Mastering Solstice, a Lines Community Project. by Simeon Smith


Jason messaged me the other day and asked me to master another compilation album, something I've done a few times for him before. He asked me about my process when mastering compilation albums. I've briefly written about this subject before but here are some more thoughts. 

I hate talking gear on the web, so this post isn't about gear, it's about process. I'm a firm believer that gear and skill work hand in hand, but the internet leans heavy on the gear, which is easy to market and sell online, and ignores skill, which is harder to monetise. So let's try to redress the balance.

Listen, think, question, consider.

Often people think that they're not "working" unless they're doing something. Tinkering with settings, trying out different approaches, messing with new techniques they're learning. No. Stop that. Just be. Sit down, put the damn music on and listen. And don't get up again until the music has stopped. Have a conversation in your mind about the music, what the artist's intentions have been, who will be listening to the music, the formats it'll be released on, etc. Make some notes, then listen again. Listen in the car. Listen out on a run.

Fixing vs. Enhancing.

My mastering process has two parts - fixing things that aren't sounding great, and enhancing the work to make it release-ready. If there's a nasty booming frequency, or a brash sounding cymbal, it's pointless working on the finished whole, until you've solved that issue. Sure these things should have been picked up sooner, but fix all the things you find problematic first, and only then start looking at what you might want to add. 

Know your place.

If you've been asked to master a release, chances are it's because your client likes your work and your sound. But remember, it's still their release! Have a chat about what their expectations are, how you'll meet their goals but know that you're completing a small task near the end of a long process. Make it sound like them at their best, not like you. 

Okay, Dalai Lame-o, enough with the philosophy. What does your mastering chain look like?

*sigh* I'm not sure this'll help, as every recording is different, but I usually look at every individual track's volume, loudness and EQ first. I then do some multi-band compression to hopefully get it all gelling nicely. Occasionally I'll add a little ambience. Next I work on the stereo field to get it tight and interesting, but without phasing or distracting elements. I then look at enhancing and distortion, and finally it goes through a limiter. How I render the final files depends on what they're going to be used for, and I always try to provide files in the format they're most likely to be played in. 

Groundhog Day.

Once I've finished a master I rarely sling it over to the client straight away, and only do that when I'm super-tight on time. I usually spend a couple of days, and listen again with fresh ears, make a few tweaks and then leave it a couple of days, listen again, make a few tweaks... you get the idea. 

I'm currently mastering "Solstice, a Lines Community Project", a compilation album that will be out on or around the December Solstice. 

Album Launch by Simeon Smith

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PENINSVLA is out today

Download or stream it via whichever channel takes your fancy: 

iTunes / Apple Music / Spotify / Amazon / Bandcamp 

Or have a listen, right here, right now: 

Would love to hear from you if you're enjoying the album. Drop me a tweet. 

5 Things You Might Want to Know about PENINSVLA by Simeon Smith


My new album, PENINSVLA is out on Friday. Here's the skinny: 

  1. You can preorder now at, and will get two tracks now, or you can wait until Friday and stream or download via iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon... basically, choose your poison. 
  2. There are two music videos. One is for "Agendaless. Neutral. Transparent." and you can watch it now here. The other is "I didn't come here to tell you you're wrong. I just want to bring you home.", which will be out tomorrow (Nov 1st) exclusively to the free Presence App, and on general release a month later. This video stars local actress and fellow sailor Rhian Williams, and was kindly financed by Presence
  3. The album is more stripped down and acoustic than my previous work, and features tenor guitar, double bass and keys, all recorded live. 
  4. The album is also the first major work to feature my modular synthesizer
  5. The cover was shot to film on a Lomo LC-A, at Mewslade

My Tunes added to the British Library by Simeon Smith

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Crazy email of the day:

Got an email asking if I’d be okay (?!) with the British Library adding my back catalogue to their collection. Of course I thought it was a scam, but did some digging around on their website, and no, really, this was an email from a real curator really asking me this.

They’re currently working on a collection of independent music releases, so I guess having never been properly signed to a label has its benefits.

So in a couple of millennia, when your cryogenically frozen body has been thawed Demolition Man style, and you’re hunting for some tunes from the olden days (aka, 2017), pop down to the British Library and look me up.

If you don't want to wait until then, my new album, PENINSVLA, is now available for pre-order and will be out on Nov. 3rd:

Flip by Simeon Smith

Had an interesting conversation in the pub with Andy of international superstar DJ fandom (he’ll fucking hate that I called him that, and that’s why you should love it). We chatted Apple Music or Beats1 or whatever the new streaming service is called. He was pretty honest about how he’s seen the devaluation of music and I was probably a little too optimistic about how Beats1 might be a way that more people can discover more music. Which is just the difference between a dad of 3 who’s a self-employed musician and a dad of 3 who’s an office worker and makes music in the time he’s supposed to be using for sleep.

I said, rather flippantly, that most musician’s biggest problem with the current music industry / web distribution channels / etc. is not profit erosion. It’s obscurity. Nobody cares about you or your music so not many people download it. And you can distill that to nearly every corner of art. I recently read a thing about artists supported by their partner’s salaries. The stats were fucking depressing man. But I realised on the drive home from the pub that the way I’ve been expressing my ideas (as I have just done) has been flawed and very pessimistic. Let me try it again by flipping it:

The average musician / artist cannot affect the market value of recorded music. We can affect how much people care about our music. 

Tech companies aren’t complaining about how cheap and devalued technology has become. They’re just building brilliant shiny new black mirrors for us all to stare into, and boosting customer base to counter the tiny profits they’re making on each unit. 

And while this has changed the way that I’m now thinking about music marketing, I cannot see a practical way of applying this. Answers on a postcard please.

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