LUFS target for general music streaming

Hi M. Merrill,
what is your target in terms of lufs intended for general distribution on platforms like applemusic depending on the genre obviously?

Forget about numbers, reach for what the song needs and to the point where it sounds best.

Hi Pierre,

Sebastian10 asked a similar question, so I’m incorporating some of my reply here.
The target will vary according to the potential of each song. For records with full instrumentation playing most of the time, I aim for around -8 LUFS or a -6dB penalty with meter plugs loudness penalty. For records that are sparser in instrumentation, lesser penalties work better, as otherwise it may be (way) over compressed. You have to listen in proportion. I try to keep the vocal level as consistent as possible across an album, within my ability to do so, as it’s arguably the main thing people will listen to. Imagine how it would sound in a live concert setting. A piano vocal ballad wouldn’t sound as loud as a full band banger, so I incorporate this thought process into mastering. As streaming has become the dominant way of consumption, the loudness of mastering for CD or download isn’t as necessary, and can be a disadvantage as loudness normalization algorithms on the DSP’s lower the volume of records the more they are pushed. This penalty is generally not a 1:1 ratio, so there’s a sweet spot where pushing it up to a certain amount can sound better than if you leave it more dynamic. It’s really a game of trying different loudness levels for a song, measuring the penalties, and comparing them with the penalty level in place (post limiter), and picking the one that translates the best. The recommendation to master at -14 LUFS doesn’t work for modern music and recording/mixing techniques, but levels above -8 or -7 LUFS have diminishing returns. The streaming platforms have become a nice way of reclaiming dynamics as compared to the CD and download era, and once they all can play back native resolution, all of the details of recordings will be available to hear.
I’m not a fan of mastering by numbers, but I’ve found that it has helped me in cases where I’ve measured the loudness and found I could push something a little more and still have it sound good, or the opposite where my initial reaction was to push it harder, but later decided after measurement that it would sound better backed off.

Thank you. Hope this helps.

Best Regards,