In January 2009, The Pleasurize Music Foundation launched a wide-ranging initiative for ending the "Loudness War" being waged by successive music releases. This initiative aims to introduce a dynamic standard through several phases.
The free TT Dynamic Range Meter plug-in (and stand-alone app.) makes it possible to provide releases with a whole-number dynamic value to be printed on the recording medium as a logo, giving consumers an immediate means of knowing the dynamic quality of a recording. It is currently available as a VST effect plug-in for Windows with Mac OS X, RTAS and AU versions expected to be released later this year.
An online database is planned for furnishing information on music already released with the standard. In this way, conditions have been met for the creation of a single standard for audio recorded media – a step which was taken by the film industry over thirty years ago. Music with small dynamic range has a low value, for example DR4 (Dynamic Range = 4dB). Music with a large dynamic range has a higher DR value, for example DR14 or more. In this case, music can breathe and loud events are actually louder.
Founder and conceptual father Friedemann Tischmeyer on the functions and aims of the Foundation:
"We believe that music – as an artistic means of expression – should transmit emotions. Nowadays, this is possible only to a limited degree because dynamics — a fundamental part of expressivity — are often missing. On a subconscious level, emotions are expressed by musicians emphasized with a feeling of urgency or insistence. Modern mainstream music sounds like a flatly pressed board being rammed through loudspeakers and uses the greatest possible amount of intrusiveness just as advertising does – as a means of constantly trying to get the listener's attention. In this way, a fundamental aspect of music is lost. Countless consumers who are old enough to remember more dynamic music are not even aware of what is wrong with releases nowadays. The experience of buying music has become frustrating. Who wants to spend money for music that just beats your ears? This process of over-compressing music has been occurring in such a gradual, insidious way that many industry professionals are unable to draw clear boundaries between music that is over-compressed and music that is not. One thing is for sure: when we turn music off because it is getting on our nerves, then it is probably because of a lack of dynamics. Unfortunately, strongly compressed music is also an unpleasant way of generating aggression. We who create music have a certain responsibility with regards to the rest of society."
How did this phenomenon happen?
"The arrival of digital technology has made it technically possible for this process, thereby answering the commercial need of simply wanting to be heard. The principle is: 'Whoever shouts the loudest will be heard.' For labels and radio stations, loudness is the most important criterion in music. And that is where our work begins: We aim to provide qualified information so that people understand that loudness is not a measure of quality in music! There is a great lack of information in this area which has taken on huge proportions: most young people have never heard truly dynamic music played over a good-sounding hi-fi system. I believe that some of them would be so emotionally overwhelmed that they would cry with joy when hearing truly dynamic music under such conditions."
What made you begin this wide-reaching initiative?
"As a mastering engineer I stand right in the crossfire between the detail-work of trying to obtain the best possible sound and the commercial pressures of my customers. Even when a customer knows that the sound suffers when dynamic range is further decreased, they accept this for fear of not being heard. This makes all my efforts involving working on fine nuances of sound practically obsolete. The only choice we are given is to make the loudest possible master with the least amount of sound-quality damage. Of course, that is not a satisfying way of working – all of the leading mastering engineers in the world agree here."
"We therefore believe that our standard will increase the value of music. It is too simplistic to make the MP3 format out to be the scapegoat with regards to the current market situation in the entire music industry. The truth is more complex. The loss of emotional value in music is also a big part of this. We believe that our standard will strengthen the entire music industry. As soon as good-sounding music is once again purchased, musicians and all the creative people involved in making and producing music will profit."
You can actively help out by supporting the work of the Pleasurize Music Foundation so that in the future you will be able to recognize how dynamic your favorite group is with the DR Value Logo printed on the CD inlay.
They are asking all musicians, producers, listeners, and others involved with the creation of music to sign up. Only when radio stations and recording companies become aware that intrusive and grating sound is no measure of music quality will the Loudness War be stopped. Emotion is the fundamental intention of music.