Spotify normalizes audio that’s to soft or loud. But how do you know how loud your tracks are? And how loud should you master your songs for Spotify?
👉 Don’t want to read the full article? This is the quick answer
Spotify normalizes a song if it’s louder than -14 LUFS. Therefore, use a loudness meter to see how hard your track is mixed and aim for an average of -14 LUFS.
With the loudest parts this can be a bit more, let’s say -8 LUFS Short Term. As long as the average is -14 LUFS
Mastering for Spotify and the loudness war
Contrast is indispensable for music. Without soft, there is no hard and vice versa. However, the dynamic range in audio has decreased enormously in recent decades. Everything had to be loud and ‘the loudness war’ seemed unstoppable.
Data also shows this. Until 1995, audio had a Dynamic Range of about 60 dB. Today this is only 12 dB. The difference in dynamics has become more than 4 times smaller. All that loud sounds tire our ears, and so it’s time for a change. The LUFS system offers the solution, and the most popular streaming services are using it.
LUFS stands for ‘loudness units relative to full scale’. It is a reliable way to measure the loudness of audio. If you master your songs for Spotify, you definitely want to take LUFS into account. But more about that in a moment.
With the plugin Levels by Mastering The Mix you can easily meassure LUFS.
How does LUFS work?
LUFS looks at an average loudness per unit of time. In the past, you could apply compression to audio to the extreme. Tracks literally popped out of the speakers and the harder, the better, so it seemed. But the dynamics just disappeared completely.
With LUFS you’re allowed to produce a certain number of LUFS per time unit. As a result, music sounds less loud and more natural.
As a mix engineer, you want to stay within the margins of the platform you’re mixing for. You decide how you use the LUFS per unit of time. Start with a lot of noise at once and then continue softly, or choose for a constant level? It’s up to you, as long as you follow the rules.
How Spotify uses LUFS and what it means for mastering
Spotify wants to offer users the best possible listening experience. Therefore, they increase the volume of tracks that are too soft and decrease the volume of tracks that are too loud.
Normalizing audio is done automatically, and it can affect the way your music sound. Of course, you want to avoid this. You can do so if you mix and master with LUFS. This way you take Spotify’s automatic processing into account.
How can I measure LUFS in my track?
Now you know how LUFS works and why it’s important. But how do you measure them? For this, there are great plug-ins, like the Youlean Loudness Meter.
With the Youlean Loudness Meter, you can exactly see the LUFS-value of the audio you play. In the short term and as an average. This way you can easily measure loudness and dynamics. And you know for sure that your track will sound great on all streaming platforms, including Spotify.
The Youlean Loudness Meter is a free metering plugin.
Mastering for Spotify, keep this in mind too
Most streaming platforms are still using lossy compression codecs. That is why it’s smart to save some headroom so that the algorithms can do their work. A good rule of thumb is to leave at least 1 dB True Peak headroom. Then you prevent the chance of clipping during transcoding.
Another good tip is: don’t master your songs too quiet. Streaming platforms normalize tracks that are too loud, but don’t always make soft tracks louder. Do you want to produce one final master for all streaming platforms? Then aim for an overall integrated value of -14 LUFS.
Master the perfect songs for Spotify
Are you ready for the next step? And do you want to make perfect sounding masters for Spotify? Then check out Levels by Mastering The Mix and the free Youlean Loudness Meter. This way, your music will always sound as intended.