The Best Way For Clients To Send You Their Session Files

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In this video, you’ll learn the best way for clients to send you their session files for mixing.

Hey, this is Jason from Behind The Speakers. And before we dive in, if you want a quick and easy way to make your session file delivery process easier when you’re working with clients, I put together an email template that you can send to every client you work with. It contains a link to a video on my site where I will walk your client through the exact process I’m about to show you. This will make things so much easier for you so you don’t have to send 15 emails back and forth explaining to your clients what you need from them to mix their track. So if you want this, it’s completely free. You can just click the link above or in the description below to get instant access.

Now if you’ve spent any time mixing for clients, you know that this session file delivery thing is one of the most frustrating parts of the whole mixing process. It can take so much time and energy going back and forth with your client trying to get the right files. You get wrong files all the time. There are parts missing. It’s just a total pain.

So I wanted to – before I show you my session file delivery process that I’m using now, I wanted to just give you a bit of history and background about all the different changes that I’ve made to this process to get me to where I am today. And hopefully this should be familiar to you if you’re struggling with this as well.

So one of the first things that I did when I first started mixing for clients is most of my clients were working in ProTools at the time. I had a very small number of clients, and so I would just say hey, just send me the ProTools session and let me work with that. So they’d send me their ProTools session, I’d load it up. And the problem with this approach was that oftentimes they’d use plug-ins that I didn’t have. So I’d pull up their session, half the plug-ins wouldn’t load, the song sounded kind of weird, and I’d have to spend an hour just trying to piece it all together trying to figure out their routing and all of the weird things that they did in the session. And half this time the session was a mess. So that approach didn’t really work all that well.

Now most of my clients today don’t use ProTools. And if you’ve ever worked with a client that doesn’t use the DAW that you use, you know you can’t just ask them to send you a session file as well. So that doesn’t work if you’re working with clients that use different DAWs.

So very quickly I decided to try a different approach. I would say instead of sending me the session files, just send me the raw audio files. Take off all of your plug-ins and processing, and I just want those raw files, and that’s what I want to work with.

So they would bounce out all the individual tracks in their session, just send me the wav files or audio files, and they’d turn off all their plug-ins and processing. So I would get basically these raw audio file tracks. And that worked better than the session file process, because I didn’t have to deal with plug-ins that weren’t working and messy sessions.

But the problem with this approach was that I’d spend so much time just trying to basically get to where they’d already gotten to. So I’d spend two or three hours adding basic plug-ins and processing just to try to recreate the mix that they had already gotten to in the production process. And after a couple years of doing this, I thought why am I spending so much time just trying to recreate the wheel, right? If they’ve come up with a vibe and a sound in the production process, I should start with what they’ve already created.

So I flipped the needle to the other direction, and I said instead of taking off all your plug-ins, just bounce out all of your audio files with the plug-ins engaged. Send me all the audio with the plug-ins. Now this worked a lot better, because now I could start off where they had left off. And rather than spending the first two or three hours in the mix trying to recreate the sound that they had already achieved, I could basically start with the mix that they had created and just elevate it. Just take it up that next level.

But the problem that I often ran into is that sometimes I would find that there was a specific track or audio file that they had maybe just kind of butchered a little bit. They had over-compressed or distorted it, and I wanted a different sound for that track. But I was backed into a corner, because all of the processing was baked into that audio file, so there was nothing I could do.

So this brings me to this new approach. And I think this is the best hybrid of all these different ways of doing things because it gives you the most flexibility so that you can basically choose between the audio files with the plug-ins and processing or the audio files without the plug-ins and processing. And this approach I think works really well for me. I’ve been using it for a few years, and it just makes things so much easier, and I hope it will for you as well.

So let me show you exactly how this approach works, and I’m going to narrate this as if you were my client.

So the first thing you want to do is go over to your desktop and create a new folder, and name that folder the name of the song that I’ll be mixing. So in this case, we have ‘Everything Gets Old.’ This is Dylan Owen’s track that we’ll be using for demonstration. And I’m going to open up that folder and create a couple of subfolders within it. So we’ll create a folder that is named Plug-ins, a folder that is named No Plug-ins, and a folder named Other.

Now I’m going to go over to ProTools here. I’m using ProTools, but this approach works in any DAW. And in just a minute I’ll share with you what you can do if your DAW is another DAW – whether you’re working with Logic or Studio One or Cubase or whatever – I’ll share specific instructions for you.

So the first thing I’m going to do here is I’m going to bounce out a copy of my mix. This is with all the plug-ins and processing that you’ve added during the production process. I basically just want to hear a version of what your best mix was before you sent these files to me to mix. So we’ll save this in the Other folder in our folder on our desktop. And you can just choose these settings – WAV, interleaved, 24-bit, 44.1 – it’s not really that important for this rough mix, but these settings are fine.

So I really like to listen to your mix while I’m working on my mix, because it’s important for me to get a sense for what your vision was, and what the balances were, and what you’ve been listening to while I’m working on my track. So this is something that I bring into my session. I flip back and forth and really listen to this as an active part of my mixing process. It’s really important. I find that it just helps me stay in the right lane while I’m working, and elevate what you did versus veer off the path and end up in the wrong direction.

Okay, so now that that’s bounced down, I’m going to make sure that all of the individual tracks in my session are not clipping. Now when you’re working on your production, chances are you’re probably just looking at the mix bus and making sure that mix bus is not clipping, because that’s the most important thing when you’re working on a production, or even when you’re working on a mix. But when you bounce out these individual tracks and send them to me, if any one of those individual tracks is clipping, it’s going to sound distorted when it’s sent to me. So this is a really important part of the process, we want to make sure these tracks are not clipping.

So what I’m going to do is I’m just going to go to a part in the song where all of the tracks are playing, or the majority of the tracks are playing, and take a listen here. And I’m going to pull up the mixer window. This is ProTools, but your DAW probably looks very similar. And you can see there are these meters on each individual track. So you can see this light at the top is going to show us if any one of these individual tracks are clipping.

♪ – no longer can recognize ♪

♪ The houses we grew up in ♪

♪ Yeah, well everything gets old ♪

So I’m just scrolling through the session and looking for any red lights.

♪ – when we find a better way ♪

♪ To end the century ♪

♪ And suddenly we recognize ♪

♪ The people that we’re meant to be ♪

So I don’t see anything here. And you want to make sure to check all of the tracks. So if there are parts in your song where something isn’t playing, like in that chorus there are a couple of specific tracks that are not playing in that chorus, I want to go back and listen to the other sections in my song and make sure that nothing’s clipping there as well.

So let’s say in this case we don’t have anything clipping, but let’s say there’s one track in our mix that is clipping, or multiple tracks that you find that are clipping in your mix. So let’s just pretend this snare track is too loud. And so now if we listen to our mix –

♪ – gets old ♪

♪ Everything gets vintage ♪

♪ Everything lets go ♪

♪ Until tomorrow, when we – ♪

Seems like we didn’t turn it up enough. Let’s turn it up a little bit more, trying to create clipping.

♪ – suddenly we recognize ♪

♪ The people that we’re meant to be ♪

Okay, so you can see this light here, and that’s showing us that this track is clipping. So in this case, we want to make sure to fix this, because otherwise this track is going to be distorted when we bounce it out. So the easiest way to do this is just to add a trim plug-in or a gain plug-in depending on your DAW. Your DAW might call it something different, but it’s usually called trim or gain.

And we want to add this after any plug-ins that we already added to the track. So in this case, I have an EQ on this track, and I’m going to make sure this trim plug-in is after that. If you have multiple plug-ins, you want to make sure that it’s at the end of the chain. So I’m going to add a trim plug-in here, and use this trim plug-in to turn down the gain of this track.

♪ – we recognize ♪

♪ The people that we’re meant to – ♪

So now it’s not clipping anymore. And again, you want to make sure that’s after all of your plug-ins are processing. Now again, the plug-in in your DAW that will allow you to do this might be called something slightly different, it might be called gain instead of trim, but every DAW will have a plug-in that will allow you to do this.

Okay, so now that we fixed that track, now we can bounce out our audio files. So the first thing I’m going to do is select all of the audio files in my session. Now if you have any busses, like in this case I have a couple of busses down here – I have a reverb bus, and spot delay, and I have some busses where I’ve sent all the kicks to – you just want to select everything. So send me the busses as well, it’s okay to have it all in there.

And in your DAW, the process moving forward might be slightly different. But I’ve included some links below this video to articles that will show you exactly how to export audio files out in your specific DAW. So if you’re struggling to do this if you don’t know exactly how to do this in your DAW, just check out the links below and that will help you figure this out.

Now in ProTools, we can select all of the audio files, and then right click and select bounce. And that will bring up this window that will allow us to bounce out the individual audio files. A couple of options here I just want to go over. Most DAWs will give you an option to render automation, you can just keep those on. If you have file type, format, bit depth, sample rate, you can just copy these here, that’s fine. WAV, interleaved, 24-bit, 44.1.

And if there’s a section for file name prefix, remove everything in there. That will make sure that there isn’t any text at the beginning of each file, because it’s really kind of a pain when you import a bunch of audio files and every single file says the name of the song first. So you have instead of ‘kick,’ you have ‘Everything Gets Old kick,’ ‘Everything Gets Old snare,’ and you have to go through and re-label everything. So that will just make that process much easier for me.

One more thing I just want to mention is if your DAW has a box that will allow you to normalize the audio, you don’t want to do that. So just turn that off. Now I’m going to choose the directory here. We’ll put Plug-ins, and we’ll click bounce. And this is going to save a copy of all the individual audio files in this session into that plug-ins folder. Now this is with all the plug-ins engaged, enabled.

Now the next thing that we’re going to do once this process is finished is I’m going to basically do the exact same thing, but I’m going to turn off all my plug-ins and processing on the individual tracks now.

Now in your DAW, the process to do this might be slightly different. But in ProTools, there’s a shortcut. And if you hold down command and alt, you can turn off layers or rows of plug-ins at once. So you can see here, if I click on this and press command-alt, I’ve turned off all of the rows of all the plug-ins here across my mix. Your DAW will probably have a shortcut key that’s similar, but just check the help file if you want to figure that out. Or you can just go through and turn off all your plug-ins manually.

So I’ve turned off all the plug-ins here. And one thing I just want to mention is if you do have specific tracks in your session that you’ve added trim plug-ins or gain plug-ins to, if they were clipping before and you had to add that plug-in, make sure you leave those on. So don’t bypass those trim plug-ins, you want to make sure you keep those on there.

Okay, so now that we’ve done that, we’re going to do the same thing here. We’re going to bounce out the audio files again, and you can keep the exact same settings. And this time we’re going to choose the No Plug-ins folder. So now I have two copies of your audio files – one with the plug-ins and one without.

And basically the way that I work with these is I start by default by using all of the audio files with the plug-ins, so I start my mix with those plug-ins. Because if you’ve spent all this time creating a sound in the production process with these plug-ins, I want to start where you left off, because chances are you’re already somewhat happy with that sound.

But if I get to a place where there might be one track or a group of tracks where I kind of want to do something differently, then I can go into the No Plug-ins folder and I have those files to work with as well. So this way I have the maximum flexibility, but I can also work with your sound that you’ve already built. So rather than spending a couple of hours trying to recreate the wheel, we can start where you left off and elevate what you’ve created versus trying to rebuild it from scratch.

Okay, so the last thing here is if you do have any reference mixes that you want me to listen to that will give me a better sense for what the specific sound that you’re going for is, you can put these in the Other folder. Now don’t feel compelled to add things in here if you don’t have anything to share with me. That’s fine. But if you do have any specific mixes that will give me a better sense for the sound that you’re looking for, then you can add those there.

And the last thing here is if you do have any specific notes, anything that you want me to be aware of when I’m working on this song, you can open a new text document on your computer and type out any notes in here. And then just save that file in the Other folder. So I will take a look at those as well.

Now once you’ve done all this, the last thing you want to do is make sure that these files have been saved correctly. This is a really important part of the process, you don’t want to miss this. So the best way to do this, or the easiest way to do this is create a new session in your DAW – we’ll call this Test – and I’m going to pull that session up. And then I’m going to open the plug-ins folder first, select all of these files, and drag them into this new session. And I’m going to press play.

♪ – gets dusty ♪

♪ Everything gets cold ♪

And take a listen to my session, and make sure that I’m hearing all of the parts, all of the production elements that I’ve added.

Now the balances might be slightly different if you’ve included busses in your session. Like for example if you have like in this case I have four background vocals, and I also have this background vocal bus. So in my original session, I was sending these background vocals to this bus. So these raw audio files I wasn’t hearing, I was just hearing this bus. So now since we have the bus and we have the raw audio files, we’re going to hear these background vocals a lot louder in the mix.

So the balances might be slightly different, especially if you’ve used lots of busses. That’s okay, I’ll sort through all of this. But you want to make sure that all of the parts are there. That’s the most important step. Now once you’ve done this for the plug-ins, you want to go delete these files in your session, and pull in the No Plug-ins version and do the same thing. And make sure that all of the audio files are there as well, that’s very important. Don’t skip this step. A lot of people do, and they send stuff to me and then something’s missing and they just didn’t realize it, and it’s kind of a mess.

So once you’ve done this, the next step is to go back to your desktop. Now you have all these files in this folder here. Right click on it, and click compress. If you’re using Windows it might be slightly different. And that’s going to compress this file into a zip archive.

Okay, so now we have this zip file here, and the last thing you want to do here is just look at this size. So if it’s under two gigabytes, you want to use WeTransfer to send the file to me. So you’re going to go to WeTransfer.com, take me to free. Under email to, you want to put in my email address. Under your email, you put in your email address. You click add your files and pull up that file, and then click transfer. And that’s going to send the file to me.

If it’s over two gigabytes, you want to use a service called MyAirBridge. So go to MyAirBridge.com, and it’s basically the same thing, it’s just a slightly different interface. So you go Send Files Via Email, you’ll select the file, and then you put sender – your email address, recipient – my email address. And you can fill out subject and message, and then click send, and that will send the file to me.

You want to make sure this file upload completes successfully. So sometimes if you have internet issues or things cut out, the upload can fail. So just keep an eye on this, make sure everything uploads successfully, and this will send the files to me and you’ll be good to go.

Okay, so now that you’ve seen what this looks like on the client end, I just want to reiterate real quickly what I do with these files once I receive them. So the first thing I do is just pull everything up and make sure it sounds similar to the rough mix. So I’ll pull up these audio files and the rough mix that the client bounced out in my session, make sure that there are no missing parts. That’s important, because in spite of this process, sometimes there’s a track or two that’s missing, and you want to make sure to catch those things early on versus hallway through the mix.

Now after that point, I will start my mix with the audio files with the plug-ins engaged. So I’ll start with all their processing on, and I’ll work with those files until I get to a place where maybe there’s a track or a group of tracks where I just, I really don’t like the sound or it’s not doing what I want. Then I’ll go into the dry audio files, and I’ll just pull out that individual track. So I won’t just throw everything out and start with the dry audio files, I’ll just use the dry files to augment or supplement those files with the plug-ins or processing.

So that approach for me works really well. It’s a great combination of flexibility on one hand because I have the option of choosing the wet versus the dry files, but on the other hand I can really start where my client has left off. I don’t have to spend hours recreating the wheel. It’s just a faster, more efficient way to work.

So I hope you enjoyed this video. And if you want a quick and easy way to streamline your session file delivery process, I recommend you download my email template by clicking the link above or in the description below. This is a template you can send to every client you work with, and it will direct clients to a specific video that will show them exactly how to prepare the session files for delivery just like I’ve laid out in this video. It’s going to save you a whole lot of time and frustration. So if you want this, again it’s completely free. Just click the link above or in the description below.

Now before you go, leave a comment below this video and let me know – how do you tell your clients to prepare their session files for delivery? I’d love to hear your approaches. If you have different ideas or ways of doing things that have worked well for you, share your comments in the section below. I’d love to hear from you.

And for more mixing videos and tips like these, check out my YouTube channel right here, or go to BehindTheSpeakers.com.

About Jason Moss

Jason is an LA-based mixer and the founder of Behind The Speakers. He's a graduate of New York University's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. His how-to articles have been featured in leading industry publications by Berklee, TuneCore, SonicScoop, The Pro Audio Files, and Disc Makers.