Why Music Is Getting Louder

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It's not just you: over the last several decades, music has been getting louder. Like rival architects building ever taller skyscrapers, record companies have been competing to make their music louder than that of their competitors. The hope is that if a song on the radio is louder than the one that came before, listeners will notice and decide to buy that record over another. This sonic arms race has been dubbed the Loudness War.

Unfortunately, this war has consequences for recorded music that go far beyond volume. Audio engineers can't just turn up the loudness on an individual track, since all music has a volume ceiling, or "peak," beyond which audio will sound distorted. Engineers can get around this with a process known as dynamic compression, which makes the quiet parts louder and the loud parts slightly quieter. The result is an overall impression of loudness with much less nuance and variation. What's more, research has found that louder music doesn't necessarily lead to more record sales. Learn more about the Loudness War with the videos below.

The Loudness War 101

Hank Green explains what the Loudness War is and what it's doing to your music.

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The Loudness War In Action

See the difference that dynamic compression has on a piece of music.

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Why Does Loud Music Cause Hearing Loss?

Why turning up the volume can be risky.

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Written by Curiosity Staff September 9, 2016