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Mastering for Spotify…What Am I Missing?

I’m noticing that my songs are significantly quieter than a lot of the music I listen to and I really can’t figure out why. I’m staying between -14 and -12 LUFS and leaving -2 to -1db TP headroom. I’m trimming off the inaudible frequencies, high and low. The songs sound great and the dynamics are preserved, they’re just significantly quieter than everything else.

What am I missing?

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Comments

  • edited October 15

    How are you listening? Is it with the app (desktop or mobile)? Or in the browser?

    I assume you've read this:

    https://artists.spotify.com/help/article/loudness-normalization

    Also Spotify have only just switched to using LUFS, previously they were using a different system that allowed for louder masters. In theory these should now be quieter, but as Yogi Berra said: in theory there is no difference between theory and practice, in practice there is.

  • Using the mobile app and my smart tv.

    And yeah I’ve read through that a few times, which is why I’m confused how mine are so much quieter. It seems like they’re turning mine down more possibly, but I’m not sure why that would happen. I’m right within all of the ranges they’re suggesting.

  • Your song sounds quieter because it's likely a lot less compressed than the songs you're referrencing. Sadly very few artists are actually mastering FOR Spotify, so you're still seeing songs with integrated readings as high as -6LUFS. I think at this stage artists should be aware of what a streaming platform will do to their song, but don't take those guidelines as recommendations for how to approach the mastering. Just make it sound good and don't worry about trying to hit a specific LUFS value.

  • Thanks I’ll check these out.

  • Also, unless you have the Premium subscription on Spotify, they won't actually turn a song UP if it's too quiet, only turn it down.

  • @richardyot said:
    How are you listening? Is it with the app (desktop or mobile)? Or in the browser?

    I assume you've read this:

    https://artists.spotify.com/help/article/loudness-normalization

    Also Spotify have only just switched to using LUFS, previously they were using a different system that allowed for louder masters. In theory these should now be quieter, but as Yogi Berra said: in theory there is no difference between theory and practice, in practice there is.

    Love that quote.

  • All of the Mastering the Mix plugins are useful for those who self master, but at the very least their Reference plugin is essential (there's a bundle discount available).

    https://www.masteringthemix.com/

  • i submit everything around -7 lufs. Its over compressed, over saturated, and loud. if it gets turned down, it still has that loudness to it because of the added harmonic distortion and punch. I do this with almost every genre. even ambient or singer songwriter.

    A tip for making masters louder without overcompressing too much on the master is sub master groups. example :

    Kick - Pro L

    Bass - Pro L

    Bass + Kick Bus - Few DB of saturation + Pro L

    Drums Lo - Pro L

    Drums Hi - Pro L

    All Drums Bus - Pro MB + Pro L

    Synths - Few DB of saturation + Pro L

    Vocals - Pro L

    FX. - Pro L

    etc. etc

    I will easily add 6-7 db of loudness here and then an extra few DB on the master.

  • It could take something as simple as one frequency peak to screw the whole mix/master. If that peak is used as threshold by whatever software you’re using the rest of frequencies will sound weaker, resulting in a quiet sounding master.

    It probably is not what’s happening with your masters but you’d be surprised how many strange waveforms I’ve seen only by listening to self mixed/mastered posts on this forum.

  • @shinyisshiny said:
    i submit everything around -7 lufs. Its over compressed, over saturated, and loud. if it gets turned down, it still has that loudness to it because of the added harmonic distortion and punch. I do this with almost every genre. even ambient or singer songwriter.

    A tip for making masters louder without overcompressing too much on the master is sub master groups. example :

    Kick - Pro L

    Bass - Pro L

    Bass + Kick Bus - Few DB of saturation + Pro L

    Drums Lo - Pro L

    Drums Hi - Pro L

    All Drums Bus - Pro MB + Pro L

    Synths - Few DB of saturation + Pro L

    Vocals - Pro L

    FX. - Pro L

    etc. etc

    I will easily add 6-7 db of loudness here and then an extra few DB on the master.

    Yeah I’m thinking I probably just need to compress more honestly. What kind of headroom do you usually leave?

  • im usually hitting my master at around -6 or so. sometimes less, sometimes more. I generally find myself compressing / limiting about 3-6 db on the master, depends on how much i push the sub master limiters.

  • @shinyisshiny said:
    im usually hitting my master at around -6 or so. sometimes less, sometimes more. I generally find myself compressing / limiting about 3-6 db on the master, depends on how much i push the sub master limiters.

    Interesting!! So if I understand, you place a limiter on each track and or grouped tracks aiming for a -7 LUFS per track? Or does the -7 here refer to the master?
    After the track limiters reach a good LUFS, do you then adjust the faders per track for gainstaging the mix?

  • I master to FSDABM

    (FSD & a bit more)

  • Interesting!! So if I understand, you place a limiter on each track and or grouped tracks aiming for a -7 LUFS per track? Or does the -7 here refer to the master?
    After the track limiters reach a good LUFS, do you then adjust the faders per track for gainstaging the mix?

    I use the track limiters to push the level up to - 7 lufs on the master. I generally will have my mix done first, and am usually hitting the master with about 6db of headroom.

  • Another important aspect that often gets overlooked is tonal balance. A mix can be loud but lacking in low mids and not sound as full, the perceived loudness is quieter.

  • @shinyisshiny said:
    Another important aspect that often gets overlooked is tonal balance. A mix can be loud but lacking in low mids and not sound as full, the perceived loudness is quieter.

    I have so much low and mid low. I feel like I have issues getting enough high I feel like.

  • I did check a site that runs stats on Spotify music and my loudest song is about 6dB quieter than Industry Baby which is my current reference track.

  • Too much sub bass can definitely lead to your song sounding quieter than the meters would suggest, so taking a closer look at that would be useful.

    If you want to send me one of your songs (or post it here) I can give it a listen real quick on the mastering monitors and let you know if I hear any issues too.

  • @Tarekith said:
    Too much sub bass can definitely lead to your song sounding quieter than the meters would suggest, so taking a closer look at that would be useful.

    If you want to send me one of your songs (or post it here) I can give it a listen real quick on the mastering monitors and let you know if I hear any issues too.

    That would be awesome. This is my most recent.

    https://open.spotify.com/track/3t2sQCVfinrytsB7fQzPaP?si=IcLJEO8ATL-39kRlenaNEg

  • im not @Tarekith and would love to hear his thoughts as well, but heres my analysis using tonal balance control


    here is your track. you can see how high the sub is, and how little mid range information there is.


    here is your track with some MB compression on the lows. And some M/S eq . scooped off everything on the sides up to about 300hz or so , boosted the mids around 800 with a pretty wide band, added saturn for some drive in the same mid band.

    Tarekith was right in that your sub bass was overpowering everything and taking up a ton of energy in the mix, leaving not so much room for loudness without distorting. Now, obviously, you should always use your ears, and every track is done to taste, but I find using tools such as TBC really helps me to get in the ballpark of what a mix "should" be.

  • @shinyisshiny said:
    im not @Tarekith and would love to hear his thoughts as well, but heres my analysis using tonal balance control


    here is your track. you can see how high the sub is, and how little mid range information there is.


    here is your track with some MB compression on the lows. And some M/S eq . scooped off everything on the sides up to about 300hz or so , boosted the mids around 800 with a pretty wide band, added saturn for some drive in the same mid band.

    Tarekith was right in that your sub bass was overpowering everything and taking up a ton of energy in the mix, leaving not so much room for loudness without distorting. Now, obviously, you should always use your ears, and every track is done to taste, but I find using tools such as TBC really helps me to get in the ballpark of what a mix "should" be.

    Thank you this is great info. What on iOS would you recommend to mirror the functionality you get with TBC and Saturn?

    Also how were you stripping just from the sides?

  • @shinyisshiny also would you mind sending me the copy after you made those adjustments? Would love to hear the difference.

  • im not really sure of something for iOS that does what TBC does. Maybe 4 pockets analyzer? maybe @Tarekith knows of something? saturn is available for iOS, but any multiband saturator will do really. I just like the functionality of saturn, and its just so smooth sounding.

    Fab Filter Pro Q has M/S eq ing. im sure there are some others. Its where you treat the signal as two different pieces. Middle and side. its good to have all of your low end energy in the middle as it gives more punch, and more excitement in the sides as it can help widen things out and add that extra brightness without being overpowering and brittle.

    i used soundflower to record your track out of spotify into ableton, so its probably not the best representation, but here it is anyways.

    Also, btw, its a great track. very relaxing and chill hop

  • im not really sure of something for iOS that does what TBC does. Maybe 4 pockets analyzer? maybe @Tarekith knows of something? saturn is available for iOS, but any multiband saturator will do really. I just like the functionality of saturn, and its just so smooth sounding.

    Fab Filter Pro Q has M/S eq ing. im sure there are some others. Its where you treat the signal as two different pieces. Middle and side. its good to have all of your low end energy in the middle as it gives more punch, and more excitement in the sides as it can help widen things out and add that extra brightness without being overpowering and brittle.

    i used soundflower to record your track out of spotify into ableton, so its probably not the best representation, but here it is anyways.

    Also, btw, its a great track. very relaxing and chill hop

  • im not really sure of something for iOS that does what TBC does. Maybe 4 pockets analyzer? maybe @Tarekith knows of something? saturn is available for iOS, but any multiband saturator will do really. I just like the functionality of saturn, and its just so smooth sounding.

    Fab Filter Pro Q has M/S eq ing. im sure there are some others. Its where you treat the signal as two different pieces. Middle and side. its good to have all of your low end energy in the middle as it gives more punch, and more excitement in the sides as it can help widen things out and add that extra brightness without being overpowering and brittle.

    i used soundflower to record your track out of spotify into ableton, so its probably not the best representation, but here it is anyways.

    https://www.dropbox.com/sh/0ju6vxxyxqw8cak/AADW5bWTBTa1mKuYNXLEyRoea?dl=0

    Also, btw, its a great track. very relaxing and chill hop

  • edited October 16

    Just checking YT and TBC looks super sweet. I think my biggest hurdle with mixing is I don’t really have a strong sense of what I want to be making mix wise. I can’t really think of reference tracks or genres I would use because I am probably wanting (and failing) to achieve too many contradictory things. Looks super cool though for pro stuff. I guess maybe just default ‘modern’ may do the trick.

  • @shinyisshiny said:
    im not really sure of something for iOS that does what TBC does. Maybe 4 pockets analyzer? maybe @Tarekith knows of something? saturn is available for iOS, but any multiband saturator will do really. I just like the functionality of saturn, and its just so smooth sounding.

    Fab Filter Pro Q has M/S eq ing. im sure there are some others. Its where you treat the signal as two different pieces. Middle and side. its good to have all of your low end energy in the middle as it gives more punch, and more excitement in the sides as it can help widen things out and add that extra brightness without being overpowering and brittle.

    i used soundflower to record your track out of spotify into ableton, so its probably not the best representation, but here it is anyways.

    https://www.dropbox.com/sh/0ju6vxxyxqw8cak/AADW5bWTBTa1mKuYNXLEyRoea?dl=0

    Also, btw, its a great track. very relaxing and chill hop

    Thank you so much for the info. Very helpful!

    And thank you, I got the sample from a Twitter mutual and had him send the MIDI along with it. Layered the sample with the same melody with a BLEASS Alpha preset. For the “chorus”, I chopped up the MIDI, kept the initial Alpha instrument and adding a second. I was lazy and kept the drum pattern the same all the way through but I feel like the difference in mids and highs between the two sections hides and accentuates the shaker, making it feel different.

    I’m the most proud of this one of any of the ones I’ve released so far. I’m in the middle of putting together a 5-track beat tape which is what got me thinking about improving my mixing and mastering.

  • awesome. great to hear! feel free to reach out whenever if you need a second ear or some feedback during the mix / mastering phase.

  • @DukeWonder said:

    @shinyisshiny said:
    im not @Tarekith and would love to hear his thoughts as well, but heres my analysis using tonal balance control


    here is your track. you can see how high the sub is, and how little mid range information there is.


    here is your track with some MB compression on the lows. And some M/S eq . scooped off everything on the sides up to about 300hz or so , boosted the mids around 800 with a pretty wide band, added saturn for some drive in the same mid band.

    Tarekith was right in that your sub bass was overpowering everything and taking up a ton of energy in the mix, leaving not so much room for loudness without distorting. Now, obviously, you should always use your ears, and every track is done to taste, but I find using tools such as TBC really helps me to get in the ballpark of what a mix "should" be.

    Thank you this is great info. What on iOS would you recommend to mirror the functionality you get with TBC and Saturn?

    Also how were you stripping just from the sides?

    While obviously not the same as TBC, Bark Filter or the Blue Mangoo multi band compressor are fairly useful tools for exploring this..even if not using them for the actual correction work. The Bark Filter Tripleband preset is a useful starting point to tweak from. I find it’s visualization good and that it is pretty easy to adjust.

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