Volume. It's not my enemy, but it is every once in a while. It comes with the territory, but honestly, the game is changing with volume to many listeners, but many people don't understand because it's happening behind the curtain.
Here's the deal: Streaming services are playing songs back at different volume than what you send them. They are measuring songs, and matching them to a set scale of perceived volume (READ: softer). For the past number of years, CD's were the only game in VolumeTown, but the world is moving on in some ways, and it's time that we talk about what that means and make the best choices we can for the respective formats. I don't mind 'loud' at all. I actually feel like 'loud' has a tonality to it that is really a blast - but there is definitely a line there.
If streaming services like AppleMusic or Spotify are turning things down, then, logically, the loudest elements in your song are being turned down. Furthermore - If you want an extremely loud master of your song - the loudest elements end up being very close in volume to the softest elements, so it is all, collectively, turned down and ends up being softer as a whole. That's because the range of volume, or, the dynamic range, is small. If you have a softer song - it, conversely, will be turned up to their standards. Since their standards are, to explain it quickly, a sort of 'average volume' - there is a middle ground... where you land closer to the standards of streaming playback... Big punchy drums are a little more punchy, and the softer elements are still loud and clear. Overall - it is the same volume as if you asked me to make it too loud, but it sounds better. Songs are volume matched, but some seem to do it with ease, have more punch, more definition, and/or have more dimension/space around them. (Again - this post is specifically about music files that are being streamed...)
What does all of this mean? It means that we should consider the future of the music we make. I've been thinking about starting to offer an additional version of each song that is a little bit softer, and closer to the standards of streaming services. This would be in addition to the normal competitive version that would be on CD and for purchase online, but, to be honest, I don't want to hand you a pile of files and make it more confusing, so I'd love to know your thoughts as an artist or producer. Would that be useful? Or just confusing? My goal is to have the best end product that people hear - and that's it. Let me know your thoughts below!
****What you shouldn't read into this, is that I don't like physical products like CDs/Vinyl/Cassettes. I LOVE holding a physical album, looking at the artwork, and reading the credits about who was involved, and this whole post is about music that people stream. I think physical products are amazing, and often are a sustaining force in artists continuing to make music. Please buy music you enjoy listening to. RANT. DONE.****