YouTube loudness normalisation – The Good, The Questions and The Problem

youtube loudness
 
So, yesterday was the big headline:

YouTube just put the final nail in the Loudness War’s coffin

And the news has had a fantastic, positive response from almost everyone.

But there’s a problem, as I mentioned.

And I’ll get to that in a minute.
 

Before we start

First, I should be clear that everything here is based on research and speculation. As far as I know, there has been no official word from YouTube about normalisation at all. Which means…
 

This is a moving (dynamic ?) target

Some of what I say here will probably be wrong, or go out of date really fast. But for now, here’s what (I think) we know.

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YouTube just put the final nail in the Loudness War’s coffin

youtube-loudness
 
This is HUGE.

It may not look like much, but if you’re involved in music production, recording, mixing or mastering, this image could be the most important thing you’ll see all year.
 

What is it ?

It’s the loudness output of a YouTube playlist, as measured by the MeterPlugs LCast loudness meter.
 

So what ?

First – it’s quiet. The loudness levels are all quite low, especially by modern “loudness war” standards.

Second – it’s very consistent. More importantly than the low loudness, they’re almost all playing at the same loudness.
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What do these four massive chart hits all have in common, APART from Pharrell ?


 
“Get Lucky”

“Blurred Lines”

“Happy”

“Uptown Funk”

Four of the biggest hits of the last couple of years, maybe even THE biggest – in fact “Uptown Funk” is already on course to be the biggest seller of 2015.

What do they all have in common, apart from Pharrell ?

(OK, he didn’t actually have anything to do with “Uptown Funk”, but he HAS worked with Mark Ronson recently…)

Melody ? Hooks ? Groove ?

Sure, but that’s true of any pop hit, and always has been.

The less obvious answer ?

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Why your online discussions about mastering are probably pointless

elephant-in-the-mastering-studio

There’s a huge amount of discussion about mastering issues online these days – and most of it is completely pointless, in my not-so humble opinion.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty of debating all this guff just as much as anyone – but when we do, we often we miss several very large elephants in the mastering room with us. And this came out really clearly in a new interview I just did with Matt Butler from The Modern Producer website.

I really enjoyed the interview – it was relaxed, informal and covered a wide range of topics, including getting deeply nerdy at some points.

But while I was listening back, trying to find some juicy teasers to tempt you to listen to it with, I realised there was a clear trend in the things Matt and I were talking about.
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Discover the dangerous, destructive, delicate delights of distortion




I love distortion.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.

Now that might surprise you, coming from the founder of Dynamic Range Day, but it’s true. Some of my favourite songs simply wouldn’t exist without it – like the sublime example in the video above, for example !

Distortion has been an integral part of the sound of recorded popular music since the very beginning, and it always will be.

And I love it.

So how can this be true ?

How can someone who bitches almost daily about the squashed-flat, distorted sounds of most modern releases, someone who has developed a plugin specifically to make sure people can hear exactly how much damage the Loudness War Sound is doing to their music – how can I claim to love distortion ?

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