Does Louder Music Sell Better?

The Answer May Surprise You      16/02/11

Earl Vickers, Principal Audio Algorithm Engineer at STMicroelectronics, put together this excellent presentation on the Loudness War for the 129th AES Convention in San Francisco.

The presentation discusses the audible effects of hypercompression and looks at the loudness war in terms of game theory. After presenting evidence questioning the idea that louder recordings sell better, Vickers suggests some possible ways to de-escalate the loudness war.

Along the way, Vickers makes some interesting points:

  • Loudness is not correlated with sales figures;
  • Loudness has almost no affect on listener’s preferences when comparing different songs;
  • Listeners tend to dislike the side-effects of hyper-compression, and prefer more dynamic music; and
  • Content trumps loudness, especially on the radio

The most mind-boggling fact that Vickers brings up, though, is that today's heavily compressed recordings actually have lower dynamic range than recordings made on Edison Cylinders a century ago. 

Vickers has additional information and audio demos at his site. 


James Lewin

Twitter @podcasting_news


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5 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
Alex    Said...

It makes total sense that listeners don't prefer louder music. The question is, what about radio play? Are stations/DJs more likely to play louder music?

16-Feb-11 09:57 AM

ChucK    Said...

'Tis nice to see/hear an intelligent analysis regarding the loudness issue.

16-Feb-11 10:02 AM

Nick B    Said...

I think its a lot to do with playback devices, wether it be radio, mobile phone, or headphones with background noise going on. Many of these devices have poor dynamic range themselves and are also playing in noisy environments, in a car (engine) on MP3 devices, with the outside world, and phones with,well jut a really crap speaker system.

The fact that radio stations made a loud multiband compressed sound that people grew to like over the 80's and nineties, also may have had something to do with it too.

16-Feb-11 06:49 PM

PierreD    Said...

These arguments and solutions have been popping up online, what, five years now? RMS numbers are still going up and playback device compressors or HD editions of overcompressed tracks still aren't showing up. The recording industry just isn't listening (hearing?), presumably due to chronic head-up-the-lower-intestine syndrome.

No surprise though. With the declining artistic quality of most of today's pop, major labels' only hope seems to be a semi-deaf audience.

16-Feb-11 08:03 PM

Compis Mentis    Said...

Fantastic presentation!

This is the real truth about music. Well articulated and researched. I'm going to dig out my Eagles Greatest Hits CD now and use it as a comparison track from here on in!! DOWN WITH SMASHTERING! DOWN WITH SMASHTERING!

18-Feb-11 02:36 PM

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