Your Music Was Added to a Popular Spotify Playlist…Now What?

[Editors Note: This article was written by Sam Friedman and originally appeared on the Soundly Blog.]

 

It’s 2017, and album sales are sinking to historic lows. CDs are becoming obsolete. Even digital downloads are plummeting. But people are listening more than ever — they’re just streaming. The music-publishing industry is changing fast. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) reported that in 2016, streaming services were responsible for more than 50% of revenue earned in the music industry today. And the biggest player of them all is — you guessed it — Spotify, with an unbelievable 50 million paying users.

Spotify is known for its “discover” features, most specifically its playlists. Whether it’s “New Music Friday,” “Today’s Top Hits,” or “RapCaviar,” many of these playlists have millions of followers. If your music gets added to one of the biggies, that’s about as close to a Willy-Wonka golden ticket as you’re going to get in the streaming world. Overnight, your track can soar from a few hundred plays to tens of thousands.

Today, it’s just as important (if not more so) for indie artists to try to get their music featured on Spotify playlists as it is to get press coverage. Obviously, both are optimal, but Spotify can generate some serious revenue, especially if the artist owns the music.

And beyond getting paid, it exposes your music to thousands of new listeners. In many ways, it’s not unlike opening for a huge artist in front of a new audience. Spotify often curates its playlists based on genres or moods, so when your song comes on, it’s usually because someone was looking for or listening to a song like yours. But as much as artists (and labels) are competing for features, not many of them have a plan for when that magical moment happens.

Personally speaking, I didn’t even know my song was featured until an A&R rep reached out to me to talk about my music, mentioning he found me on Spotify’s “Fresh Finds” playlist. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I checked my Spotify plays and saw that one of my tracks, which previously had less than 1,000 plays, had suddenly increased to nearly 40,000! I had no idea what to do next other than just feel giddy that people were discovering my music. In reality, there are several important steps that every artist should take when his or her music is featured in a Spotify playlist.

Promote Your Feature

First things first: if you do get featured on a playlist, treat it like a good press feature and share that thing! This is a good time to do a sponsored social media post with a link to your song on Spotify. You should already budget for promoting your music on Spotify, but after your song is featured on a playlist, make a custom post and bump up the awareness. Be sure to share the playlist itself, too, not just your song.

Thank the Playlist Curator(s)

You may have to do a little research to find the names of the playlist curators, but that’s what Google is for, right? Get to stalking! If you can, find their emails, send them a genuine thank you, and establish a relationship. It’s also a good idea to find their Twitter handles and tag them when you share the playlist.

If someone out there likes your music enough to put you on a playlist that literally thousands of other musicians are dying to be on, chances are he or she is going to be open to hearing from you. Capitalize on their interest, and make a connection as soon as possible.

Search the Charts

Even if your song is added to a small playlist and you only get a modest bump in streams, the rate of growth can be enough to earn some chart action. Search Viral 50, Spotify US, Spotify Global charts, etc. Making it onto one of these is a huge opportunity to shine.

It’s also a great way to encourage your fans to share your song. People always like to help something grow. Ask your fans for their help, and update them every time you move up a notch.

Check Other Playlists

When a song is added to a big playlist, there tends to be a domino effect. You can typically find out which playlists feature your song under the About portion of your Spotify artist profile. Search daily, but also actively go hunting. Every Friday, check the “New Music Friday” playlist. Every Wednesday, check all of the “Fresh Finds” playlists.

Remember, each playlist that features your song is going to grow your audience and is worth raving about. In addition, people will find your music and add you to their smaller playlists — thank them.

Use Data to Build Your Press Kit

Take the data from your playlist feature — number of streams, cities where you’re most popular, etc. — and add it to your press kit or EPK. Today, new artists are introduced with press quotes and their streaming data if it’s impressive. Similar to a good quote from a reputable publication, notable streaming data helps sell your music to prospective bookers, record labels, A&R execs, etc. and is powerful ammunition to build your career.

Reinvest Your Earnings

Various studies report that the aggregate net average per stream is around $0.005 depending on how much of your music you own. It takes a couple months to get paid, but make sure you have a plan ready for how to reinvest that income back into your music.

For example, stash a certain amount of that money away for promoting your next single with Instagram ads and sponsored Facebook posts. Using your streaming money for cocktails over the next five weekends might not be the best investment to help keep your music career growing.

Keep an Eye on Your Stats

Obviously, you should pay close attention to your streaming stats, but watch your overall numbers on other platforms like Facebook and Instagram along with other streaming services like Apple Music. Unfortunately, people streaming playlists that feature your song doesn’t automatically mean they’re becoming fans — they’re just being exposed to your music. Look out for people commenting on your pages saying they found you on Spotify. Those are the fans you’re going to want to nurture and build a relationship with.

Another helpful stat to track is where people are listening. If you’re popular in Sweden, for example, plan to include that territory in your next promotion, or possibly think about planning a tour there. Spotify insights are crucial in helping you target new fans and nurture existing ones.

Pitch to Other Playlists

Now that you’ve been featured once, use that as an angle to bolster your single for inclusion on another playlist. When you’re pitching, mention your success and how your track is growing. Remember, a lot of Spotify is about credibility. People tend to only pay attention when you’re on the rise. Capitalize on that and keep pitching. Singles die off fast these days, so keep extending the life of your track until you release the next one.

If you feel overwhelmed by all this data gathering, that’s because it’s designed to be complicated. There are over 900,000 distinct royalty streams that artists around the world have access to, and between 20-50% of royalties generated never make into these artists’ pockets.

June Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Tests “Sponsored Songs” and Expands Concert Listings


In lieu of traditional audio ads that ‘freemium’ tier users of Spotify hear during a given listening session, Spotify is testing a new process that would allow artists and labels to pay for placement of their song – thus monetizing the free listening associated with this kind of membership. This opens up the potential for artists to to secure a place on playlists, which have soared in popularity among subscribers of all kinds over the past couple of years.

Users of the ad-supported tier will have the option of opting out of this test; and Spotify has confirmed that even if the test is successful, this feature will only remain on this tier. Relying heavily on its plethora of data, Spotify will target sponsored song placement based on listening habits.

While sponsored songs’ likeness to the traditional ‘payola’ models of old terrestrial radio is up for debate, it does represent a shift in how Spotify manages its ‘freemium’ platform and drives revenue from those still unwilling to subscribe for a monthly or annual fee. Spotify has remained one of the few popular streaming platforms to offer a free listening tier, and there has long been speculation around whether or not the company would be willing to eliminate it; the ‘freemium’ model is a key differentiating offer when compared to its growing and formidable streaming rival Apple Music.

It remains to be seen how this will be rolled out and made available to independent artists, but if it is made reasonably affordable and accessible to music makers outside of the label system, they could stand to benefit from the feature by reaching new listeners who are more likely to tune into a ‘sponsored song’ then a generic advertisement.

Spotify also announced that in addition to its partnerships with Ticketmaser and digital ticketing platform SongKick, users will now be able to access artists’ upcoming tour dates via a collaboration with Eventbrite and AEG’s AXS. This means more hometown venues, more touring territories, and more opportunities to promote local live experiences for fans.

LANDR Celebrates 1 Million Users


TuneCore’s pals over at LANDR – the tool that allows independent artists to instantly master their tracks at an affordable rate – have hit a major milestone: one million users! LANDR has continued to offer a great solution to artists hoping to polish the sounds of their tracks while lacking a robust mastering budget.

Throughout most of June, LANDR partnered with TuneCore Artist Chance the Rapper, donating $1.00 for every user that masters a track Chance’s Chicago-based “Social Works” Music Academy, as well as 10% of all purchases. We always love to see great brands connecting with great artists, and the charitable element of this arrangement only warms our hearts more.

Google Play Music’s New Release Radio Feature Launches


No matter what music streaming platform your fans dig the most, (and remember, we help you get your releases on a lot of ‘em!), we can all agree that they should be aware of new releases each week. After all, with so much music being digitally released each year, listeners can feel a bit overwhelmed, and it helps to have a little curated direction when it comes to being alerted about the latest and greatest.

Much like Spotify’s “Release Radar” or Apple Music’s “My New Music Mix” features, Google Play Music announced this month that it’s now offering a feature for subscribers called “New Release Radio”. It’s essentially, according to the Android Authority blog, “a playlist that offers up the latest new release and is actually updated on a daily basis to ensure that you’ve always got something new to listen to.”

As personalized, data-driven playlists and features continue to increase in popularity among streaming platforms, Google’s New Release Radio is a welcomed addition. We look forward to seeing how TuneCore Artists can make their music more discoverable to more fans.

ASCAP and YouTube Strike a Performance Rights Deal


In an era in which artists and songwriters have been forced to be more vigilant when it comes to collecting digital royalties, video streaming giant YouTube and performance rights organization ASCAP have reached a multi-year agreement for public performance rights and data collaboration in the U.S. This comes as a sigh of relief to many who have been seeking ways to ensure that royalties are being paid to songwriters, composers and publishers when their works are streamed on YouTube.

ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews says, “This agreement achieves two important ASCAP goals – it will yield substantially higher overall compensation for our members from YouTube and will continue to propel ASCAP’s ongoing transformation strategy to lead the industry toward more accurate and reliable data.”

Good news for TuneCore Artists who are affiliated with ASCAP: this new deal will allow the two parties to address the issues around identifying and compensating songwriters using the extensive amount of data they have available. This, in general, is also another important step towards creating a system within the digital music economy that holds platforms and rights societies responsible for proper royalty payments.

Tips For Getting Your Song On a Spotify Playlist

[Editor’s Note: This blog was written by Janelle Rogers, the founder of  Green Light Go Publicity, a music PR firm which helps up-and-coming musicians reach their audience.]

 

You’re absolutely certain you want, no, you need, to get on an official Spotify playlist. The problem is you’re not sure how to reach the elusive curators and you’re struggling to get past 50 followers on Spotify.

Asking to be on an official Spotify playlist in that case is somewhat the equivalent of wanting to be on the cover of Rolling Stone when the only show you’ve played is the local dive bar on the seedy side of town.

Don’t despair. It doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but it does mean you’ll have to put in a little elbow grease to build up to it. Just like the mailroom guy has to work through a multitude of career levels before becoming manager, you’ll have to create some momentum to reach your official Spotify playlist goal.

Here’s a few simple steps that are within reach no matter the level:

1. Get Verified

The first thing you should do is get your Spotify band profile verified. This does a few things. It gives you credibility and shows you take your band seriously. It can also help with Spotify algorithms which prioritize verified accounts.

Lastly it can help you get noticed by Spotify influencers, including those who create unofficial playlists, but are influential nonetheless. You can find the five simple steps to get verified on Spotify here.

2. Work Unofficial Spotify Playlists

The best way to reach a goal is to start where you are. You may want to go straight to being featured on an official Spotify playlist, but the truth is that you’ll most likely need to build up to where a Spotify curator will pay attention. The good news is that there are a lot of unofficial Spotify curators who will be more open to featuring bands who haven’t yet built a larger following. At this stage in the game, Spotify curators, both official and unofficial, are heavily guarded and extremely elusive.

Start with the ones who want more followers and help brand them by asking your followers to follow them. In your head you may think they’re not worth the time. Instead think about not where they are, but where they could end up. Isn’t that how you would hope playlisters would think of you?

I can still remember when Alex with Consequence of Sound reached out to me to purchase a $25 ad on his site. Nobody knew who the blog was then, but now they’re one of the top blogs. And almost every band who comes to us for music PR at Green Light Go asks to be featured there. You never know where someone will go so treat them with the kind of courtesy and respect no matter what the level.

3. Promote Spotify on Social Media Platforms

If you want to increase followers and awareness with Spotify influencers, you’re going to need to increase your marketing efforts on your social media. Make sure you have links to your Spotify profile in your about sections. Also, once or so per week ask fans to follow you. But don’t just ask them to follow you without giving them something new.

Be strategic by offering fresh content whether it’s announcing your single release, album release or creating a playlist with new songs. Also be sure to promote the playlists of influencers you want to include you in their playlist. Especially with those who don’t yet have the following yet, this can go a long way and allow you to get in on the ground floor before they make it big.

4. Promote Spotify on Website

Just like you promote your social media on your website with Facebook and Twitter links, you should also include Spotify anywhere you can. They have a great tool to create a follow button so fans can follow you straight from your site. In addition, you should include icons next to your other social media and also include a Spotify playlist so people can listen to your music. Lastly, include a widget to listen to the music you have available on Spotify.

5. Create Spotify Playlists

If you have yet to build a following or create relationships with Spotify playlisters, a good place to start is by building your own playlist including your music. To better your chances with Spotify aggregators, limit it to one song per artist (including your song), a minimum of 20 songs and give the title something catchy that is also searchable based on your theme. For instance, we have a playlist themed around indie folk, which we simply callIndie Folks. We also have an indie rock playlist we call, you guessed it, Indie Rocks.


The above steps can help you start breaking down the barrier to get your songs on Spotify playlists. Go ahead and get started by working on the achievable areas to make you more attractive to Spotify influencers.

How Exactly Do People Make Money on YouTube?

[Editors Note: This article was written by Hugh McIntyre. Hugh writes about music and the music industry and regularly contributes to Forbes, Sonicbids, and more.]

 

By now, everybody involved in music (and the internet, really) must be aware that there is money to be made on YouTube…but how is that done? How can somebody actually see their bank account inflate (if only by a little bit) based on content they give away for free?

It’s all about the ads! Throwing advertisements onto your upload might not make you rich, but it can earn you some much-needed cash, so here’s a primer on what you need to know and how you can get started when it comes to advertising on the free-for-all that is YouTube.

Make Sure You’re Actually Displaying Ads!

I have heard a number of musicians admit that while the idea of collecting even a few dollars from their YouTube videos is appealing, they don’t even know how to get started. Creating monetary connections with a multibillion dollar company and becoming something of an advertiser can be somewhat daunting, but don’t let it scare you off from inserting ads into your content!

Unless you’ve specifically gone through the process of actually adding advertisements onto your clips, it is highly unlikely that you’re already making money off of them, which means you’re missing out.

The first step is to join YouTube’s “Partner Program,” which essentially means you’re worth advertising with. Don’t be nervous if you’re not accruing millions of plays per video—every video is worth monetising, especially to YouTube. This step should take all of about three minutes.

The next necessary step is creating what Google has termed an “AdSense” account, which is where the money comes in. AdSense has become one of the biggest and most important advertising platforms on the internet over the years, and YouTube knows how to make it work as well as its parent company. This requires you to have some financial info on hand, and it can take a few moments, especially if you don’t have everything necessary right in front of you. Again, it’s not hard, but you’ll need to be approved before you can move forward.

From there, you’ll decide what videos to monetize. I’d suggest at this point in your career throwing ads onto everything you upload, but if you have a piece of content that is truly special and that you feel will be hurt by a something like a car commercial playing before or a banner appearing at the bottom of the screen, feel free to opt out. This is your art and your career, after all.

Different Kinds Of Ads

Okay, so you’ve decided that you can handle a bit of advertising with your music if it will help pad your bank account. Is that all you need to know? Not even close. There is still plenty to learn about advertising, ads, making money, and what will keep people coming back…but I can’t fit everything into a single post.

You may not have realized it while watching videos on YouTube, but the company actually has half a dozen different kinds of ads that can earn you money, depending on the situation. They will all make you different amounts, and you should consider carefully which ones would be most appropriate for which uploads. Here’s a quick rundown looking at what is what (using the company’s terms, because that’s what you’ll want to become familiar with):

Display Ads

These are the visuals that don’t actually cover your video in any way, but which are posted to the right of the screen, which is common for any website these days. Even if you’re not a fan of interrupting your art in any way, you can surely support this, right?

Overlay Ads

These are the banner ads that pop up at the bottom of the video screen that you’ve probably seen a million times. They’re not nearly as intrusive as some other forms, but that also means they won’t net you quite as much money per click.

Skippable Video Ads

This might be the best option for you as a musician when it comes to inserting ads to your videos. These video advertisements play for a few seconds, and then the user has the option to move on or keep watching the sponsored message. This puts the power in the hands of your fans, but it also means you could earn a few dollars if all works out.

Non-Skippable Video Ads

Brands will pay good money for ads that cannot be ignored before the music plays, but that also intrudes on the listening/watching experience. Are your fans willing to stick around through a 30-second ad to see your latest music video? You need to ask yourself this before selecting this option.

Bumper Ads

These are also a potentially perfect option, as they bring in more cash from advertisers because they are video ads that can’t be skipped, but they are only a few seconds long, so most people won’t mind sitting through them. At just six seconds long, these aren’t likely to annoy many, and it’s difficult to imagine hordes of fans moving on from your content because of these short promotional moments.

Sponsored Cards

These aren’t quite as common, but they can actually be helpful in some small way. Sponsored cards aren’t random ads—they typically offer items for sale that a user may have just seen in your video, or which relate in some way. That’s a nice tie-in, and it doesn’t feel quite as corporate.

It’s Not Just Your Videos That Make Money

This article was primarily focused on covering or introducing your music videos with ads, but the above options aren’t the only ways to make money on the world’s largest video hosting site. You should also be monetizing your music, which either already is, or will at some point in the future be used in other people’s clips. You never know when a fan will make a lyric video or post a cover, and while you have the power to take those down, it makes so much more sense to simply throw an ad onto those and collect the cash.

There are a number of services that can track where your music is being used and help you earn from those clips, including TuneCore’s YouTube Sound Recording revenue collection service, which utilizes YouTube’s own ContentID platform.

April Industry Wrap-Up

Facebook Launches ‘Chat Extensions’ That Encourage Music Sharing

As both streaming music and social media use has evolved over the years, it became pretty obvious pretty quickly that people love to share whatever new music they’re digging with their networks. Spotify was an early player in this arena by connecting social profiles to their platform so that users can see in a feed what the folks they follow are listening to at any given time of day. On top of this feature, users have always been able to send music directly to one another via a built-in messaging app.

As the social media giant Facebook looks to appeal to more and more businesses that use the platform for leads and engagement with customers, they’ve announced the introduction of ‘Chat Extensions’ within their messenger platform. The primary function of this launch is to offer the ability to perform actions within Facebook Messenger without switching apps.

For Spotify, this means the launching a new ‘bot’ that includes search, recommendations, and the ability to share 30-second song clips as well as launch Spotify from the app to hear full songs. Friends now have more options for sharing and discovering music within their chat windows. Facebook has revealed that a similar launch to support Apple Music integration is on the way, too.

As Facebook continues to beef up its music department in general and looks to innovative streaming platforms for partnerships, indie artists of all genres can feel good about new ways for fans to be sharing their tunes with friends.

A Month of Updates From Spotify

It’s hard to get through one of our ‘Monthly Industry Wrap-Ups’ without breaking recent news related to streaming giant and our friendly partner Spotify! This month, Spotify re-structured its multi-year license agreement with global music rights agency Merlin – which represents independent music companies like Beggars Group, Secretly Group, Domino, Sub Pop, and others.

The big story from this signing is that the updated agreement allows these labels to ‘window’ releases for Spotify Premium users only – a tactic used by major label groups to limit access to a release for usually up to two weeks. The significance of windowing is that it allows releases to only be made available to users that contribute higher streaming rates, (when you’re a ‘freemium’ Spotify user, you are using an account that gets served ads and each time you play a song, it pays out less than that of Premium subscribers’ streams who pay a monthly fee).

Spotify and other streaming platforms are required to sign licensing agreements with both independent and major label groups. But what’s new here is the apparent bargaining scraps indie labels have when it comes to keeping up with the majors. As a distributor that sees its artists getting signed to indie labels on a regular basis, it’s encouraging to see that they’re able to take advantage of opportunities offered by streaming platforms like Spotify.

Additionally this month, Spotify rebranded their “Fan Insights” – data about who is listening to artists, from numbers of monthly listeners to cities they’re being streamed in most – as “Spotify For Artists”. It’s available to all artists and managers, and is designed to be a ‘one-stop shop’ that allows you to track growth, update creative profile assets, and feature particular songs and playlists. Here at TuneCore, we’re always excited to see more data and insights being offered to artists to help them make business and branding decisions. If you haven’t already, head over to Spotify’s site to take advantage of these updates.

Google Play Music Gets Cozy With Newest Samsung Galaxy Model

As competition for subscribers and listeners continues to heat up among music streaming platforms, so too does competition among mobile device manufacturers. Nowhere is that more obvious than between Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy. As each company strives to attract brand loyalty to their respective operating systems, Samsung announced that its latest model, the Galaxy S8, has made Google Play Music its preferred music player.

That means those who pick up the newest Galaxy S8 will get the opportunity to use Google Play Music with enhancements just for them. One of these is an increase in cloud locker storage, with Samsung users being able to upload up to 100,000 tracks that can be streamed from anywhere (up from 50,000 for other users). Also, Samsung promises that it’s choice music player will support Samsung’s smartphone assistant, Bixby, “once support for voice commands is actually ready to roll out.”

It remains to be seen how many Galaxy S8 users will adopt Google Play Music over a preferred service, but it’s no doubt that Samsung will do what they can in collaboration to make it more attractive. For independent artists, it’s just another push for a platform that is carrying your releases already (unless, of course, you still need to add your music to Google Play!), and it may in turn end up being a great excuse for you to be promoting your Google Play links, as well.

Music Streaming Platforms & Mastering – 3 Guiding Concepts

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Alex Sterling, an audio engineer and music producer based in New York City. He runs a commercial studio in Manhattan called Precision Sound where he provides recording, mixing, and mastering services.]

Background:

As an audio engineer and music producer I am constantly striving to help my clients music sound the best that it can for as many listeners as possible. With music streaming services like Apple Music/iTunes Radio, Spotify, Tidal, and YouTube continuing to dominate how people consume music, making sure that the listener is getting the best possible sonic experience from these platforms is very important.

Over the last several years some new technologies have been developed and integrated into the streaming service’s playback systems called Loudness Normalization.

Loudness Normalization is the automatic process of adjusting the perceived loudness of all the songs on the service to sound approximately the same as you listen from track to track.

The idea is that the listener should not have to adjust the volume control on their playback system from song to song and therefore the listening experience is more consistent. This is generally a good and useful thing and can save you from damaging your ears if a loud song comes on right after a quiet one and you had the volume control way up.

The playback system within each streaming service has an algorithm that measures the perceived loudness of your music and adjusts its level to match a loudness target level they have established. By adjusting all the songs in the service to match this target the overall loudness experience is made more consistent as people jump between songs and artists in playlists or browsing.

If your song is louder than the target it gets turned down to match and if it is softer it is sometimes made louder with peak limiting depending on the service (Spotify only).

So how do we use this knowledge to make our music sound better?

The simple answer is that we want to master our music to take into account the loudness standards that are being used to normalize our music when streaming, and prepare a master that generally complies with these new loudness standards.

Concept 1: Master for sound quality, not maximum loudness.

If possible work with a professional Mastering Engineer who understands how to balance loudness issues along with the traditional mastering goals of tonal balance and final polish etc.

If you’re mastering your own music then try to keep this in mind while you work:

Don’t pursue absolute loudness maximization, instead pursue conscious loudness targeting.

If we master our music to be as loud as possible and use a lot of peak limiting to get the loudness level very high then we are most likely sacrificing some dynamic range, transient punch, and impact to get our music to sound loud.

The mechanism of loudness maximization intentionally reduces the dynamic range of our music so the average level can be made higher. There are benefits to this such as increasing the weight and density of a mix, but there are also negatives such as the loss of punch and an increase in distortion. It’s a fine line to walk between loud enough and too loud.

Here is where loudness normalization comes in:

If our song is mastered louder than the streaming target loudness level then our song will be gained down (by the service) as a result. If you are mastering louder than the target level then you are throwing away potential dynamic range and punch for no benefit and your song will sound smaller, less punchy, and more dynamically constrained in comparison to a song that was mastered more conservatively in regards to loudness.

If we master softer than the target level then in some cases (Spotify) the streaming service actually adds gain and peak limiting to bring up the level. This is potentially sonically adverse because we don’t know what that limiting process will do to our music. Will it sound good or not? It most likely will create some loss of punch but how much is lost will be based on what content was put in.

Some music is more sensitive to this limiting process. High dynamic range jazz or classical music with pristine acoustic instruments might be more sonically damaged than a rock band song with distorted guitars for example so the result is not entirely predictable just on loudness measurement but also on musical style.

Thankfully the main platforms other than Spotify don’t add gain and peak limiting as of this writing so they are less potentially destructive to sound quality for below target content.

Concept 2: Measure loudness using a LUFS/LKFS meter.

The different streaming services have different loudness standards and algorithms to take measurements and apply the normalization but for the most part they use the basic unit system of loudness measurement called LUFS or LKFS. This metering system allows engineers to numerically meter how loud content is and make adjustments to the dynamic range accordingly.

Being able to understand how our music masters are metering with this scale is useful to see what will happen when they are streamed on different services (i.e. will the algorithm gain them up or down to meet the target or not?)

Concept 3: Choose which loudness standard to master to.

Direct your mastering engineer if you are working with one to master to a target loudness level and consult with them about what they feel is an appropriate target level for your music. If you are mastering jazz or classical music you probably don’t want to make a very loud master for sound quality and dynamic range reasons but if you are making a heavy rock, pop, or, hip hop master that wants to be more intense then a louder target may be more suitable.

iTunes Sound Check and Apple Music/iTunes Radio use a target level of
-16LUFS and this would be a suitable target for more dynamic material.

Tidal uses a target level of -14LUFS that is a nice middle ground for most music that wants to be somewhat dynamic.

YouTube uses a target level of -13LUFS, a tiny bit less dynamic than Tidal.

Spotify uses a loudness target of -11LUFS and as you can see this is 5 dB louder than iTunes/Apple Music. This is more in the territory of low dynamic range, heavily limited content.

Somewhere in the middle of -16LUFS and -11LUFS might be the best target loudness for your music based on your desired dynamic range but the goal is not to go above the chosen target otherwise your content gets gained down on playback and dynamic range is lost.

In all services except Spotify, content that measures lower than target loudness is not gained up. So for people working with very dynamic classical music or film soundtracks those big dynamic movements will not be lost on most streaming platforms.

However since Spotify is unique and adds gain and peak limiting if your content is below target it is potentially the most destructive sonically. So should you master to -11LUFS and save your music from Spotify’s peak limiting but lose dynamic range on the other platforms? It’s a compromise that you have to decide for yourself in consultation with your mastering engineer.

You might want to test out what -11LUFS sounds like in the studio and hear what the effect of that limiting is. Is it better to master that loud yourself and compensate in other ways for the lost punch and lower dynamic range? Or should you accept that Spotify users get a different dynamic range than iTunes users and let your music be more dynamic for the rest of the platforms?

In all cases there is no benefit to going above -11 LUFS because that is the loudest target level used by any service. If you go louder than -11LUFS then your music will be turned down and dynamic range and punch will be lost on all the services needlessly and permanently.

Further Reading:

Great info – graphic on the different streaming loudness targets.

More info on LUFS/LKFS metering.