I wrote a similar file organization post for my company’s Up-Temp Publishing blog. At least in my workflow, the number of files used to complete one printed score and the number of files used to release an album is close. Both publishing print music and releasing albums go through stages, and right or wrong, I like to keep these stages separate. There’s the production, mixing, mastering, and finally, album distribution phase. So why do I keep these stages separate? I’ll explain.
In the production stage, you’re bringing in audio files to edit and manipulate, trying out ideas, and creating a little chaos to release your genius and make your track come alive. I want to keep this stage separate from the mixing phase so that I can undo mistakes and possibly revert to previous versions. The songs at this stage are unmixed. I’ll print the tracks just like I would if I sent them to a mixing engineer, but the mixing engineer is me.
With the tracks printed, I put on my mixing engineer hat (it’s very loose because I’m not a professional mixing engineer). At this point, all the audio files get loaded into the DAW for mixing. If an audio file needs altering, I’d have to return to my production files, which I still have. I’m saving a little computer CPU because my project only has the audio files and whatever plugins I use on the track. This keeps the project size smaller and easier to manoeuvre around. Once each song is mixed, I print the tracks as though I was sending them to a mastering engineer, but the mastering engineer is me.
Now I put on my mastering engineer hat (which is so large it’s way past my eyes since I’m not a professional mastering engineer). I load the final version of the mixed tracks into my mastering template, where I add subtle EQ, ensure the volume and tone of each song are consistent and burn those tracks for distribution.
The distribution file folder contains the mastered tracks and album cover art. These are the files that get sent for distribution.
So, in the end, I have four folders: the album folder and the four folders within that are production, mixing, mastering and finally, distribution. If you’ve read this dull post this far, thanks for reading. I’m just a music teacher having fun; catch ya on the next one.