The process of EQing, panning, and mixing your beats can lead many producers to assume there is just one thing left to do before selling them – mastering them to sound professional.
However, did you know that this is actually a rookie mistake – you should never master your beats before selling! If this statement surprises you, don’t panic – we’re here to explain exactly why this is the case, so read on to find out more!
You shouldn’t master beats before selling because it eliminates all of the freedom of whoever buys them. When you master a track you push it as closely as possible to 0dB and remove all of its headroom. And by doing so, you remove the option of the buyer to add any extra elements such as vocals.
Mastering Beats Before Vocals Disables Flexibility
First of all, let’s talk about flexibility. When you sell one of your beats, it is possible that the buyer will simply use the track as it is, but most of the time they will want to add some vocals to it.
Upon purchasing your beat, rappers and singers will often import your work into a DAW to record their vocals over it, and only then will they want to finalize the track for professional release.
Can you see what the problem is? Mastering should always be the absolute final step in a process of releasing a professional beat, and this means that adding additional elements to a mastered track such as vocals will be very difficult.
Adding vocals will greatly affect the overall mix of a track, so in order to master a track perfectly this should be done after the final elements are added.
By mastering your beats before selling them, you are limiting the flexibility that the buyer has when it comes to using the music.
It assumes that they will simply release the track as it is, as opposed to adding further elements such as vocals. It’s pretty likely that they will ask you to send them the original version before it was mastered, rendering all that hard work useless.
Master For Previews But Sell Unmastered
As we already mentioned, it is almost always a bad idea to sell the mastered version of your beats, as this will greatly reduce the flexibility the buyer has when adding vocals.
However, it’s only natural to want your customers to hear how amazing the beat is going to sound once they master it, so it’s still a good idea to demonstrate this through a preview.
Ultimately, this means that you should save separate project files and exports for each beat – the un-mastered version that will be sold, in addition to the mastered version available for preview.
This way, customers will be able to hear what their purchased beat is going to sound like once the vocals are added and the track is mastered, without reducing the flexibility they have to work with it.
Thankfully, websites such as Beatstars make this really simple as they allow for the uploading of two separate files – the final product for sale and a preview version.
You can achieve this through uploading the mastered track for preview, utilizing the widget features on the site to all users, or if you really want to stand out, through the use of an embedded BLAZE player. Just bear in mind that this last option will require a premium account on the website.
Mastering Without Limiting Is Always Useful
One of the most important steps when it comes to mastering a finished product is to add a limiter – this will prevent louder tracks on your beat from causing the overall output to clip, whilst also allowing you to optimize the loudness of the final export.
It should be pretty clear by now that you should leave the mastering to your customers as they may want to add vocals. Whilst many people follow this advice, it is still tempting to add a limiter in order to maximize the volume and impress customers.
However, this is simply not good practice – if your customer is planning to add additional elements to your beat, limiting it prior to selling it to them is going to cause them unnecessary problems.
The limiting will be configured to work specifically with the beat and will not consider the vocals that they might add, and this will mean that they will want to reverse the limiting process and do it themselves.
Mixing Your Beats Is Extremely Important
As we have outlined, it is always a good idea to leave the mastering and limiting process to your customers as this provides them with optimum flexibility when it comes to adding their own vocals.
This ultimately means that the process of mixing your beats is extremely important as the professionalism of your piece will completely rely on it.
You are going to want to carefully consider the dynamics and frequencies within your arrangement, ensuring that you have used an excellent pair of studio monitors in an acoustically controlled environment to assess this.
You will then need to ensure that you have applied any dynamic processing, EQ, panning, and other techniques in order to ensure that your unmastered product still sounds impressive.
If this is a bit daunting, don’t worry – you could simply check out our guide on how to mix your beats in 6 steps where we explain each of the steps you need to take in order to professionally mix your beats in the simplest way possible.
Work through this information and tick off a checklist as you go, as you can be sure that your beats are going to sound professional and impressive despite not yet being mastered.
How Much Headroom Should Your Beats Have?
One of the most important stages of preparation for mastering a beat is ensuring that a beat has enough dynamic headroom, as this will help optimize the potential for maximum loudness. This is particularly important when selling beats, as you will be leaving the mastering process to your customers.
It doesn’t matter which DAW you are using, headroom levels should always be around -6db. This will allow plenty of unused dynamic space for vocals to be added and for the track to be mastered.
By leaving this headroom, you can sell your beats with the comfort of knowing that the headroom will be prepared in a manner that provides flexibility to the person purchasing your beat.