Streaming single release...low volume

drfrankencopter

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,252
Hey Guys,

I'm a veritable 'babe in the woods' regarding streaming releases, and have been learning by the seat of my pants to navigate the maze of release/distribution, and promotion. Didn't realize how much work there was in this part of the product!

At any rate, my band put out our first streaming release today. We picked a really simple song as a bit of a trial balloon. In reference to another thread on this board, the tune came together, lyrics and all, in the span of about 15-30 minutes of jamming. Collaborative writing can work! This was the first time we played with an electronic kit and IEM's, and it let me play around with some synth parts instead of my usual guitar-isms. It made for a mood, and the rest just clicked.

It took a while to get a reasonable mix, and I have to be honest I was a little confused about what levels to target for release. It seems -14 LUFS is the desired target for streaming, but the song seemed rather quiet at these levels. In the end, the band ended up deciding to send the tune to LANDR for some "mastering" treatment. There's not many controls available in the LANDR algo, so we opted for 'Low aggression', and 'Balanced'. It came back louder (and with way more low end) than my own attempt at mastering which had the integrated level right at -14 LUFS. The LANDR version sounded better on phone speakers, that's for sure...but worse IMO on any reasonable system, and decent headphones.

After we got the track uploaded through the aggregator, and the wait period for distributing to streaming services passed it finally went live today...and I was somewhat disappointed at the level relative to commercial releases. Was it not mastered loud enough? Was it mastered too loud, and the auto leveling algo's just turned it down? It's so hard to know what's going on behind the scenes. So much easier with CD since you know 0dbFS is the limit. The next one is likely going out for proper human mastering, but I'm curious what's the best approach for getting decent level for streaming. How do you audition your track to see how the volume levelling algo will treat it. It seems like stabbing in the dark.

At any rate, here's the tune...feel free to comment; but don't hate on me too much for the Kick drum thump level, sometimes you need to concede to your drummer :)
iTunes: https://music.apple.com/.../cant-say-i-miss.../1538395189...
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/2nyyRYAdoY2xOPzd1ZjfFD...
Instagram: @theviceparade
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/ViceParadeMusic
YouTube: https://youtu.be/CGwYA1AadpM

You might find it interesting that the vocals were recorded with a Beyer M88. It was live off the floor for the drums, guitar, bass and vocals, and I wanted good rejection from the stick hits on the V-Drums. The M88 sounded good when we wrote it, so I figured why change it for recording. It did need some serious low cuts cuz proximity effect was huge. Keys were sequenced to the click so I could play guitar.

Mixing regrets after listening to the final release include:
  1. Should have rode the master volume to add more dynamics...but again not sure how LANDR might have mangled that
  2. Should have rode the synth volume too...and cut some of the lows on it.
  3. Probably should have made the 1st verse sound 'smaller'
  4. That damn kick drum thump...I like a deep kick, but I really feel it's over the top
Interestingly, if I listen to the un LANDR'd version I have less complaints. LANDR seems to have boosted the low end, and removed dynamics...and there weren't that many dynamics to begin with. Maybe I'll throw up an un-mastered version and see if it fares better once the levelling algo's do their thing. Anyone ever try that?
 

rumbletone

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,778
While there may be value in understanding the answers to your specific questions (including approaches to mastering specifically for various streaming formats), I think the key - as you’ve said - is to have a proper mastering engineer do the work. I have training and experience in recording, editing, and mixing, and I wouldn’t be confident mastering for release, especially because having the work done professionally is relatively cost effective and accessible especially for a track or few.
 

jmoose

Member
Messages
4,726
I'm a veritable 'babe in the woods' regarding streaming releases, and have been learning by the seat of my pants to navigate the maze of release/distribution, and promotion. Didn't realize how much work there was in this part of the product

----

Maybe I'll throw up an un-mastered version and see if it fares better once the levelling algo's do their thing. Anyone ever try that?
Yeah releasing music is a whole other trip. Those label & promoter kids, the good ones earn their bucks.

Anyway once a song has been released it's done and takes on a life of it's own. It's kinda like a baby, once it's out you can't stuff it back in. There's a saying in the biz, better luck next record!

I'd have to listen in the shop to have any cemented thoughts on levels etc... but I streamed the song off utoob on a tablet via Bluetooth to the Bose soundbar in the TV room...

I don't mind the kick drum, didn't call attention to itself but the snare kinda bugs me. Also hit me was how dry the overall mix is. Possibly related is I'm not real sure where the bass guitar is sitting... mastering related or not it seems to be living below the kick.

Can't say I have any experience with landr. Everything I do goes to proper mastering. Human input and feedback is invaluable for an actual release.
 
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John Quinn

Member
Messages
1,612
HeI'm a veritable 'babe in the woods' regarding streaming releases, and have been learning by the seat of my pants to navigate the maze of release/distribution, and promotion. . Maybe I'll throw up an un-mastered version and see if it fares better once the levelling algo's do their thing. Anyone ever try that?
What service did you use...Tunecore? The aggregate streaming services have one issue - and that's that you can't adjust the LUFS per service - Below are 4 of the bigger streamers - and look - there is a 3 LUFS difference between
YouTube and Apple Music.

Spotify: >-14 LUFS - YouTube: >-13 LUFS - Tidal: >-14 LUFS - Apple Music: > -16 LUFS.

Which is too say that you need to choose a mean average. And know which service does what to your music. And BTW I thought your tracks sounded good. As @jmoose pointed out - the snare has some thing odd going on.
 

drfrankencopter

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,252
Yeah releasing music is a whole other trip. Those label & promoter kids, the good ones earn their bucks.

Anyway once a song has been released it's done and takes on a life of it's own. It's kinda like a baby, once it's out you can't stuff it back in. There's a saying in the biz, better luck next record!
Yeah, my saying about it is that it's like kicking a baby bird out of the nest and seeing if it can fly...sometimes they do, sometimes it's 'splat'.


I don't mind the kick drum, didn't call attention to itself but the snare kinda bugs me. Also hit me was how dry the overall mix is. Possibly related is I'm not real sure where the bass guitar is sitting... mastering related or not it seems to be living below the kick.

Can't say I have any experience with landr. Everything I do goes to proper mastering. Human input and feedback is invaluable for an actual release.
Yeah, the snare got killed by the LANDR limiter, and it doesn't poke through the way I wanted to. But I'm not sure if that's the issue you're hearing. If you have more feedback I'm all ears. I had brought the bass down after the first couple LANDR trial masters...mostly because in car systems the D note just stuck out like a sore thumb. The bass is def living below the kick, but my intent was that it would fill up the space around it...guess it didn't quite do that :)

Interesting that it struck you how dry the mix was...guess I've been on a bit of a pendulum trying to get away from FX heavy sounds from my earlier days. Maybe it's swung too far the other way.

Gotta admit I'm not thrilled with the LANDR process...not enough controls to adjust, and I think my own masters were better. It was an experiment, and not all experiments are a success! Lesson learned.

PS: thanks for listening, I greatly appreciate the feedback!
 
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drfrankencopter

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,252
What service did you use...Tunecore? The aggregate streaming services have one issue - and that's that you can't adjust the LUFS per service - Below are 4 of the bigger streamers - and look - there is a 3 LUFS difference between
YouTube and Apple Music.

Spotify: >-14 LUFS - YouTube: >-13 LUFS - Tidal: >-14 LUFS - Apple Music: > -16 LUFS.

Which is too say that you need to choose a mean average. And know which service does what to your music. And BTW I thought your tracks sounded good. As @jmoose pointed out - the snare has some thing odd going on.
We used distrokid...but ran the track through LANDR first before uploading it to the distrokid site. There doesn't seem to be any way to choose the target LUFS with LANDR, only and "aggression" radio button which goes between Low/Med/High. I have no idea what the LUFS of the final track was after LANDR. Guess I should import it back into my project, and see what fabfilter L2 says about the LUFS.

PS: thanks for listening, I greatly appreciate the feedback!
 

John Quinn

Member
Messages
1,612
We used distrokid...but ran the track through LANDR first before uploading it to the distrokid site. There doesn't seem to be any way to choose the target LUFS with LANDR, only and "aggression" radio button which goes between Low/Med/High. I have no idea what the LUFS of the final track was after LANDR. Guess I should import it back into my project, and see what fabfilter L2 says about the LUFS.

PS: thanks for listening, I greatly appreciate the feedback!

I believe LANDR uses Ozone 9 advanced these days - or if they don't the company has their own version of it. To me the Auto Master sites are a bad choice. The Auto stuff makes mistakes - as no one is listening to the final from what I can tell. You might want to call one of the good Mastering Houses and see what they will charge for a one off (I've seen very good prices from top houses - like $100 or less) - then compare it to your LANDR and Original track. Put it through a Spectrum Analyzer to 'see' what's different - and the choices the Mastering House made.
 

drfrankencopter

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,252
I believe LANDR uses Ozone 9 advanced these days - or if they don't the company has their own version of it. To me the Auto Master sites are a bad choice. The Auto stuff makes mistakes - as no one is listening to the final from what I can tell. You might want to call one of the good Mastering Houses and see what they will charge for a one off (I've seen very good prices from top houses - like $100 or less) - then compare it to your LANDR and Original track. Put it through a Spectrum Analyzer to 'see' what's different - and the choices the Mastering House made.
I can easily hear the changes that LANDR made...and actually had to re-tweak the mix to de-emphasize some of them. It wasn't a fun process.

Yeah, I'm going with a human next time. AI isn't all it's cracked up to be...and I should know that since I work in that space in my day job!
 

Captngeetch

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
906
I liked the song and my thoughts are pretty much the same as jmoose’s. The kick drum seemed fine to me and the snare sound could be better. It seemed very dry in the beginning, little “width”. Same thought on the bass..didn’t really notice it. Loved the synth sound AFTER the trem guitar kicks in. Volume seemed fine. I listened to it via itunes on my phone with JBL BT ear pods and I listened to it via itunes through my studio monitors via itunes as well. Volume seemed fine, but a hint of distortion (that may be bu choice though). I really enjoyed the song itself. Dig the vocal style especially.
 

drfrankencopter

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,252
I liked the song and my thoughts are pretty much the same as jmoose’s. The kick drum seemed fine to me and the snare sound could be better. It seemed very dry in the beginning, little “width”. Same thought on the bass..didn’t really notice it. Loved the synth sound AFTER the trem guitar kicks in. Volume seemed fine. I listened to it via itunes on my phone with JBL BT ear pods and I listened to it via itunes through my studio monitors via itunes as well. Volume seemed fine, but a hint of distortion (that may be bu choice though). I really enjoyed the song itself. Dig the vocal style especially.
Thank you so much! That synth sound is a combination of NI's Monarch, and a Behringer Poly-D...I rode the volume on one of the chord hits to make a bit more impact, and I think that worked.

Our singer is really coming into his own...he never seems to sing things the same way twice though, which makes comp's quite interesting. I think we had something like 8-12 takes to choose from for drum, bass, guitar, vocal performance, and I tried to comp together the ones that had:
  1. The right lyrics...yeah, I know there's not that many words to this tune, yet for some reason microphones seem to induce temporary amnesia in vocalists
  2. Good pitch
  3. Good timing
  4. The most emotional impact/response
#4 is the big one IMO, and trumps 2&3.
 

dougb415

Member
Messages
9,824
I watched on YT. Nice song! Level seems fine, I have no problems with the drums. Bass, however, seems almost non-existent. There's a low wooly sound, but there is no definition. Keys and guitar are way cool.

The lo-def video made my eyes hurt tho.
 

slayerbear17

Member
Messages
3,160
Really enjoyed the song. Nothing really stood out as a major problem, Bass seems to be the one thing that's buried or non existent in the mix, or least what I can hear.

Bottom end, maybe less bottom end might have lead to more dynamics? Seems to rumble along.

We always use hoomuns, that way if theres a problem there's also accountability, never had any problems so far.

Great job!
 

ADF

Member
Messages
80
I tried LANDR recently and hated it.

I’d recommend people get in touch with Tom Waltz. My bands have used him a few times, and it’s been great. He’s legit, big name clients, absolute top dollar analog gear, but mastering is only $60/song.

https://www.waltzmastering.com/
Thanks for sharing, as I've been looking for someone like that.

His prices also decrease with more songs. For instance, 5 songs ( which I'll need in a couple of months) is only $250. His turnaround time is great, too.

 

Bigsby

Member
Messages
1,243
I tried LANDR recently and hated it.

I’d recommend people get in touch with Tom Waltz. My bands have used him a few times, and it’s been great. He’s legit, big name clients, absolute top dollar analog gear, but mastering is only $60/song.

https://www.waltzmastering.com/
Wow. That's a great tip. Thanks. Their stem mastering might be a good bridge into getting a more professional sounding mix.
 

Billinder33

Member
Messages
1,755
I recently read an couple of excellent threads on a 'slutty' website's Mastering forum, where serious industry people often post. Basically the conversation was about streaming services and their loudness recommendations, and the general consensus was....

All these streaming sites are trying to dictate different LUFs/RMS levels for their platforms, but many well respected industry ME's are choosing to deliver a single master targeted for standard CD (commonly around -9 LUFs, YMMV) and letting the platforms deal with it as is.

The theory is.. it's incumbent upon the platforms to deal with historical recordings that were made before the era of streaming services in the most optimal way possible, and so for them to expect an already established recording industry with established standards to bend to the recommendation of each individual streaming service and deliver separate masters for each platform is ridiculous and so they are generally creating the most optimal masters they can and letting the platforms deal with it. And the real world outcome is that the commercial releases targeted at hot CD levels are still kicking ass on the streaming services sonically, whereas when MEs try to level match to the platforms, they are often coming in quieter and not better off in terms of dynamics than the MEs that are ignoring the platform's LUFs recommendations.

I am not a ME and I have no dog in this fight, but I have tinkered with this some and haven't really been happy with AI masters. They are no better than my own, and my own very much not great. And AI masters targeted at specific services LUF ratings don't seem to outperform commercial releases. This is a nut that I'm currently working on cracking, but if I had something critical I wanted to release, at this stage I'd absolutely pay for a human ME with a good rep over using a platform's automated AI mastering service. Let that ME crank out the most optimal master for CD, and let the streaming services chips fall where they may.
 
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jmoose

Member
Messages
4,726
Yeah, the snare got killed by the LANDR limiter, and it doesn't poke through the way I wanted to. But I'm not sure if that's the issue you're hearing. If you have more feedback I'm all ears. I had brought the bass down after the first couple LANDR trial masters...mostly because in car systems the D note just stuck out like a sore thumb. The bass is def living below the kick, but my intent was that it would fill up the space around it...guess it didn't quite do that :)

Interesting that it struck you how dry the mix was...guess I've been on a bit of a pendulum trying to get away from FX heavy sounds from my earlier days. Maybe it's swung too far the other way.
Don't take anything I said too seriously, it was only a single listen on the TV room soundbar so not exactly ideal for critical listening! I'd have to give it another spin in the shop to have any sort of real opinion vs first impression.

Not sure about the snare vs limiter. That can always be a factor but it was a sense of tone & space it was occupying in the mix. Same thing with the dryness. With the big synth pad and so on the overall song felt a little upfront rather then relaxed?

And yeah, the best thing would've been to import the landr master back into a DAW and look at it with actual meters... but that doesn't really tell the whole story... if it was affecting mid/side processing and so on. Overall level is only one factor.

From what I gather things like Landr are better for people who are less critical and looking for a quick, inexpensive result. And I guess if you don't like what you get back from that process you have limited options to adjust things, one of which is going to be adjust your mix so it reacts differently but that seems like a game of playing grab ass in the dark to me.

With an actual person at the controls for mixing & mastering things tend to be more streamlined...

You might get the masters back and say hey, there's a pumpy thing going on with the bass drum that I don't like but I do like the detail pulled out of the midrange. A solid engineer takes that feedback makes adjustments on their end and goes ok, here's another pass.

I sorta have the impression, right or wrong that a lot of these automated mix & master processes are sort of like the Orban Optimod in the radio world. Where no matter what you feed it there's going to be an amount of processing happening to put the music into a narrow column of "sounds good"

Its the musical equivalent of churning out fast food cheeseburgers. Which, its a way to make records I guess.
 




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