Now that revenue from audio streaming services is higher than all other music delivery formats combined, it’s even more important to understand the impact that streaming has on audio production and how best to optimise our mixes to make the most of the way streaming services deliver our content to the consumer.
In this series of 3 articles and free video tutorials in conjunction with Nugen Audio, our own loudness guru Mike Thornton takes you through the history, why loudness is important for music, and how to prepare your mixes ready for music streaming services.
How Loud Is Too Loud?
Streaming platforms now play everything out at the same loudness. Because streaming playlists often have many songs from different artists, time periods and genres, they match the loudness of each song from one to the next in order to avoid the listener having to constantly reach for the volume control. This is achieved by a process called loudness normalisation.
Loudness normalisation works by analysing the entire song for its average loudness, and then turning it up or down to a set level for the system, so everything comes out, on average, at more-or-less the same loudness.
Does Loudness Normalisation Matter?
In one sense, no. After all, loudness normalisation is simply a level offset applied to the entire song, turning it up or down. There is no dynamics processing and it will sound exactly the same, just as if the playlist has an automatic volume control that only changes once, in-between tracks. Loudness normalisation does NOT mean the whole track comes out at the same volume, so that there is no light and shade. Far from it, because we no longer need to compress the tracks to make them sound louder, we can reintroduce dynamic range to our tracks and get back that lost light and shade.
In another sense, however, there is a lot to consider. If your music (previously peaking the codec at 0dBTP) is turned down, it will now peak at a lower level. If you are used to heavily compressing and limiting your audio, it could be turned down 6dB or more! That means 6dB of unused headroom you could have used for more transient detail and punch – or not, the choice is yours. The most important element here is to be informed so you make the creative decision, instead of losing out either by not understanding the process or by fruitlessly trying to push louder than the loudness target and we will explore that in another video in much more detail
In the next 2 articles we are going to show you in more detail how you can prepare your content to get great sounding mixes that will translate well to streaming services.