While working with music, we are exposed to a lot of misinformation, especially when it comes to mastering levels. Many online influencers and so-called “experts” advise independent music producers to aim for a loudness of -14LUFS in their final mixes, claiming that this is the industry standard. However, the truth is that most commercial music is actually mastered to a much louder level, which puts independent producers at a disadvantage.
The reason why this matters it that the loudness of a track can have a significant impact on how it is perceived by listeners. Generally speaking, louder tracks tend to sound more exciting and energetic, which is why many producers aim to make their tracks as loud as possible. However, pushing a mix too hard in order to achieve a higher loudness can lead to a number of issues, such as distortion, loss of dynamics, and a generally unpleasant listening experience.
So why do mainstream influencers preach a loudness level of -14LUFS as a sacred rule? One reason could be that they simply don’t know any better. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and many “experts” are simply regurgitating what they have heard without really understanding the science behind it. Another reason could be that they are intentionally trying to keep independent producers out of the competition. By promoting a lower loudness level, they are essentially telling independent producers to aim for a subpar standard, which makes it harder for them to compete with commercial releases.
The reality is that most commercial releases are mastered to a loudness level of -9LUFS or higher. This level of loudness is achieved through a combination of careful mix balance, dynamic range control, and advanced mastering techniques. It’s not simply a matter of turning everything up to 11 and hoping for the best.
So what can independent producers do to compete with commercial releases? The first step is to aim for a loudness level of at least -9LUFS in their final mixes. This can be achieved through careful mix balance and dynamic range control, as well as using advanced mastering techniques such as multiband compression and limiting.
However, it’s important to remember that loudness is not the be-all and end-all of music production. A track that is too loud can be just as unappealing as a track that is too quiet. Ultimately, the goal should be to create a balanced mix that sounds great at any volume level.
The idea that independent music producers should always aim for a lower loudness level of -14LUFS is simply incorrect. While this may be a useful starting point for beginners, it’s important to understand that most commercial releases are mastered to much higher loudness levels. By aiming for a higher loudness level and using advanced mastering techniques, independent producers can create competitive tracks that stand up against commercial releases. Now, every time someone comes to you preaching practices about mastering to -14LUFS, nod and go your own way, being free to experiment however you like.