Making music mastering accessible to everyone is the goal of Montreal startup LANDR, who launched their mastering platform in 2014 and have seen massive growth since. Using A.I. and machine-learning to mimic the work of sound engineers, the LANDR algorithms can master tracks within minutes, essentially eliminating the time and expense of professional mastering — the final step of music-making — while creating a high-quality finished product.
Their aim is to disrupt their industry by getting helping artists release more music — at present, only about one percent of music created ever gets mastered. With LANDR, bands are now able to master everything they create, and even incorporate this step into their creative process.
Mastering involves optimizing and tweaking the many strands of recorded sound into a final version of the song from which high-quality copies will then be made. Before LANDR, this was done by mastering engineers — people with an excellent ear and understanding of what sounds good to others.
“There used to be a financial and technological gap between finishing music and getting exposed…With LANDR, anyone can access professional-quality mastering, and easily collaborate with band members, friends, and fans before releasing a final cut of a song,” said CEO Pascal Pilon.
LANDR mimics this process with an algorithm that was created by looking at data from songs that have been mastered, and picking up on patterns based on the genre of the music. The customer uploads their files to the company’s cloud where it runs through the mastering program and is then delivered back to them in the amount of time it takes to make a coffee.
“Our slogan is, we work for musicians. We’re trying to be the companions of musicians.”
Like Instagram has enabled people to take photographs with their phones, add filters, and edit them instantly, and then post them for the world to see, LANDR gives musicians the opportunity to work on songs and then put them out into the world with professional-quality mastering, bringing the sound closer to that of well-established artists working with big labels.
But while the platform was initially targeted at amateur musicians, soon after launch, the company started hearing from professionals and labels who were drawn to the speed and quality of delivery.
“We started getting contacted by artists like Tiga, Richie Hawtin, and Nas, because the technology is instantaneous,” said Pilon. “Those guys can take what they’ve been working on and master it the same day they’re going to play.”
This is impossible with human sound engineers, given the amount of time it takes to master a track by ear and invariable scheduling issues. This makes the economics and readiness of LANDR appealing even for professional musicians, as they can now bring mastering into their creative process.
Bands working with Warner Music Canada, who came on last year as a strategic investor, use LANDR for that exact reason. Rather than having to wait several days after a recording session to hear a master, the mixing engineers and artists can hear right away if something is missing or if they want to do other takes.
“Sometimes [the artists] don’t recognize the feel of what they were doing the day they recorded. So bringing [mastering] into the process, you’re making it accessible and intimate and part of the actual creative process as opposed to separate and remote,“ said Pilon.
And LANDR isn’t stopping there. Having seen how their platform is changing the way musicians finish their music, they’ve recently launched Private Sharing. This feature enables users to send their work-in-progress to bandmates and other collaborators for feedback. Each track sent out is imprinted with a digital watermark for security and only available for the amount of time allotted by the creator. LANDR thus becomes a private messaging platform, where people can stream content and comment on it, with the information going back to the creator instantaneously.
“We’re building workflows for music creators. The things they want to do, any jobs they want to perform, we’re able to help them to do it,” continued Pilon.
While Private Sharing is currently only available for users of the LANDR mastering platform, it will soon be open for use at any stage of the creative process. Pilon said that they have a lot more coming up, but can’t speak about some of their new ideas yet.
“Our slogan is, we work for musicians. We’re trying to be the companions of musicians, having their best interests at heart,” said Pilon.
With more than two million tracks mastered since their 2014 launch and 500,000 users on their platform, there’s little doubt that LANDR will continue to change the way music is made and shared in the digital era.