The track above is our first "master" for the upcoming album, of my 2017 love song "Love As A Lion." For anyone who doesn't know what a master is, it's basically a final version of a produced song that polishes, cleans and refines the sound of it while also making it louder. How much louder? Well, that's a subject of some debate out in the music community.
Throughout the last ten or twenty years there's been a "loudness war" going on in the world of produced pop music. Mastering engineers, the people who touch a track last at the very end, have been pumping up the overall volume and noise of tracks to compete with other artists, record companies, etc. It's a little akin to how sometimes when you watch cable TV, a certain commercial will be way louder than others to try and grab your attention.
Well, tracks have been getting louder and louder to the point where now, many modern tracks are actually a bit distorted and hard on the ears. There's a thing called "listening fatigue" where if you listen to enough pop or electronic music produced after say 2012 or so, your ear gets tired because they jacked that shit up. (That's the technical term anyway...)
We tried the 'jacked up' hat on in the above demo master of Lion to see what it would sound like and we agree - distortion and ear fatigue aplenty. So this master you hear above is just an experiment - the reality is our final album will be quieter, and it's not just because we don't like the loudness on principle.
We've also learned recently through our mastering engineer Piper and our additional mixing guru McKay that the loudness war is making a sharp turn off its relentless march. Streaming music services like Spotify, Pandora and Soundcloud are already looking into ways to tamp down the noise and then unify sound across different genres, so that a 1940s-era jazz tune carries the same weight as a pumping 2018 EDM track. I'm intentionally avoiding any technical terms (the big one being compression) so that folks who've never dipped their hands into audio production will get the basic concept: essentially, your Alexa wants you to hear all your favorite tunes at the same volume level, without you having to turn each track up or down depending on the genre and year of release.
As a result, the loudness war doesn't make any sense anymore - why make one track all loud and in the process, distort it if streaming services are just going to bump it right back down again?
Now, this doesn't apply to music you buy on iTunes or on a CD or something. But as us old grumps have to begrudgingly admit, nobody is really buying music to own anymore. Streaming is the way to go. So expect a softer, gentler Lion to come out later this year...but for now, enjoy this bumping hotness.
Lecture over. Now back to the music. -Jason