Mastering usually takes less than a day after which you have a song ready for everyone to enjoy.”
Kiwuuwa added; “Because we have no mastering studios and equipment here, Ugandan producers improvise. After mixing, we usually test the song on different sounds until we come up with an almost mastered audio. This is because we have no mastering studios here.”
As such, a few Ugandan artistes and producers decide to send their songs overseas for mastering.
Artiste Bebe Cool agreed to this noting; “We definitely need to invest more in our music. All my songs off the Go MaMa Album were produced in Uganda but mastered from USA and London. That is why Go MaMa Album has different sound. For me, mastering is now a behavior. I send my songs abroad for mastering. That is the only way, my music will be enjoyed by ears from all over the world.”
Bebe Cool added: “Mastering is not expensive. Each song is mastered at around USD 300. But there are some studios that do it at USD 100 or USD 150. Whoever wishes to become a bigger star should invest in this.”
But before you look for a mastering studio in London, USA or South Africa, there are a few mastering studios in East Africa. The most popular of this is the Kenya based Ogopa studios. Yes; Ogopa has a mastering studio. Mastering an audio from Ogopa costs between USD 100 and USD 200.
Plus, there are also several online music mastering studios. You pay with a credit card, upload your WVA file, have the song mastered and returned to you with in a day.
Dear Musicians and your Managements, I am your friend for all intents and purposes. Being such a friend, I have done my part. You may choose to master or not but always remember that choices have consequences.
For those of your so much passionate about having your music sold off ITunes and other digital music online selling platforms; always remember that ‘un-mastered’ music won’t make you any serious monies.
Like comedian Ann Kansiime put in; it is business unusual. 2017 should be a year of business unusual!
Happy New Year!

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