Old 06-13-2019, 08:52 PM   #1
ryannn29
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Default Distribution services that allow multiple masters

Hey all,
I'm just about ready to release my first album after completing my mastering. However, I was investigating distribution services like CDBaby that distribute to all the streaming and download platforms (plus perform other royalty services). However, it seems that you can only upload one file per song. This seems like a bad idea since CD target levels are -9 LUFS and -14 LUFS for streaming.

If I upload my streaming master for downloads/CDs, it's going to be ridiculously quieter than any other bands in my genre, and if I upload my CD/download master for streaming, it'll be squashed to the stone age to shave off those ~5 decibels, give or take.

Does anyone know of distribution services that do allow uploading two masters rather than just one?
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Old 06-13-2019, 09:11 PM   #2
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It shouldn't matter.

-14 LUFS is emerging as the new standard, and that's almost entirely a good thing. The only time where it's not a good thing is with music that has even greater dynamic range. But -14 is pretty good for just about everything except symphonic music and so on.

the supposed "advantages" of having a "loud" CD were always limited to pretty specific circumstances that are increasingly nonexistent. Specifically and especially, "loud" CDs had an advantage in CD players set to "shuffle" and in physical jukeboxes lacking any kind of compression or loudness-matching. In virtually any other real-world scenario, the record would either go through some kind of human or automated loudness-matching, or it wouldn't matter because the listener would be listening in a scenario with per-record volume control adjustments.

The one screaming exception, which was always stupid and should never have mattered but did, for all the wrong reasons, was in the office CD player of record-industry execs. If an ignorant exec popped in your CD and it was 6dB "quieter" than the previous one, it sounded weaker, smaller, etc, and might get shit-canned. Which was always stupid, but it was a reality that existed some of the time, which led to everyone flat-lining their CDs to be as loud as possible.

Now that nobody listens to CDs anymore, it doesn't matter. If your record sounds best with a 9dB swing between peak and average, go ahead and make it that way, and it won't matter on streaming because you weren't getting anything out of the extra 5dB of headroom anyway, and your record will play back at the same apparent loudness as everyone else.

OTOH, if your record sounds best with a full 14dB of dynamic swing, go ahead and make the record and print the CDs that way. Industry execs don't listen to CDs anymore, they listen to iTunes which normalizes to around -14 LUFS.
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Old 06-14-2019, 09:47 PM   #3
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Thanks for tips. Although, iTunes only normalizes their streaming to -14 LUFS, definitely not their downloads. I converted a few tracks and through them in Reaper and could clearly see they were playing around -6 to -7 LUFS.

And that's my problem. It's not just CDs, but downloads that are still at these levels, and downloads are still a large portion of the music industry. It's hard decision to release my music -14 LUFS knowing I'll significantly quieter than every other band that someone's listening to in my genre, but I guess I'll just have to weigh the pro's and con's. I just wish there was a distribution service that understand the problem and actually offered solutions to it.
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Old 06-15-2019, 02:38 AM   #4
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I don't get why you would want your song to sound different depending on how it's delivered.
You want people to hear your track with higher dynamics while streaming but to then receive a much more limited master when they download?

The only thing happening on streaming site is lowering of volume to meet the spec.
Any squashing to stone age has been done by you in the mastering.
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Old 06-16-2019, 08:37 AM   #5
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The main reason is that you get to control how your music is lowered (or raised), rather than subjecting it to the the algorithms that streaming sites use to normalize your music. I personally have spent a long time on my music and I certainly do not want the output to be different than what I mastered it to be myself.

There are many articles on the internet as to why you would want to do this:
https://www.matthewgraymastering.com...-for-streaming
https://www.masteringthemix.com/blog...fy-and-youtube
https://www.musicradar.com/how-to/ho...nload-services
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Old 06-16-2019, 09:16 AM   #6
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My guess is Bandcamp will eventually be the first. Right now, no one.

The best option (and Bandcamp fully supports doing this) is to host your additional master content yourself in a cloud account. Give it a share link. Include a text, pdf, or html file as the "additional bonus item" with the download of your standard master.

The idea is they let you include a document or pictures as a bonus file with the download. Make that bonus file a link.

This lets you sell a single album in all formats and avoids the greedy look of selling different quality versions of your master individually.

For example, give Bandcamp the 24 bit 44.1k stereo master files for the main download. Host the 24 bit HD stereo and 5.1 surround masters yourself and include the download link with the 24 bit stereo SD download.

3 masters is kind of what happens right now.
Full HD stereo. Full HD 5.1 surround. Boosted CD. (Mp3's are made from the boosted CD.)

The boosted CD version hopefully will go away one day. Everyone would be better off for it. But the consumers with volume war CD collections get confused sad faces if you hand them a CD that isn't LOUD and BRIGHT.
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Old 06-16-2019, 09:20 AM   #7
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Quote:
I personally have spent a long time on my music and I certainly do not want the output to be different than what I mastered it to be myself.
Neither you or the streaming service has ANY control over the listener's volume control!


You can control the dynamics of the CD and the streaming version.


You can control the relative loudness of the CD. The streaming service can control the relative loudness of the stream (within certain limits), but the listener determines the actual "listening" volume.
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Old 06-16-2019, 09:24 AM   #8
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Some good advice by Ian Shepherd on using a single master for all services here...

http://productionadvice.co.uk/how-loud/

I haven't purchased his Loudness Penalty meter yet but I probably will soon.
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Old 06-16-2019, 10:01 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by ryannn29 View Post
The main reason is that you get to control how your music is lowered (or raised), rather than subjecting it to the the algorithms that streaming sites use to normalize your music. I personally have spent a long time on my music and I certainly do not want the output to be different than what I mastered it to be myself.
But the output is not different. The way you say "subjecting to algorithms" suggests you think there is some kind of compression or limiting, but in general they are simply analysing volume and changing gain.
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Old 06-16-2019, 07:38 PM   #10
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Find the sweet spot and use one master that will last a lifetime.
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Old 06-17-2019, 06:07 AM   #11
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Find the sweet spot and use one master that will last a lifetime.
That's exactly what I'm doing for my CD Baby releases.
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Old 06-17-2019, 09:40 AM   #12
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For stereo vs surround, I'm of the very strong opinion that the surround mix should be separate with absolutely no intention of compromise to make it still work if folded down to stereo.

For different levels of limiting...
In my world, any portable device that required a more crushed dynamic range would do the damage itself and just play from the 'one size fits all' full quality master.

But it's not my world, so I make the 24 bit original sample rate master "proper" with no extra crushing. Streaming services are normalizing to -12 LUFS these days, so the full quality master hitting anywhere from -16 to -13 LUFS is actually just fine for that. Give them the volume war CD version and it will just (thankfully) be turned down.

A lot of streaming content comes from hyped CD versions though FYI. Your client may still choose to use the hyped CD version (if you're doing that) for the streaming services so it has that similar piercing sound quality.

The CD has turned into the lo-fi delivery method in recent times. Bludgeon it with limiting and shrill treble boosting if your client needs to hear a CD sounding like the rest of their CDs. Most people expect the mp3 to be a copy of the bludgeoned CD audio. So do that too.


Everybody has what they expect at the end of the day and are happy.
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Old 06-17-2019, 01:52 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by ReaDave View Post
That's exactly what I'm doing for my CD Baby releases.
A good idea.

Mastering something to -14 LUFS (or whatever) and then doing a loud master to -9 LUFS (or that neighborhood) will sound pretty different. Not just in level obviously, but the limiting required to get that louder version will change the relationship between the melodic and percussive elements either a little bit, or a lot as well as other characteristics usually for worse.

Doing what's best for the material, and not catering to a streaming service, or chasing the loudness of somebody else's ridiculous loud bad decision, or a masterfully loud master done by world class mixing and mastering engineers is just not a good idea.

Just make your material sound as good as possible in digital full scale and live life.

Surround sound (as mentioned above) is an entirely different thing that I didn't think was relevant to this thread.
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Old 06-17-2019, 02:49 PM   #14
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Just released an EP to all major services using distrokid which was relatively painless tbh (first time using it)
and I just gave them the 24bit 48k flacs I have been rendering everything out to and didn't worry about anything else.


Now - bearing in mind this was my own material so I could afford to choose to prioritize mastering for 'mix translation' above volume compared to X, so I stopped caring much about overall volume and as long as they translated across systems and had the Dynamics I wanted I was happy.

For client material different parameters may apply and hitting targets and the such may be a necessity, but tbh if the mix is working on earbuds, a little BT speaker and your HiFi, I'm inclined to stuff loudness concerns.
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Old 06-17-2019, 10:21 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by ryannn29 View Post
Thanks for tips. Although, iTunes only normalizes their streaming to -14 LUFS, definitely not their downloads. I converted a few tracks and through them in Reaper and could clearly see they were playing around -6 to -7 LUFS...
You are misunderstanding what's going on.

iTunes player is taking those files that are -6 LUFS and turning them down 8db on playback so they play back at the same relative loudness as a track recorded at -14 LUFS.

the difference is, on itunes, the track recorded at -14 will have peak drum hits and so on that actually impact a full 14dB above average, while the track recorded with a 6dB swing will have the same apparent volume, but with less dynamic impact and variation.

itunes is not adding more dynamics, it's just turning down flatter records until they are the same apparent loudness as "spiky"/dynamic records. Which means there is no reason to flatten your records for itunes. The dynamic records will sound better, and the flattened records will sound worse, and will not get any loudness advantage, when played on itunes.

Same with spotify, pandora, youtube, and increasingly all the major playback platforms. It's not that they care about audio quality or dynamic range, it's that their customers complain if some songs play back quieter than others. The only real way for these digital playback services to match playback levels song-to-song, is to turn down the loud, flatlined songs.

The playback platforms (finally, god bless them) want everything to come out of the speakers at about the same apparent volume, because their customers complain when one song plays back twice as loud as everything else.

If you kill all your dynamic range to try and make your record louder, the playback systems people use are (finally) just turning it down. Which means "loud" records no longer sound "loud", just flat and static. The loud and powerful-sounding stuff is the stuff with big dynamic swings, uncompressed drums, etc.
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Old 06-20-2019, 09:43 AM   #16
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A good idea.

Mastering something to -14 LUFS (or whatever) and then doing a loud master to -9 LUFS (or that neighborhood) will sound pretty different. Not just in level obviously, but the limiting required to get that louder version will change the relationship between the melodic and percussive elements either a little bit, or a lot as well as other characteristics usually for worse.

Doing what's best for the material, and not catering to a streaming service, or chasing the loudness of somebody else's ridiculous loud bad decision, or a masterfully loud master done by world class mixing and mastering engineers is just not a good idea.

Just make your material sound as good as possible in digital full scale and live life.

Surround sound (as mentioned above) is an entirely different thing that I didn't think was relevant to this thread.
As a fellow mastering engineer (one of my main hats), I fully agree with all you've said here.
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Old 06-21-2019, 05:44 AM   #17
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The one screaming exception, which was always stupid and should never have mattered but did, for all the wrong reasons, was in the office CD player of record-industry execs. If an ignorant exec popped in your CD and it was 6dB "quieter" than the previous one, it sounded weaker, smaller, etc, and might get shit-canned. Which was always stupid, but it was a reality that existed some of the time, which led to everyone flat-lining their CDs to be as loud as possible.
The reason why is because it takes a lot more skill to make a loud master that still sounds great than it does to make quieter masters. Almost anybody can make a mix sound good when it isn't anywhere close to redlining. Your drums can be so punchy that way, without having to use advanced mixing techniques. "Just turn your volume up when my music plays" we say.

This is why so many people struggled/struggle with the volume wars.

It's really hard to do what albums by bands like Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age do with those incredibly loud albums that still sound great. It takes more advanced mixing techniques to make these loud albums that still sound punchy. That's why the exec's associate them with quality - because it is. The best most knowledgeable people are making those records, while the rest of us are here posting on internet forums and wondering why/how....
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Old 07-19-2019, 10:39 PM   #18
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The reason why is because it takes a lot more skill to make a loud master that still sounds great than it does to make quieter masters. Almost anybody can make a mix sound good when it isn't anywhere close to redlining. Your drums can be so punchy that way, without having to use advanced mixing techniques. "Just turn your volume up when my music plays" we say.

This is why so many people struggled/struggle with the volume wars.

It's really hard to do what albums by bands like Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age do with those incredibly loud albums that still sound great. It takes more advanced mixing techniques to make these loud albums that still sound punchy. That's why the exec's associate them with quality - because it is. The best most knowledgeable people are making those records, while the rest of us are here posting on internet forums and wondering why/how....
Mastering "loud" is definitely a skill, but it's increasingly an irrelevant one.

It no longer matters whether your master still sounds "just as good" but a few dB louder. The acid test is now whether is still genuinely sounds "just as good" when it's been turned back down to the same average RMS or LUFS as everybody else. And a lot of the "hot masters" from the CD era don't hold up very well, by that standard. Bloodsugarsexmagic sounds kind of puny and flat compared with a solo acoustic folk piece on spotify.
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Old 07-20-2019, 07:40 AM   #19
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Some good advice by Ian Shepherd on using a single master for all services here...

http://productionadvice.co.uk/how-loud/

I haven't purchased his Loudness Penalty meter yet but I probably will soon.
I like this guys philosophy on this - it allows quiet music to be quiet(er) than the cookie cutter levels prescribed these days.
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