It took him four years and a massive amount of work, but Tommy Metz finally came up with a convenient, completely automated means for burgeoning acts to have their music mastered without having to break the bank. On the heels of introducing WaveMod, his DIY online mastering website, we recently spoke with the webmaster and Iuengliss mastermind to find out just how much work went into development of the platform and how it compares to traditional mastering.
Westword: When/how did you come up with the concept?
Tommy Metz: In 2009, I was sitting on a bunch of new songs that I wanted to master. But I was overwhelmed with the amount of time it would take me. So I thought to myself, "What if I could write a program that automatically mastered all of these songs for me?" I'm a web developer for a living, so it naturally clicked that I should try and build a website that achieved this.
What went into creating it?
It was tough to figure out what tools to use to achieve it. So I spent almost a year just researching and planning. Once I figured out how the entire pipeline would work, I started developing the mastering software, as well as the website. The website was built with Drupal, which is nice because it's an open source web framework so I didn't have to write every line of code. It really takes care of the management of users and orders etc. But I did have to do a lot of customization to make this shop work the way it needed to.
How long did it take to execute?
I came up with the concept in 2009. Started building it about a year later. And then it launched July 1st, 2013. So it's been a good 4.5 years since I came up with it. But that's because I had to balance it with my day job.
What's the approximate number of people that have used the service?
I have roughly 500 users, not all of which use the service, with a dozen or so new users a week.
Are there any examples of some records that have been mastered this way?
The people who use it the most are mastering singles, not full lengths. I get a lot of those every week. And they consist of all types of genres. But I would also say that 90 percent of these people are bedroom producers and people who are learning how to make music on their own.
Can you give us a short primer on how the whole process works?
You sign-up to the website. You create a "Project" and upload some songs to it. Then you choose a "Slam" level which is how loud you want your project to be mastered, as well as a few other options. Then you pay for it. Once they are paid for, the mastering begins immediately and takes about as long as the songs themselves.
Is there a notable difference between mastering though WaveMod and traditional mastering?
Well I think that mastering is a subtle thing, anyway. They both boost the volume a lot, which WaveMod does a good job at. It's just subtle little things here and there that an engineer picks up on and works with. WaveMod does a general master to the whole project, as an engineer can dig deep into every section of the music. But what truly matters the most is the mix itself. If you have a great mix, WaveMod does a good job. If there are a ton problems with the mix, WaveMod doesn't fix those problems as well as an engineer would.
Is the system automated or is there some human involvement?
It is completely automated. The human involvement is on the users end, where they choose the "Slam" level and a few other settings. So this system just runs, and I focus on making it better.
What, if anything, is lost by mastering this way?
I wouldn't say anything gets lost -- except a few bucks if you aren't happy with it. I guess there is just more potential for the songs to sound even better if you go with an engineer, so you may be losing some potential. But I believe that it all comes down to how good the song is to begin with. I'm pretty sure Michael Jackson's Thriller would still be the number one in the universe, even if it never got mastered.
Is there anything else that's pertinent to know?
This service does a simple mastering job and doesn't replace the quality of a human engineer. But I hope to make the service much better over time, and I think eventually it could do a really good job, indistinguishable from an engineer. But that would take a lot of AI and Machine Learning techniques, which is big hurdle to get over.
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