Of course before your record is plated or pressed, it's got to be mastered. Mastering, as it applies to a vinyl release, is the step where your master recording - whether analog tape or a digital file - is transferred to a lacquer. That transferring process is called "cutting," as the mastering engineer will feed the audio signal from your master to a cutting lathe where the cutter head will then cut an analog of that signal, creating grooves in the lacquer. That lacquer is then plated, making the metal parts that then serve as the mold for the press that will ultimately churn out your finished vinyl LPs.
So, yeah, mastering is very key in this whole process. Very key. A bad mastering job can blow up your project. Here are the places we consider to be the best in this business: