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  From the Archives: CD Broker Q&A

Digital distribution has been getting as much or more attention than CD's for a while now. Plus the MFiT (Mastered For iTunes) format is starting to take hold because... it sounds better!

CD Baby is one of the popular companies who can handle a variety of ways to make your music available. Replication (for actual pressed CDs) is coming up, but first a quick Q&A about how CD Baby handles MFiT files:

Q) How do I submit Mastered For iTunes files to CD Baby?

CD Baby can deliver content to iTunes that meets their Mastered for iTunes requirements. If you go ahead and start the normal sign up process with CD Baby, that would be a great start.

Essentially  what you will do is sign up two versions of the album with CD Baby, one that will use 16 bit 44.1 kHz files and be used for CD Baby and all of our partners except for iTunes, and another version that will then use the 24 bit audio files for iTunes.

The two CD Baby submissions will both require their own submission fee and barcode fee. If you already have a barcode for the standard version, you will only need to purchase the one additional barcode for the Mastered for iTunes version (along with the album submission fees). 

For the first submission, you will need to be sure to exclude iTunes when you are setting the digital distribution level.

For the second submission, you will exclude ALL other companies aside from iTunes. You will upload art and audio for the first submission and only art for the second.  Once the second submission is in place you will send me a link to the 24 bit files (we recommend sites like DropBox, SendThisFile or YouSendIt for hosting your files) and we will manually make the delivery to iTunes. Contact CD Baby for a representative to take you through the process.

IMPORTANT NOTE: In order for a title to be labeled in the iTunes store as "Mastered for iTunes", the content must be mastered by an iTunes approved mastering house such as Vestman Mastering. Also include the following information:

- Artist Name
- Album or Single title
- Mastering House (like Vestman Mastering, where your album was mastered for iTunes)
- Mastering Engineer (Name of your Mastered for iTunes mastering engineer)
- Engineer's Email address (The email address of your mastering engineer)

Please note that though we will pass this information on to iTunes for the release, we cannot guarantee that they will add the Mastered for iTunes badge to this release in their store, or that they will include it in that specific section of the store. Though in most cases they should, it is ultimately up to their discretion. If accepted, they should have it flagged as Mastered for iTunes within about 4-6 weeks after their review.

Q) I have heard of [a duplication company] offering "single glass masters" as a production based sonic improvement - with an extra $200 charge. Is it worth it? -Big Al

A) If they're referring to single-speed (1X) glass masters, any duplication plant around offers that, and you should request it when you send in your mastered product. The problem is that many CD plante today use a network system, and so the whole transfer process is evolving.  Ask them to be sure if they offer 1X, because it does sound better. 

High-speed glass mastering (at the plant) saves them money and allows them to lower the cost to the consumer.  DDP masters (Disc Description Protocol) is a yellow book data CDR, and that's what we prefer to send to the plant.  That takes the issue of errors associated with audio CDRs out of the picture to a degree, and many record companies prefer this as standard.  We recommend this format, and we can include all of your ISRC codes, UPC codes, CD text and more.

Q) I was considering using the company [another big replication company]. They have a mastering service in the California Bay Area. Would you recommend them as mastering professionals? -Gary

A) Without hearing their mastering to compare it with the outstanding results of Bob Ludwig, Stephen Marcussen, Doug Sax, Ted Jensen, myself and others, I can't fully give you an answer. My opinion is that cd brokers are primarily in the business of duplication, graphics and printing. If you ask them to do your mastering, they structure their rates so you have options as to how much enhancement they'll do.

Then the question is who, in fact, will do your mastering? What kind of music do they do best? What kind of tone and levels do they think is appropriate? How many years of experience, and what name artists have they already done? Will they speak with you personally and provide you with a reference disc so that you can approve their work?

A few of my clients learned their lesson when they sent their master straight to a cd broker without mastering. In the old days of vinyl, there wasn't a choice. You had to master that record or you didn't get any records! Now with the option to just send your mixes on dat or cdr, you must be sure to ask your broker "Will the sound of my cd compete with the majors?"

A non-compressed standard mix from DAT will straight-transfer to CD at about 3 to 6dB softer than current commercial cds. This won't be a surprise to you if you've already made cd copies straight from your mixes. The truth is that this is a better level for the purposes of ending up with a terrific mastered end product. Cd levels that are too hot aren't an advantage.

Trap: Most cd brokers know you are on a budget. If they told you that you should have your music mastered first, they know that you could be spending anywhere from $500 - $3,500 for this process. While good cd brokers want you to be happy with your product, they also don't want you to be discouraged by additional costs... so you must determine if they are fully explaining all possible steps to get your cd to sound it's best.

It's worth the time and money to have an expert do the final refinement process to your cd master. Yes, it's more money. So is going back and doing it over after getting all those manufactured cds that just don't sound like the majors.... Below are two brokers that I feel give excellent service - when in doubt, get a second opinion

Date created: 7/15/99 • Last modified: 10/18/14
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