By Tony "Jack the Bear" Mantz
Those on the hunt are living in a time where they are really spoilt for choice. Never have we had an environment where so many awesome options are available.......some in your home town.......others in a plethora of cities and countries around the planet.
In the same way you as an artist are an individual with their subjective taste / view expect the same in any engineer you may consider to work with. Ten engineers can master the same track and you will get 10 different outcomes whether are they are working to a specific brief or not.
With so much choice and opinions flying about it can be very daunting to decide with whom to part your hard-earned shekels.
So here's a few things to consider (and in no particular order) that hopefully may clear some of the fog.
Remember you're entering into a relationship with somebody who in essence will become the midwive helping you birth your EP / Album.
It helps if you can have access to the engineer you wish to work with. Sometimes this isn't possible, especially when you're shopping at the top tier. There usually are gatekeepers you have little to no way of bypassing, but there is also a practical reason such things are set up for the sake of time efficiency / productivity.
Liking the work of a particular engineer's back catalogue instills great confidence as far as their ability is concerned......especially if stylistically it has relevance to what you're intending to release. It's more than likely that this particular engineer has a deeper empathy of the vision you have in mind. They may also have leanings in that style or play an active part in a certain scene you wish to break into.
Independent & validated referrals from others other than your mates. Looking across various internet forums can be a good starting point. Just remember nobody has a perfect track record and even the big dogs will have detractors. Sometimes they can be trolls or simply unhappy clients as a result of those unfortunate yet inevitable "bad day(s) at the office". I have had my fare (albeit regrettable) share.
Good clear and effective communication where you feel your interests are taken on board with sincerity places a big role. It's better to sacrifice a big name (nice as it to have them on the credits) for a lesser known identity who is invested in your project and is willing to go that extra yard.
Most engineers provide a feedback / evaluation on you mix to determine whether they can provide the best value for you.. Don't always expect a quantum break down of your mix that verges on becoming a tutorial. Mastering engineers are not the taste police but can assist by highlighting the issues that will not allow them to turn out a master that is mutually agreeable.
Price of course is always a factor as we live with our own economic reality. More expensive doesn't always equate to the best outcomes and you will be surprised at how much bang for the buck exists out there. Like most things I think there is an optimum price / quality range and from there it's about diminishing returns. Value is a perceived thing. Some people wouldn't blink at paying $500+ a track.......others squirm at dropping $20.
So there's some very basic things to use a start.......like with anything doing your own due diligence & ultimately trusting your gut will be what gets you over the line.
Good luck in finding a good fit and remember there's no such things as "the best" as opposed to what’s best for you along with your circumstances / budget / time constraints.
(All photos © Tony "Jack the Bear" Mantz)