Mastering your music for Spotify. Let’s discuss this and how to sound the best on Spotify. A lot of people ask me, what LUFS should I send my mixes off to for streaming? How loud should I make my mixes? What LUFS level? Should I do -14 LUFS or should I do lower than -14 or higher than -14? What software do I use to measure LUFS? What if I submit a mix that’s -7 LUFS or -10 LUFS? What should I set my true peak to?

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Deciding how to sound the best on Spotify

After trying different things prior to the release of my album, What’s Your Superpower, I concluded that -14 LUFS, for the style of music that I create, is not for me. All love to every engineer who decides to do -14 LUFS, but that is not for me because I tend to distort my drums. I tend to do things that LUFS will penalize.

Despite that, the reality is that if you submit a mix that’s louder than -14 LUFS or whatever that streaming site defaults to, you’re going to be turned down and penalized. But here’s something that is not readily available for everyone. I was searching on Spotify’s website and came across some documentation on their specific loudness normalization guidelines.

Spotify’s Loudness Normalization Guidelines

In Spotify’s documentation, they say that their target is -14 LUFS. If you choose to mix louder than -14 LUFS, here’s what you need to do: make sure that you leave a headroom of -2 true peak. For my album, What’s Your Superpower, it averages between -8 and -7 LUFS. Sometimes it hits -6 and other times it’ll go down to -14. But short term, it’s going around -7 or -8 LUFS. That’s the range sometimes negative 8.5, sometimes negative 6.8, you know, but it’s in that range most of the time. What I had to do was go to all the Masters set the true peak at -2 per the Spotify Loudness Normalize Guidelines on how to sound the best on Spotify. 

Why you need to set True Peak to -2 if you mix louder than -14 LUFS

It’s fine if you mix louder than -14 LUFS. But, if you decide to do that, make sure you leave true peak at -2. The reason behind that is because when streaming services convert your files to other formats like OGG. What tends to happen is when you have a loud mix, peaks tend to rise in volume. True Peak, it sets the threshold at -2. So, when they do that conversion to OGG, you’ll be ensured that no spikes will hit above the ceiling. 

In summary if people tell you, you have to mix it -14 LUFS, it’s absolute nonsense. If you decide to mix it -14 LUFS for streaming formats, you might start to sacrifice the sound you want to go for, and that’s a huge problem creatively. I mix with my ears and what sounds good to me and when I do -14 LUFS, it’s technically right, but it doesn’t sound right to me. It sounds very clinically right and dynamic range and all that. But sometimes it’s not what I’m trying to go for because I’m an artist. And I like to do it the way that I want to do it. I’d like to distort it the way I want to. 

Batch processing audio files for Spotify

Here’s the other thing I learned, and I didn’t know this before. If you send Spotify a 48K audio file 48K 24 bit, they will accept it, but they will do a conversion to 44.1K 24 bit. To avoid that conversion step, you’ll want to tap into a batch processing tool like RX 8. Just some tips on how to sound the best on Spotify.

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