Producing for music streaming services
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.
We asked five questions about the loudness and codec compression techniques used in streaming services. With responses from 50 different countries, it’s clear there is an active, world-wide interest in these issues.
Information accurate at the time of publishing - last edited 7 September 2018
Music streaming and the 'loudness war'
Does music streaming signal the end of the loudness wars?
No idea/What are the loudness wars?
An ambitious question – but one that addresses a serious point. With the increasingly widespread introduction of loudness normalization in music streaming services (including Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, and on-air DAB radio), have we reached a point where the loudness advantage no longer exists? Could dynamic compression simply become a creative choice based on taste, rather than a commercial imperative to stay loud?
The results indicate that among the informed audio production community, optimism is high - 70% think that the end is in sight.
Could loudness normalization affect how your music is heard?
I don't know
84% think yes. Aside from those concentrating on physical media or live performance, the vast majority of respondents acknowledged that their work will certainly be impacted by loudness normalized platforms.
Music streaming and codec compression
The vast majority of music fans now use music streaming services. To stream audio to the consumer, these services often use lossy data compression techniques, beyond the direct control of the music producer.
Are you concerned that playout services may degrade your audio with codec compression?
I don't know
Again, a clear response, with 81% of respondents concerned about maintaining quality through playout services’ codec compression.
Music streaming's effect on artistic intent
After music is delivered to a streaming service, it is common for the platform to use both loudness normalization and data compression techniques at ingest and/or playout.
Are you confident that the music you deliver will make it through to the listener as intended?
The response shows emphatic concern that these techniques may alter audio significantly enough to compromise artistic intent.
New techniques for a new era
Although those surveyed still lack confidence, most of those questioned are beginning to turn to new tools to help them better understand the issues involved.
How has your production changed to prepare your music for streaming services?
I now use a True Peak limiter
I use loudness/PLR metering
I use both
I haven't changed anything
The survey indicates a high level of concern among the music production community that music streaming services may indeed modify audio, both by normalizing loudness (84% concerned) and through data compression techniques for streaming (81% concerned).
For the last two years, the industry press has highlighted the impact of streaming and focused on some tools which can help audio producers understand this new paradigm. This survey indicates that these tools are indeed gaining in popularity, however, it would seem that there is a need for further education before workflows are generally established that give producers confidence that their music will reach the listener in a manner they understand, with their artistic intent intact.
If you are interested in producing the best possible masters for today’s streaming environments, why not check out our Modern Mastering bundle.
NUGEN Audio developed this survey as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to support the audio industry in the area of loudness management and streamed audio delivery - with the goal of creating better sounding content for the listener.
Thanks to all those who took the time to provide their valued input to this survey, and thanks to those who helped us to distribute it.
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