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How to master for Spotify? - LUFS and more

Updated: Jan 14, 2023



Spotify LUFS and How to Master Tracks for Spotify


Spotify is one of the most popular music streaming platforms in the world, with over 456 million monthly active users. As a result, many musicians and producers want to ensure that their tracks sound the best possible on the platform. One key metric for measuring the loudness of a track on Spotify is LUFS (Loudness Unit Full Scale). In this article, we will discuss what LUFS is, why it's important, and how to master tracks for Spotify in order to achieve the best possible sound quality.


Table Of Contents



What are LUFS?


LUFS is a measurement of the loudness of a track in relation to full scale. Full scale refers to the maximum amplitude that a digital audio signal can have, which is represented by a value of 0 dB. LUFS is measured in dB and it is used to measure the loudness of a track in a way that is more consistent across different platforms and devices.


Why are LUFS Important?


LUFS is important because it ensures that tracks on Spotify have a consistent loudness level. This is important because if some tracks are much louder than others, it can be difficult for listeners to enjoy the music. For example, if one track is significantly louder than another, it can be difficult for listeners to hear the quieter track. Additionally, if tracks have a consistent loudness level, it makes it easier for listeners to play them back-to-back without having to adjust the volume between tracks.





7 Steps On How to Master Tracks for Spotify.


1. Measure the loudness of your track using a LUFS meter.


In order to measure the loudness of your track, you will need to use a LUFS meter. A LUFS meter is a tool that measures the loudness of a track in LUFS units.


It can be standalone software or a plug-in that can be inserted into your DAW (digital audio workstation).


Some popular LUFS meter options include the free software "Loudness Penalty" and the plug-in "Nugen Audio Loudness Toolkit". Once you have your LUFS meter set up, you can play your track through it and see the measured loudness level in LUFS units.


2. Targeting a LUFS level of -14 LUFS for your master.


Once you have measured the loudness of your track, you will want to target a LUFS level of -14 LUFS for your master.


This is because Spotify recommends a LUFS level of -14 LUFS for tracks on their platform. Targeting this level will ensure that your track will have a consistent loudness level with other tracks on Spotify.


However, you should also be careful not to go over -14 LUFS, as it can cause the track to sound distorted and cause the dialogue intelligibility to be affected.


3. Using EQ to balance the frequency spectrum of your track


EQ, or equalization, is a powerful tool that can be used to balance the frequency spectrum of your track. EQ can be used to boost or cut specific frequencies in order to make your track sound the way you want it to.


For example, you can use EQ to reduce the bass frequencies if your track sounds too boomy, or to boost the treble frequencies if your track sounds too dull.


Popular EQ options include the EQ plug-ins that come with most DAWs, such as the "EQ Eight" in Ableton Live and "Parametric EQ" in FL Studio, or third-party options like the "FabFilter Pro-Q 3".


When using EQ, it's important to be careful not to overdo it, as boosting or cutting too much of a certain frequency can cause your track to sound unnatural.


4. Using compression to control the dynamic range of your track


Compression is another powerful tool that can be used to control the dynamic range of your track. Dynamic range refers to the difference between the loudest and quietest parts of a track.


Compression can be used to reduce the dynamic range by making the loudest parts quieter and the quietest parts louder.


This can help make your track sound more consistent and polished. Some popular compression options include the "Compressor" plug-in that comes with most DAWs, such as the "Compressor" in Ableton Live and FL Studio, or third-party options like the "FabFilter Pro-C 2".


When using compression, it's important to be careful not to overdo it, as too much compression can cause your track to sound flat and lifeless.


5. Using limiting to increase the overall loudness of your track without causing clipping


Limiting is a type of dynamic range processing that can be used to increase the overall loudness of your track without causing clipping.


Clipping occurs when the amplitude of a signal exceeds the maximum level that can be represented by a digital audio signal. Limiting can help prevent clipping by reducing the amplitude of the loudest parts of your track.


Some popular limiting options include the "Limiter" plug-in that comes with most DAWs, such as the "Limiter" in Ableton Live, or third-party options like the "FabFilter Pro-L-2". When using limiting, it's important to be careful not to overdo it, as too much limiting can cause your track to sound distorted.


6. Check your track on a variety of different devices to ensure that it sounds good on all of them.


It's important to check your track on a variety of different devices to ensure that it sounds good on all of them. This can include different types of speakers, headphones, and even different streaming services.


This will help you to identify any issues that might not be immediately obvious when listening on your studio monitors or headphones.


Additionally, different devices will have different frequency response and volume levels, so checking your track on a variety of different devices will help you to ensure that your track sounds good on all of them.


7. Submit your track for Spotify review.


Submitting your track to Spotify for review is the final step in mastering your track for the platform. There are a few things to keep in mind when submitting your track to Spotify for review to ensure that it is accepted and sounds the best it can on the platform.


First, make sure that your track meets the technical requirements set by Spotify. This includes having a .wav file of at least 16bit and a sample rate of 44.1 kHz.


Additionally, you should make sure that your track is properly tagged with all the relevant metadata such as the artist name, track title, and album name.


Next, you will need to use a digital distributor such as DistroKid, TuneCore, or CD Baby to submit your track to Spotify. These distributors will handle the process of uploading your track to Spotify and making it available to listeners. They also have the capability to distribute your music to other platforms like Apple Music and YouTube.


Each of these distributors has its own pricing and features, so be sure to research and choose the one that fits your needs.

Finally, it's important to be patient and wait for Spotify to review your track. The review process can take several days or even weeks, so it's important to be patient and not submit your track multiple times. Once your track is reviewed and accepted, it will be made available to listeners on the platform.


In summary, submitting your track to Spotify for review requires you to make sure that your track meets the technical requirements, use a digital distributor, and be patient during the review process. By following these steps and being mindful of the recommendations provided, you can rest assured that your track will be accepted and will sound great on the Spotify platform.





Tips And What To Avoid When Mastering Tracks for Spotify


1. Avoid boosting the bass frequencies too much.


When mastering a track for Spotify, it's important to be mindful of how much you boost the bass frequencies. Boosting the bass frequencies too much can cause your track to sound boomy on some devices, which can negatively impact the overall listening experience.


One way to avoid boosting the bass frequencies too much is to use a spectrogram or frequency analyzer to visualize the frequency spectrum of your track. This will allow you to see how much energy is present in the bass frequencies and make adjustments accordingly.


A popular tool for this is a third-party option such as the free "SPAN" by Voxengo, which helps you see the frequency content of your track in real-time.


Additionally, it's important to be mindful of the context in which your track will be listened to. For example, if your track will be primarily listened to on mobile devices with small speakers, it's important to be more conservative with boosting the bass frequencies and focusing on the harmonics sitting above the fundamental bass note.


On the other hand, if your track will be primarily listened to on large speakers, you may be able to boost the bass frequencies more.


Furthermore, it is important to be cautious about using a bass boost effect in general.


Such effects can make the bass sound boomy and muddy and can also cause the dialogue intelligibility to be affected. Instead, try boosting the sub-bass frequencies using an EQ or a harmonic exciter like "Exciter" by iZotope or "Spectre" by Wavesfactory. This way you'll achieve a balanced bass that sits well in the mix, won't cause distortion or boomy sound, and will add warmth to the overall sound.


2. Avoid boosting the treble frequencies too much. This can cause your track to sound harsh on some devices.


It's important to be mindful of how much you boost the treble frequencies. Boosting the treble frequencies too much can cause your track to sound harsh on some devices, which can negatively impact the overall listening experience.

One way to avoid boosting the treble frequencies too much is to use a reference track that sounds great to you and compare the frequency spectrum of your track and theirs. This will allow you to see how much energy is present in the treble frequencies and make adjustments accordingly. A popular tool for this is a third-party option called "REFERENCE 2" by Mastering The Mix, which can help you compare the frequency content and more in real-time.


Additionally, it's important to be mindful of the context in which your track will be listened to. For example, if your track will be primarily listened to on mobile devices with small speakers, it's important to be more conservative with boosting the treble frequencies as they can often sound piercing on mobile phones. On the other hand, if your track will be primarily listened to on large speakers, you may be able to boost the treble frequencies more.

Furthermore, it is important to be cautious about using a treble boost effect in general. Such effects can make the track sound harsh and sharp and can also cause vocal intelligibility to be affected. Instead, try boosting specific frequencies using an EQ. This way you'll achieve a balanced treble that sits well in the mix, won't cause harshness, and will add clarity to the overall sound.



3. Avoid using too much compression. This can make your track lifeless and flat.


Be mindful of how much compression you use. Using too much compression can negatively impact the overall listening experience.

You can use a dynamic range meter to visualize the dynamic range of your track. This will allow you to see how much compression is being applied and make adjustments accordingly. A fantastic tool for this is "DR Meter MkII" by MAAT. You can measure and compare dynamic range in a very simple way with this

Again, it's important to be mindful of the context in which your track will be listened to. For mobile devices and small speakers, it's important to be more conservative with compression as these devices often add compression and color themselves. If your track will be primarily listened to on large speakers, you are certainly able to use more compression. You can see this happening in real-time EDM records that are very compressed and loud. This is because the first intention is they can be played in large club and festival sound systems.

What I would recommend for compressing the master is either using the "Dynamic EQ" from iZotope for more minimal and frequency-focused compression, or Fab Filter Pro - MB where you still have separate control of frequency ranges although less clinical.

4. Avoid using too much limiting. This can cause your track to sound distorted.


It is essential to be conscious of the amount of limiting applied when mastering a track for Spotify, as excessive limiting can result in smashing the sound and negatively affect the listening experience. One way to prevent the overuse of limiting is by monitoring how much dB of limiting you are using, A great rule of thumb is to not exceed 2 to 5 dB of limiting.

You can easily monitor this by looking at the red areas in Fab Filter Pro - L 2. Another very useful feature of this plug-in is to use the delta feature where you can isolate what exactly is being limited. If you are limiting 5 dBs and you are not satisfied with the overall loudness then you most likely need to compress the peaks that are being limited more and then try to limit again.





By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your track sounds clear and loud on Spotify without distortion.


Summary


Mastering a track for Spotify can be a complex task, but by understanding the basics of Spotify LUFS, you can create tracks that sound great on the platform.


The first step is to measure the loudness of your track using a LUFS meter and target a LUFS level of -14 LUFS for your master. This will help to ensure that your track has a consistent loudness level with other tracks on the platform.


Next, use EQ, compression, and limiting to balance and polish your track. Avoid boosting bass and treble frequencies too much, using too much compression, and using too much limiting as these can cause negative impacts on the overall listening experience.


Finally, check your track on different devices, including speakers, headphones, and different streaming services, to ensure that it sounds good on all of them. Once finished, submit your track to Spotify for review, and use a digital distributor, such as DistroKid, TuneCore, or CD Baby.

Hopefully, this article has helped you simplify and streamline this process feel free to browse through our other articles here





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