Should You Master for Different Digital Platforms? Read This to Decide.
Mastering your music can feel like a real victory, especially if you’re planning to put your music on streaming sites or make your music available for download.
One of the biggest questions musicians face these days regarding mastering and streaming sites is whether creating different masters for different platforms makes sense. After all, different platforms have different requirements, so wouldn’t it make sense to create a unique master to adhere to the standards of each one? You want your music to sound its best, so what happens if you only create one master?
In my opinion, creating a different master for each streaming platform isn’t exactly the best idea. Read on as I explain why.
Streaming platforms employ normalization
First things first, it’s important to understand that virtually all streaming platforms employ normalization. What this means is that your master is going to have its volume level automatically adjusted by each platform regardless of your mastering choices.
This isn’t to say that mastering isn’t important. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Any final master that you upload to a streaming platform or digital download site needs to be the best sounding master for the song. Each song will have a unique loudness potential based on the genre, arrangement, mix style, and dynamic preferences. The mastering engineer will work out the best and most appropriate loudness level for the song regardless of the normalization applied by the streaming platforms.
Hence, creating different masters for different platforms isn’t necessary to achieve the right listening volume levels. Various behind-the-scenes processes will handle this part for you, so it shouldn’t be the reason you decide to pursue different versions of a master.
Platform Standards Evolve
Another reason why it’s not necessary to create masters specific for each streaming platform is that each platform is always adjusting their normalization standards and algorithms. This means that even if you tailor a master for a particular platform, you may have to go back again later to re-master your tracks if the platform makes a change to its requirements. This, of course, is time-consuming and can lead to unnecessary costs.
Speaking of Costs
Professional mastering services completed by a qualified mastering engineer can vary in cost, but ultimately, they will add up as you require more time spent on a project. The bottom line is that creating separate masters for different platforms will end up costing you more in the long run. The more tracks and the more streaming platforms you’re uploading to, the more money you’re going to spend.
How Many Masters Can You Upload?
It’s also worth noting that most distributors only allow one version of a track to be included with your contract or sales agreement. CD Baby comes to mind on this matter, but other platforms follow the same guidelines.
This means that you’re going to need to spend more on paid submissions to upload different versions of each track. So once again, check your wallet because more money just flew out of it.
You also don’t want to confuse your fans by uploading different versions. If someone hears one version of a master on a streaming service and then visits an online store to purchase a download of the same track, they’re probably going to be a bit disappointed if the downloaded version sounds slightly different than the streamed version. Once again, you want to provide a consistent experience across all platforms, and having only one master that sounds great will help you do this.
So, What Should You Do?
Given that making separate masters is going to be more expensive, will take more time, is unlikely to make much of a difference in how your tracks sound, and can become complicated, you’re encouraged to avoid this approach.
Instead, take the time needed and spend your money to get the best master possible from a great mix. Use this master for all of your streaming and download platforms, as the volume will be normalized anyway. If algorithms change, your audio will already receive adjustments from the platforms themselves.
Hi, I’m Cefe, a professional mastering engineer based in Sydney, Australia, offering online mastering services to indie artists, labels, and producers. My passion is helping new artists break through and support them in their music journey. You can check out my work and request a free test master at cefeflynnmastering.com.