Listen carefully

Budgets for productions are being reduced and more and more people are choosing to listen to music in compressed formats and on low-quality playback devices. In which way is this affecting music and how would you rate the state of production today?

The funny thing is that we now see what listeners have been interested in all these decades. Ever since the invention of recording technology, the industry has been striving for better sound quality. It was a major selling point. Think about the quality of wax roles all the way up to Super Audio CDs. But with the arrival of mp3 and the Internet it has become clear that by far, most listeners are not interested in 24bit/96khz sound but in 320kbs mp3 sounds. That’s enough. Personally I regret it, and audiophiles may lament but that’s what reality is. The mastering engineer’s task is to take into account that the music must also sound good during playback by Spotify, iTunes, Bandcamp.

Usually, it is considered that it is the job of the producer and/or mastering engineer to make a recording sound great. But listening is also an active, rather than just a passive process. How do you see the role of the listener in the musical communication process?

Beauty is in the ear of the beholder. A good mastering engineer is able to contribute a part of the potential of the ‘carrier’, the cd, dvd, stream; in a technical way. An artist can make a connection with the listener if both parties are able and want to. Most people don’t listen (active) but only hear (passive). So the intention of the listener is crucial. But in the case that the receiver listens, that connection can be quite strong.

(this interview was published on in 2012)