New Music Friday: April 21, 2017

TuneCore Artists are releasing tons of new music every day. Each week we check out the new TuneCore releases and choose a few at random to feature on the blog.

Is your hit next?

Follow Music Made Me – a Spotify playlist that’s updated every Friday with new releases from TuneCore Artists – stream it below!


Changing
Devan Dubois
Alternative, Pop


Older Men & Whiskey
Chyyanna Lee
Pop, Country


Monument
Lions Lions

Rock, Alternative


Goals
Nate Good

Hip Hop/Rap


Treat You Better
Throw the Fight

Rock, Alternative


In Dank We Trust

Black the Ripper
Hip Hop/Rap, New Age


Battles
Rita Springer
Christian/Gospel


86
Infected Rain

Rock


Passionfruit
Cimorelli

Pop


Addiction Kills
Jelly Roll

Hip Hop/Rap


Change: The Lost Record
Josh Thompson

Country


Black Hole Sun
Break of Reality

Rock, Instrumental

New Music Friday: April 14, 2017

TuneCore Artists are releasing tons of new music every day. Each week we check out the new TuneCore releases and choose a few at random to feature on the blog.

Is your hit next?

Follow Music Made Me – a Spotify playlist that’s updated every Friday with new releases from TuneCore Artists – stream it below!


Breathe
Moosh & Twist

Hip Hop/Rap


Made 2 Love U
Johnny Balik

Pop


Freesol (feat. Skyler Stronestreet)
Seven Lions

Electronic, Dance


Bloom
RKCB

R&B/Soul, Electronic


The Outfield
The Night Game

Alternative, Rock


Hinterland
Akurei

Electronic, Alternative


Sail Away
The Dead Sailor Girls

Singer/Songwriter, Folk


Broke Royalty
Flint Eastwood

Alternative


Still Love
Ghost Against Ghost

Alternative, Electronic


I Got You
Superwalkers

Pop, Electronic


Miss Taken (Demos)
RoadTrip

Pop, Rock


The Soulvation Society
The Soulvation Society

R&B/Soul, Pop


Amame o Matame (feat. Don Omar)
Ivy Queen

Latin


Bound 2017
Baco & Termy

Electronic, Hip Hop/Rap


Ain’t Your Girl
BEATZ

Pop, R&B/Soul


So Much to Keep
AirLands

Alternative, Rock


Heart Songs: Adoration

Naomi Raine
Christian/Gospel, Singer/Songwriter


Ladies And Gentlemen: Barenaked Ladies and the Persuasions
Barenaked Ladies and the Persuasions 

Pop, Vocal


Walking In My Favor
Lucinda Moore

Christian/Gospel

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.

February Industry Wrap-Up

The cold weather is slowly on its way out and SXSW is on the horizon – must be the end of February! That’s why we’re here to wind down the month in music industry happenings. Just because it was a short month doesn’t mean there was no action – read on to catch the latest on Facebook’s upcoming video ventures, collaboration among the YouTube and Google Play Music teams, and Spotify’s ‘sunny’ new parter.

 

Facebook to Introduce Longer-Form ‘Premium’ Music Video Content


As online videos become an even more integral part of marketing and promotion for artists – from major label mainstays to indie up-and-comers – competition to serve hungry fans continues to heat up among all the big name platforms. If you’ve been reading around, you know that Facebook is a key contender in its attempts to offer users exciting ways to consume video content, including it’s rolling out of Facebook Live which paid some big name creators to help promote the service in its early stages.

Recently, Facebook’s VP of Partnerships Dan Rose expressed their desire to begin offering ‘premium videos’, with content shifting into the 5-10 minute length. According to reports, Facebook will offer indie artists and labels the opportunity to test and create episodic content while being paid directly by Facebook in the early stages; Rose says the model will shift to a rev-share after that. With almost two billion users, Facebook remains a major platform for promoting and marketing musical content.

Like anything else surrounding the world of copyright and video content, Facebook is facing concerns from members of the music industry surrounding licensing. When you’re hoping to take a slice of YouTube’s market share, at the very least, a platform should have systems in place that protect copyright holders and ensure that they can be paid properly for the use of their works. Like YouTube’s Content ID system that allows TuneCore to help artists collect their sound recording revenue when their music is used in videos across the platform, sources say that Facebook is in the process of building a parallel copyright ID program. This will be crucial in the potential success of Facebook’s upcoming premium video plans, and it goes to show the importance being placed on protecting copyrighted work – good news for artists of all stripes!

 

Google Merges Play Music & YouTube Music Teams


This past month it was revealed to media outlets that the product teams in charge of directing YouTube Music and Google Play Music will be combined into a single unit. Confirmed by Google, a spokesperson said: “Music is very important to Google and we’re evaluating how to bring together our music offerings to deliver the best possible product for our users, music partners and artists. Nothing will change for users today and we’ll provide plenty of notice before any changes are made.”

What does this mean for artists? Well, we already know that independent music makers can make their music available on YouTube and Google Play via TuneCore, but with the platforms technically being under the same umbrella, this appears to be a play towards creating a better overall user experience for music consumers. As streaming services acquire new subscribers every day, access to independent music grows and artists are able to make themselves available to fans who use all different ‘preferred platforms’ for discovering new tunes.

There’s an array of possible reasons for this internal shift at one of the biggest media companies in the world – perhaps as a move to simplify in-app listening, and more interestingly, a way for Google to negotiate deals with artists and labels. Either way, users of both apps will be able to continue using them as normal for now, and it’s highly possible that artists can look forward to a simpler way to reach YouTube- and Google Play-loyal fans in the near future.

 

Spotify’s Latest Partner is … a Weather Company?


We all know that weather impacts our moods. We all also know that music can play a similar role. But how do listeners build playlists that capture any given climate?

Ever the forward-thinking streaming platform, Spotify announced in February that is partnering with weather reporting website AccuWeather to develop and launch a site called Climatune, offering playlists for various cities based on varying weather conditions. This comes after partnerships with modern apps and companies like Uber, Tinder and Headspace, and shows that Spotify has no intention of slowing down its pace of clever collaboration with those looking to bring music into the fold.

So instead of just throwing on Banarama on those sunny days or curling up to some Morrisey during a morning rainstorm, Climatune offers playlists to music fans based on the hours and hours of research in major cities pointing to habits of listeners based on the skies. For example, did you know that residents of Chicago get excited when it rains, causing a huge lift in happier music? Houston Spotify subscribers, on the other hand, boost their acoustic listening by 121% on rainy days.

While it remains to be seen just how many subscribers will utilize this cool new service, we here at TuneCore see it as just another interesting avenue for music discovery via the popularity of playlists.

New Music Friday: February 24, 2017

TuneCore Artists are releasing tons of new music every day. Each week we check out the new TuneCore releases and choose a few at random to feature on the blog.

Is your hit next?

Follow THE NEW – a Spotify playlist that’s updated every Friday with new releases from TuneCore Artists – stream it below! 

ojayy wright
So Wá?
Ojayy Wright
World, Pop

hopsin
All Your FaultHopsin

Hip Hop/Rap

roc marciano
Rosebudd’s
Revenge
Roc
Marciano
Hip Hop/Rap

pouya and fat nick
Drop Out of School
Pouya & Fat Nick

Hip Hop/Rap

rebel souljahz
4 The People
Rebel Souljahz

Reggae, Pop

ookay
Stay Forever
Ookay

Dance, Electronic

knoxhamilton
The Heights
Knox Hamilton

Alternative

matthew perryman jones
Land of the Living
Matthew Perryman Jones

Singer/Songwriter, Alternative

ronpope
Bad For Your Health
Ron Pope

Rock, Alternative

glass beach
Glass Beach
Of Verona

Alternative

Joey Pecoraro
Tired Boy
Joey Pecoraro

Electronic, Jazz

New Music Friday: February 17, 2017

TuneCore Artists are releasing tons of new music every day. Each week we check out the new TuneCore releases and choose a few at random to feature on the blog.

Is your hit next?

Follow THE NEW – a Spotify playlist that’s updated every Friday with new releases from TuneCore Artists – stream it below! 

jennifer paige
Devil’s in the Details
Jennifer Paige

Singer/Songwriter, Pop

anthemlights
Moana Medley
Anthem Lights

Pop

sidibe
Strangers
Sidibe

Pop, R&B/Soul

lydia cole
The Lay of the Land
Lydia Cole

Alternative, Singer/Songwriter

anchorlot
Bridge the Divide
Anchorlot

Rock, Alternative

passenger
A Kindly Reminder
Passenger

Folk, Singer/Songwriter

pouya
Death By Dishonor

Ghostemane, Shakewell, Pouya & Erick The Architect

Hip Hop/Rap

vanessa carlton
Earlier Things Live
Vanessa Carlton

Alternative, Singer/Songwriter

bugzym
Aggy Wid It
Bugzy Malone

Hip Hop/Rap

pacific dub
Take Me Away EP
Pacific Dub

Reggae, Alternative

trecoast
I Can’t Let You Go
Tre Coast

Dance, Electronic

manafest
Stones
Manafest

Rock

jetty rae
Can’t Curse The Free
Jetty Rae

Singer/Songwriter, Alternative

jess and gabriel
Under The Covers
Jess and Gabriel

Singer/Songwriter, Pop

paperwhite
Human Nature
Paperwhite

Electronic, Pop

hearts like lions
If I Never Speak Again
Hearts Like Lions

Rock, Alternative

titus
Are We A Thing?
Titus

Pop, Hip Hop/Rap