If you are at all interested in audio production, and you have visited the internet in the last five to ten years, you are aware of "the loudness war" which is the tendency of modern music to use peak limiters to achieve maximum perceived loudness in order to "beat" other pieces of modern music.  The idea is that louder music will sell more (a hypothesis that has since been scientifically tested and found false), so record companies have been pushing producers and mastering engineers to sacrifice dynamics for more and more loudness, even to the point of distortion and other negative audible artifacts.

What you may not have heard is that we are about to see the end of this war! All the current major music providers -- Apple Music, Spotify, and now even Youtube -- are using automatic Loudness Normalization, because their most common complaints from users are about the differences in volume between different songs. In other words, you can smash a song with as many limiters as you want to try to get it louder than everyone else, and Spotify, Apple Music, and Youtube will just turn the playback volume down for your song to match everyone else.

This is great news for music fans and audio engineers alike because if we don't have to sacrifice dynamics to try and compete for loudness, we can maintain dynamics in the music we create. We can master more quietly, and the transient response of our music will translate beautifully, the way we intended. Said another way, it is now officially a terrible idea to squash the dynamics out of your music; not only does it carry absolutely no benefit (as was already the case before), but when placed on a level playing field with other music, louder music will now be perceived as equally loud and lacking in energy and dynamics.

If this was a war, the general for the side of dynamics was mastering engineer Ian Shepard. See his video below, showing real examples of how this works.

AuthorThomas Dulin