Anyone involved in music production, recording, mixing or mastering will be shocked to learn that YouTube has just completely changed its relationship with “loudness.” Until now, “loudness” – the measured sound level output of a particular playlist – has been normalized by YouTube in all of its music videos. Every video uploaded was forced to play back at a similar loudness, regardless of how it was mastered. The fact mostly went unnoticed.
You can witness the phenomenon in the following example: Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ hit “Uptown Funk” measures 12 LUFS (DR 8 on the TT Meter) on CD. On the opposite end of the spectrum, “Love Me Like You Do” by Ellie Goulding measures -8 LUFS (DR 5) on CD, and Madonna’s “Living For Love” measures at -7 LUFS. However, when viewed on YouTube, they all get played back with a loudness level of -13 LUFS.
Why is this significant? YouTube is basically distorting all the music that is discovered by people all over the world at any given moment. YouTube has singlehandedly made loudness irrelevant. Songs will often sound instinctively better when they are more dynamic and not tampered with. On the other hand, when loudness is normalized, mixing and mastering sounds worse than music with balanced dynamics.
YouTube is only the latest in a slew of music sources to tamper with loudness, after prominent tools like iTunes Radio and Spotify.