I finished mastering an album earlier this afternoon with the talented Brian Mancuso. We'll be adding him to the Artist page with some streaming tunes and purchase links very soon!
I use reference tracks heavily when mixing and especially when mastering. They're a great way to make sure your work stacks up against big commercial releases.
I use an amazing plugin by Sample Magic called Magic AB. It lets you cue up to 9 songs and quickly A/B your mixes and masters with your references right in your DAW with the click of a button.
We recorded drums for Brian's record in one day - Luke LaGrega making that possible by playing as tight as he does, and so the foundation of the album was already set up to be consistent. But for the rest of the instrumentation we used different basses, guitars, amps, tones, and even the vocals have a unique sound from track to track.
So, I mixed Come Along, the EP opener, until it felt 90% there. Then I imported the drum sounds to the other 4 and mixed the bass, guitars and vocals to the premixed drums. When we got to mastering I referenced Best Friend by Foster The People for the tonal balance of Come Along. Magic AB made this an effortless process. Once Come Along was mastered I loaded it up into an empty slot in Magic AB and moved on to song 2. By the time I got to mastering the last song on the EP I had imported the other 4 into Magic AB and could switch quickly between the entire EP making sure it sounded like a cohesive unit. It's also worth pointing out that I mastered within my mix session. Sometimes with enormous mix sessions this isn't possible, but our iMac held up and this let me make individual mix tweaks to further the consistency during mastering.
It goes without say that I highly recommend Magic AB, but at the very least make a playlist or import your favorite mixes and masters right into your DAW and reference A LOT.