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Dynamic Range Day - Loudness War Protest

Production Advice

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It’s on its way…

by Ian Shepherd



The time has come to start thinking and planning for Dynamic Range Day 2011.

[UPDATE - New details have been announced ! To take part in Dynamic Range Day 2011, click here]

If you were part of last year’s event you’ll already know what I’m talking about – if not, click here. In a nutshell, it’s a day of online protest against the so-called “Loudness Wars”.

But before we get too far along, I want to take a moment to reflect and ask – was last year’s Dynamic Range Day a success ? How can we make this year’s even better ?

Some achievements from Dynamic Range Day 2010

  • Over 2,900 people “attended” the Facebook event and another 6000 were invited
  • Over 35 blogs posted about it – that I know about, maybe more – all talking about the event and the issues
  • A massive stream of posts flooded Twitter on both Friday and Saturday night, full of links and comments – which nevertheless somehow mysteriously failed to “trend”
  • I saw a huge spike in hits to posts on my sites discussing dynamic range, compression and the Loudness Wars, and many new forum posts discussing the topic
  • I’ve even been asked to support a new academic research program about the Loudness Wars

All of which is pretty good for something that came together in little over a month !

This year though, I want it to be better, and I need your help. The one thing Dynamic Range Day didn’t manage to do was “go viral” in any real way. This year I would love it to spill out beyond our community of audio-loving musicians and engineers, and get noticed by “everyone else” – people who perhaps have never thought about these issues before.

How can we make it better ?

Why didn’t we achieve that last year ? Well, I think that the central idea – “SHOUT OUT against the loudness wars” – was fun to do and a good “in joke” if you already understand the issues, but viewed from the outside was just – well, annoying, to be honest !

Just imagine if your Twitter stream was suddenly and without warning FLOODED WITH PEOPLE TYPING IN ALL CAPS ABOUT A SUBJECT YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT – if you’re anything like me, you wouldn’t even bother to read them, let alone click through to read a link or join in.

It wasn’t all bad – it allowed us all to blow off some steam and it caught the imagination of everyone who took part, but even I was pretty fed up with it by the end !

Intrigue and invite

This year I think we need a better idea – something inclusive, something fun, something that will draw other people in to take part and get involved.

And, I’d love to hear your ideas ! I have some thoughts, but it would be great to get a discussion going in the comments here to see what we can all come up with together.

I’m going to be asking for your help and expertise with other things, too – Facebook, for a start. Should I update the old event page, or make a new one, for example ?

And, I think we need to start talking about Dynamic Range Day sooner, this year, so people have an idea what’s coming. Let’s be prepared – gather together links and posts on the issues, of great and terrible-sounding albums, of pages like this and this showing the support and interest in ending the loudness wars.

Positive or negative ?

Research shows that negative comments drive significantly more discussion on the internet. But something that several people weren’t sure about last year (myself included) was the negative tone – the “SHOUTING”.

So, should we focus on a more positive message this year ? Highlight the fact that there is no demonstrable correlation between sales and loudness ? That absolute level has no effect on playback level on the radio, in Spotify and any other player using mp3Gain ?

Or, are these issues too complex to get across easily, and should we just focus on making lots of noise (ironic!) and hoping people will read through to find the message ?

Let’s get started

Please just let me know your thoughts, ideas and suggestions about all of this in the comments. For a start, how about a new slogan, and a Twitter hashtag ? Everybody loves getting involved in those #yourfavouritefilmbutwitharudewordinthetitle “memes”, can we come up with something like that ?

I’m looking forward to hearing your ideas, and meanwhile here are a few of mine to get the ball rolling…

#dynamicsnotdistortion ?
#noquietnoloud ?
#greatsongshameaboutthesound ?
#wishitsoundedbetter ?
#dynamicswintheloudnesswar ?
#tooLOUDsound
#bestsoundingsongs ?

Tell me your suggestions !

And if you’d like to make sure you’re always up to date with news about Dynamic Range Day 2011, feel free to sign up for the Dynamic Range Day Newsletter, using this form:





Image by macca

facebook comments:

24 Responses

  1. Steve Morton says:

    How about #dyNAMicsareGOOD ?

  2. Ben Peilow says:

    Really looking forward to Dynamic Range Day 2011.

    Maybe there should be something thats interactive for people to learn what its all about. Perhaps have a song, one version dynamically mastered and the other very heavily compressed and distorted so thats its obvious to your average listener.

    I must admit last year not many people really understood the whole “SHOUTING” thing. I thought it was a great idea but as you say it didn’t quite work to plan.

    Also, I think an update of the Facebook page would be a good idea. Start afresh with a more positive message of looking for a step forward. Oh, and I’ll send you a link to a picture via Twitter of a screenshot I took of last years dynamic range day on Facebook. What had happened was that when I tried to post about it on my wall, it kept coming up with a message saying that content was blocked and wouldn’t allow me to post about it. One of the biggest social networking sites wasn’t allowing me to inform the world of dynamic mastering. Conspiracy or what????

    Anyway, looking forward to it, and if I can help in any way do let me know!

  3. Pierre says:

    I like #greatsongshameaboutthesound, ’cause then people could tweet their favorite examples of it (mine would be the entirety of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication album and parts of Arctic Monkeys’ Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not) and it would be a fun little game.

    Othersie – Red Hot Chili Peppers #greatsongshameaboutthesound :)

  4. Ian Shepherd says:

    It’s a bit long but has a nice “does exactly what it says on the tin” quality !

  5. Ian Shepherd says:

    Actually the more I think about it, the more I like #nicesongshameaboutthesound. I think I have an idea…

    @ Ben – I like the interactive idea, too. I’m going to give that some thought…

  6. VIOZ says:

    So let’s be ridiculously positive: let’s imagine that this year’s Dynamic Range Day is an absolute success: everybody in the world knows what the Loudness War is and agrees with us geeks that it should end for good. What’s next? Are riots going to erupt in every city? Are people gonna stop buying music and get rid of any audio they own and the world would go dead silent? Are they gonna write in caps the rest of the year? I think you are targeting the wrong people.
    We need to convince a major star to go dynamic by flooding his/her accounts on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc., with requests for his next album to be as dynamic as it should be (we should keep it personal, not technical); we would get in touch with his/her fan clubs and convince them to take part in this, because they usually have more direct contact; we would come to events he/she attends and yell at him/her the cause’s slogan… Basically, we will make that artist eat, breath and dream “Loudness War”.
    Some time after all that, he/she releases that dynamic album, it goes number one for ten weeks and then monkey do. We need the CD’s “Avatar”.
    Am I dreaming out LOUD?

    For something a little related: http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2010/12/02/calm-act-clears-congress-lowering-volume-on-loud-tv-ads/

  7. Ian Shepherd says:

    Hi Victor,

    Thanks for the comment – I think targeting big-name artists is a great idea !

    Rather than everybody targeting just the same person on Dynamic Range Day though, I think it would be even better to set up a mailing list and encourage people to start taking on-going action from now on.

    So, if it is a big success as we hope, the emails can encourage people to take small regular actions to support dynamic music:

    - Encourage them to email/Twitter/Facebook artists expressing disappointment at the poor sound of recent releases as you suggest, and encouraging them to make them more dynamic in future

    - Ask people to blog about this and write to their favourite magazine/newspaper/website

    Mini flash-mobs, in fact ! People can tweet releases that are very crushed or distorted, and then a message can go out on the list so we all contact them to complain.

    I think this is a great idea, how about everyone else ?

    Ian

  8. Ian, we’re keen to get behind Dynamic Range Day and have 100,000 odd registered on our site we could alert. We could offer an X-Desk as a prize for the best recent example of a dynamic mix. Some credibly independent body would have to assess the mixes (METAlliance?).Think it would have to be something that had charted above a certain level otherwise it could be a bit of a massive chore. Have you got a date in mind?

  9. Ian Shepherd says:

    Wow, that’s a fantastic offer, thank-you !

    Last year it was on Saturday 20th March, so I’m thinking of the same time this year. I haven’t decided yet whether the activity should be focused on a weekday or weekend – more people are in front of their computers during the week, I think, so it might be better to focus activity on either Monday or Friday – again, I’m interested to hear what people think.

    Is it OK to email you about this ?

  10. Hi Ian and SSL, I think the Turn Me Up campaign have ‘registered’ mastering engineers who assess the dynamic range for Turn Me Up branded releases.

    Also, I’ve been thinking on this topic, and how a wider audience could come to appreciate dynamic music. HD wouldn’t work, because we associate HD music as lossless files, but how about HDR for high dynamic range? HDR is more widely recognised as an abbreviation, thanks to the photographic technique and the implementation in the iPhone camera software.

    I think labelling releases as HDR is easier for press and consumers to understand – or at least, presume it is of better quality – to give the concept a good push. ‘Turn Me Up’ takes explaining. I’ll try and contact Charles Dye who is behind one of the engineers behind the Turn Me Up campaign to see if they would re-consider their branding.

    What do you think?

  11. Ian Shepherd says:

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for the comment – and, I like the label of “HDR Audio”. I agree that “Turn Me Up” takes a little explaining, but the campaign has been around for a while now, with several releases using the logo and text, so I’m not sure if they would be interested in changing it now.

    To be honest, I’m not entirely convinced that labelling or certification is the answer, anyway. I think as a way of making people aware of the issues it’s great, but people won’t buy (or not buy) on the basis of a label, in my opinion. I know many disgruntled Metallica fans who bought “Death Magnetic” even though they hated the sound for example – because they still love the band and the songs.

    Having said that, I think referring to “HDR Audio” as the thing that we want is an excellent idea – it evokes curiosity and the “spirit” of HDTV etc, plus it’s short and snappy.

    Things are really starting to come together in my head, now – I’m excited about how DRD 2011 is going to turn out !

    Ian

  12. Ian Shepherd says:

    PS. I think the offline version of the TT Meter provides a great way of confirming the dynamic range of a track, without needing to get mastering engineers involved. The basic pre-requisite of any song entered for the competition should be a minimum DR value, I think.

  13. A rebranding of Turn Me Up could depend on a rolling campaign like Dynamic Range Day supporting it. It’s timely with the technology. It’s even an opportunity for a round of re-masters of popular modern albums, which would actually make a lot of recent music very enjoyable. I dunno, HDR seems like a good marketing opportunity to me.

  14. Ian, yes of course – please email me.

  15. Ian Shepherd says:

    Hi Antony,

    I sent you an email – let me know if it didn’t get through the spam filters !

    Ian

  16. Julian Silva says:

    One thing I can say, is let’s gather our mastering clients that listened to us in terms of not making their records so loud and instead letting us do our jobs better and make their music better by refraining from squashing them. Then, on their FB and Myspace pages, they are able to say “I contributed to bring back dynamic music” on their status or twitters, or whatever for that day. They tag us, their mastering engineers, recording engineers, etc. Exposure for them, for us and the whole movement.

    Keep the page, just edit it with the new info.

    Julian Silva

    On Air Mastering.

  17. Ian Shepherd says:

    Hi Julian,

    I love that idea, thanks !

    I’ve tried editing the Facebook page but can’t change the date of the event now it’s passed, so I guess a new one will need to be made. Anyone know a workaround ?

    Actually I wonder if this year I should make a page and have the even associated with the page…?

    Thoughts ?

    Ian

  18. Greg says:

    Just reposting the last version of the Dynamic Range Meter that was available freely since even the unofficial DR Database doesn’t want to do it. I don’t now why they are so hard to work with. I tried to get the site to be more active and add new features and have some upgrade of any kind, but the whole place looked dead, like the owner wants it to run itself. But with no link to the meter, that’s not fair!

    Surprisingly my original link is still alive, even a year later.

    http://zshare.net/download/68657716dc95b15a

  19. The reason why you won’t have trended on twitter last year is that trending is not determined by the total volume of tweets but the change in volume over a period of time. Thus, if lots and lots of people are chatting about #Iraq over a long period of time it might not trend, however if no one is talking about #Iraq and then something happens in Iraq and everybody is talking about #Iraq suddenly it will trend.

    The other thing to consider is that all your examples are quite long. Ideally you want the trending tag to be short (so that people still have a lot of their 140 characters to give their message, and share their link and mention the trending topic) and possibly slightly obscure as well (so that a large number mentioning the topic are actually people wanting to know why its trending and what it is!).

    By way of an example take the ‘Shock Ambridge To The Core’ anniversary episode earlier this month: #SATTC trended because there was a sudden spike of activity over the days between Christmas and New Year (good timing to as people have more time for these things – maybe you should go for Easter weekend?), but also because lots of people tweeting #SATTC just wanted to know what #SATTC stood for. It was also one letter different from a previously popular trend of #SATC (Sex And The City film) which added to the numbers.

    By way of engineering (sorry about the pun) this, could you and your friends/colleagues organise some kind of web seminar at a specific time during the day/evening to focus the interest/activity. Get some people discussing the problem, showing the problem with examples for half an hour or an hour, and get people to *tweetalong* like they do to #XFactor, #SCD, and #ge2010 etc etc…

  20. Ian Shepherd says:

    Hi Thomas,

    Interesting point about ‘mysterious’ hashtags – although I think most people will wonder what even something as clear as #DynamicRangeDay means… and the “memes” where people join in need to be clearly understandable so people get the joke and join in, I think.

    As far as the “volume” of tweets goes, I think we achieved that – but, I wonder if too many of them were straight re-tweets of each other, and Twitter discounted them because of that.

    I like the idea of an online “event” of some kind, although it’s hard to think what could be organised… hm.

    Any suggestions ?

    Ian

  21. The hastag #DynamicRangeDay is still 16 characters, and that, plus the twitter username is going to push the number of characters down to only about 100 characters – not much for a message/joke/comment that might or not spark interest/humour enough to retweet. Maybe just #DRD2011 or something?

    As for online event? Since the Metalica thing started it all, are the band themselves happy with it? Could you make contact with them and find out if one of them is willing to participate in a live webchat? Maybe with someone from the record company, a couple of sound engineers?

    Then you promote it, encourage the use of a single hashtag for a tweetalong, and remember to trend it *IS* the volume change over time that dictates if it trends.

  22. wick says:

    #iwantdynamicrangebackinmusicoridontbuyyourstuff
    -too long?
    hmm I’d go with Thomas and use #DRD11 or something like that.

    Any clues about when this event will happen?
    I will gladly participate, and also like to keep track of any developments regarding this subject.

    I might have some ideas myself for the event as well.. like to get in contact with anyone involved in organising this.

    Cheers

    Wick

  23. Ian Shepherd says:

    #DRD11 sounds good to me – will think about an online event :-)

  24. Ian Shepherd says:

    Hi Wick,

    Thanks for getting involved ! I’m writing a post with loads more information right now – all kinds of exciting stuff going on !

    Stand by…

    Ian

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