Why is music always better when it is louder

"Loudness War" on songsEnough With the Maxing out the maximum volume

In the battle for listeners, the music industry and radio producers have been fighting for loudness for years - the "Loudness War". With the help of Spotify, it might be over soon.

Until the late 1980s, music was produced dynamically. In other words: The contrast between loud and soft sounds was very great. For example, a drum beat sounded very clear and clean. But that has changed.

In order to attract attention in the globalized music market, labels wanted to stand out with their artists - at the expense of dynamism. That's why the music got louder and louder. It wasn't the volume that changed, but the loudness.

Difference in volume and loudness

Holger Schulze, professor of musicology at the University of Copenhagen and sound studies researcher, says: "Volume is a strictly physically measurable category. But not everything that can be measured physically sounds exactly the same. Loudness is one Category that describes what we actually hear. And that can be very different from what is actually sent out physically. "

This is due to our hearing aid and our individual hearing training:

"Loudness plays with the fact that there are certain acoustic phenomena and illusions that can make recordings appear louder than they actually are."
Holger Schulze, professor of musicology and sound studies researcher

The strategy: the last time the music is edited, it is compressed so that it sounds even louder. The quiet passages are simply amplified, so the level is artificially raised - the extreme peaks are cut.

Whoops, the song sounds a lot louder overall, says Holger Schulze. At some point it established itself and developed into a war over loudness: the "Loudness War".

Max out the limit

For many, the "warmonger" is the EU hearing protection regulation EN 50332. It determines the maximum volume at which we can listen to music, e.g. on our smartphone or tablet. The producers wanted to push this limit to the max. The consequence: everything sounds the same.

The video and music streaming services want to change that. After YouTube, Tidal and Apple Music, Spotify now also voluntarily lowers the loudness by reducing the average volume by three decibels. Pieces produced very loudly are simply made quieter - and beheaded if necessary. Music professor Keshav Purushotham is relieved:

"Fortunately, now I don't have to artificially produce everything so high in order to somehow keep up, but can concentrate more on the dynamics and the quiet passages breathe more again. That's what makes our music so special."
Keshav Purushotham, record producer, DJ and singer

Purushotham hopes industry leader Spotify's decision will end the "loudness war" on the internet. However, it is still being fought out on the radio. The broadcasters try to outdo each other when it comes to the acoustic pressure of music. And advertising blocks should also often stand out. Everyone knows: Turn down the volume after a moderation because the music is so much louder. But here, too, there are proposals to change that.