The Loudness War Killed by Streaming?


With new advances in streaming and volume normalization becoming standardized in a growing number of platforms, is the loudness war becoming redundant? Hopefully, but if you check the dynamic range in the majority of major label releases, you will still see the loudness war alive and well.

There are tracks coming out all the time with noticeable clipping and distortion. They have wave forms that look like sausages and it makes me scratch my head wondering what the hell are they thinking. It makes no sense.

I listened to one of Metallica's newest albums and it sounded like complete shit. Not because the music was bad but it was compressed to the point that it was laughable. Out of curiosity I checked the levels, and it had an average dynamic range of like 5db with parts pushing 2-3db. To put that in perspective, the old Edison phonographs could handle more dynamics then that in 1877.

The music industry lost it's way. I can't even imagine the position of the mastering engineers when they get a major label release at their door, and the mix is already hot. Then they are encouraged to push it balls to the wall. I've talked to some mastering engineers that have worked on some pretty big tracks and they've told me privately that they are not proud of that work but they needed the money.

To me that doesn't make sense. When you have experts that are passionate about music and have decades of experience, not proud of what's going on, then something needs to change. Don't get me wrong, not every musician, producer, mastering engineer, label, ect is compressing the shit out of their music and releasing it like that. There are still people focusing on making music sound great, even if they don't necessarily get the headlines.

I think as volume normalization in streaming applications becomes more standard, the focus will shift back to dynamics. Putting an end to this pointless "war." Maybe there will be standardized number like say 8-10 db of dynamic range, but who knows what these jokers at the majors will do next. They have no love for the music, only money.

I've heard all their arguments for compressing the life out of the music. "It sounds better in a car" or "people like the sound of compressed music." Get real. It's about money and the thought there's a correlation between compression and perceived quality. The more "quality" the higher potential to make more money. Streaming sales will be their only motivation to ever change.

Hopefully the biggest casualty of the loudness war is the short sighted major label business model. It's no secret the legacy artists still pull in a lot of their money, but will the next generation of legacy tracks hold up to the test of time or will they be an unprofitable joke? Only time will tell.

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