One of the biggest problems with making music creatively is how expensive things can get. Getting software and VSTs legitimately, buying equipment (even simple things like good speakers or even decent headphones), even getting a solid laptop... all of that combined can be some pretty big cash. On the flip side, after the production is done, you still have to get things mixed and mastered, and if you're getting that done through a third party, that bank account might be looking a little thin.
Luckily, others are finding this process problematic as well. Enter Cloudbounce, a new option for those looking to get their work mastered fast and quickly. There are a couple other platforms somewhat similar to this out there but Cloudbounce proposes to set a new standard in the world of AI-driven mastering. We sat down with the CEO Anssi Uimonen to learn more about Cloudbounce's process.
What problems did you see in the world of production and mastering that prompted you to believe the next phase of music creation would be in AI-driven mastering?
Personally, in my own experience, I think the biggest challenges with mastering were in the price-to-quality ratio and trying to make my audio productions happen fast. Although I love what an experienced mastering engineer with all the dedicated services can do to your tracks, that’s not always required. There’s a lot of stuff I wanted to hear mastered that I wouldn’t even dare to show to any engineer: work in progress, unfinished and raw. A quality automated drag / drop solution would’ve been a dream on those.
There’s enough work in composing, arranging and mixing properly, so I’m happy to let the 3rd party do the mastering. And, the faster the better. So, with my background in entrepreneurship, music production, coding front and backend stuff, that lead to some serious thinking.
Then, there always was that price tag thing. Mastering shouldn’t only be reserved for the people with deep pockets. There’s an incredible amount of content released in the digital domain every day that would absolutely benefit from getting mastered. Those benefits should be available to everybody irrespective of source material, time or place. Without the latest DSP and AI-driven technologies, it would be impossible to offer high-level results with both ridiculously fast turnaround times and an accessible price point.
Lastly, I personally know producers and engineers, and we all agree that sometimes, when you need your music mastered, the queues to a good engineer can be even two weeks or longer. Sometimes you cannot wait that long, no matter how good the service is.
What challenges have you faced in getting people to accept your platform as the next logical step in production?
Lots of them. Too many to list, actually. I still think the toughest one is definitely the general attitude towards everything new – the robot “versus” the engineer debate included. I understand this is a new thing that will probably continue to polarize opinions. Our main goal really is to help the community by providing an alternative method and a new creative and convenient tool in the world of mastering. We are not trying to replace or downgrade real mastering engineers in the least, and we do encourage people to learn new things and do it the good old DIY fashion if that is their thing. But not everyone has the time, skills or money required for that. It is our job to help those people.
Traditional engineering and professional mastering will always reign supreme in terms of final quality assurance and be a stamp of approval. But not every scenario warrants that. As long as CloudBounce has existed, we’ve been getting massively positive support and feedback for the sound and usability from those that have used the service. It’s been great to chat with the open-minded folks who really get what we are trying to achieve here. We would really like to see more people test it first and then comment on it – not the other way around, which seems to be quite common. Many of those who finally gave our service a shot have converted into regular clients.
Similarly, what are the upsides in having an AI-driven platform to master vs the traditional route?
We think there’s a massive amount of upsides already, and many probably still lie undiscovered. The savings in time and money are obvious, since there’s basically no turnaround and the cost is less than a burger. As a big upside, the user is given relatively good control over the outcome; we have the best and most flexible post-mastering options in the market, which bring the producers into the process, giving them control over how it should sound. Of course we are available 24/7, and you can master or reference your tracks on the mobile, too. I’d say that as a whole, the way it fits the digital domain so well and supports efficient working styles and hectic schedules is an upside. Also, the AI learns more and more as we move forward, providing better and yet better results.
The great feedback we get often mentions that the CloudBounce engine 2.0 works great in many different scenarios – be it for rough bounces, mastering for DJ gigs, sharing in various digital outlets or discovery platforms, YouTube or similar. It’s a really nice referencing tool in a car or anywhere when you want to double-check your tracks in different environments. With a solid mix, it’s – without a doubt – good enough for a final CD master (if you convert down to 16-bit). The running joke around the office is, “Faster than McDonald's, close enough to Ted Jensen”. It’s tongue-in-cheek of course, but I think there’s actually lots of truth in it.
What sets you apart from the competition?
It’s a great question, and one that we bump into frequently. I think we’ve managed to create a platform of our own that looks and feels like us in a unique way. We’ve tailor-made a wide variety of features to serve our archetypal user – the aspiring bedroom producer. We’ve had the goal from day one to provide a helpful and useful creative tool for everybody that’s very convenient to use and which will always yield great results at a price point that should give everyone the benefits of mastering; a service that an aspiring producer will love and even a professional traditionalist can appreciate.
At the first glance, it might be challenging to spot all the differences between competing platforms. However, it doesn’t mean there aren’t any, since there are actually quite a few. Some of our most distinctive features include:
- Sound quality: we only provide masters in 24-bit WAV and 320 Kbps MP3. With our affordable and straightforward pricing model, this means the most bang for the buck in terms of quality on the market.
- The best selection of pre and post-mastering options available.
- The ability to preview any song with different option combinations in full length before purchase.
- Genre-specific mastering styles that will treat the track properly, highlighting the fine nuances ranging from EDM to Jazz.
- Super easy public sharing: share via email or send a direct link to your own CloudBounce Track Page. No other apps or services are needed to share your music online in a snazzy fashion!
- The level of customer service: talk in-app directly with the actual creators. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a more direct way to talk with the core team like this – anywhere.
Finally, what can we expect from CloudBounce in 2017?
Quite a bit actually. We will continue to take our creation and audio business further forward and add features to the engine as well. There’s some other very interesting stuff in the pipeline, but you will have to wait and see!
CloudBounce are running an offer to get 3 free masters until end of April. Check that out here.