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An Interview with LANDR’s VP of Product Justin Evans
“Master Yo Shit!” That was a t-shirt our team had printed up after a very disappointing conference, in which we received hundreds of submissions that were of poor audio quality. When someone in the industry exclaims, “Wow, that’s a great song,” more often than not, what they really mean is, “Wow, that’s a great sounding recording of a great song!”
This industry runs on recordings, not on songs. Yes, what’s in the recording is just as important, but a great song that sounds horrible is essentially useless. And with the explosion of home production (better equipment, plug-ins, etc.), producers and artists can get damn close to pro studio recording quality. Now, we can argue about the need for a producer and the value of a studio experience, etc. But sonically, it’s very close.
As mixing has gotten more affordable, or even accessible to learn, we have one final step to conquer.
Mastering. You simply must do it, every time.
But it’s expensive, it’s confusing, it’s an art, and the mix has a lot to do with the outcome, and blah, blah, blah. All of that is true. But to be taken seriously, to make actual money on licensing, to sound professional, and to treat your art with the finishing touch it deserves, you must bite the bullet, and spend the dough.
OR do you?
I was recently introduced to LANDR; which is an online site where musicians and producers can drag and drop their mixed tracks (.wavs) and receive an outputted master, all automatically. I chatted with Justin Evans, VP of Product at LANDR by MixGenius, to get some insight into this new music tech solution.
Performer: In pro audio it’s really hard to simply explain what the hell “Mastering” is to an artist; what is your simple explanation?
Justin Evans: Mastering is the thing that makes your music sound great on every single platform at the same time, whether it’s through headphones, out of a great stereo, or online. Think of it as the final step of polish. It brings your track to life.
PM: So how did this all start?
JE: LANDR is the first product of MixGenius [our parent company]. Almost 8 years ago, the Centre for Digital Music at Queen Mary University of London program started working on machine learning and A.I. approaches to sound engineering. They developed a body of knowledge that we acquired a license to use. LANDR is the growing manifestation of that technology.
PM: How many musicians are using LANDR now?
JE: We’re pushing 150,000 users in nearly two hundred countries, in six languages, with 750,000 songs mastered; and we’re still growing.
PM: I ask everyone in music tech – are you a musician/producer?
JE: Yes, a ton of us here are. My background was making experimental music, so I’ve felt all of the pain points, personally. I think most of us at LANDR are basically trying to use technology to make being a professional creator easier. Montreal [where LANDR is headquartered] is just an incredibly creative community. We are proud to help represent it.
PM: What’s the secret tech sauce? How does LANDR’s algorithm work?
JE: (laughs) Well, I can’t tell YOU that! Basically, LANDR is smart and getting smarter. Its true beauty lies in its ability to learn. Our system is built around an adaptive engine that ‘listens’ and reacts to music, using micro-genre detection to make subtle frame-by-frame adjustments, selectively using tools like multi-band compression, EQ, stereo enhancement, limiting and aural excitation based on the unique properties of the song. Basically, the more we throw at LANDR, the better it gets.
PM: How does LANDR handle throwback genres, when an artist maybe wants a master slammed hot? (Ex. Synthwave, etc.)
JE: That’s the cool thing about it, it’s always learning. We’ve tried to do the heavy lifting under the surface, but we have one complexity we give to users the ability to change – the “Intensity Settings.” The loudness wars are a very real thing, but we offer people a little leeway into that low intensity, or into higher sensitivity, but each genre will be dealt with differently.
PM: Congrats on the partnership with TuneCore, Xiami, and others. Are there more to come?
JE: Yes, LANDR is now available as an integrated embeddable option. Less than 1% of all songs get mastered. We feel a responsibility to educate people on mastering. So, we’re working on ways to put LANDR wherever a musician is uploading audio.
PM: What’s next for LANDR?
JE: We’re excited about more integration partners. We want to be a part of high-quality streaming’s growth. We never thought we’d be breaking bands. But, there’s this whole A&R angle, where we are actually helping bands succeed with mix contests, even label deals. Come join the community, and let’s make better sounding music.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
-Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.