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What are streaming services doing to music?
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Gear Head
 

What are streaming services doing to music?

In the recent NY Times article: Opinion | They Really Don’t Make Music Like They Used To - The New York Times

There was this line:
"Streaming services like Spotify now “normalize” the music’s output, so that we aren’t always adjusting our volume settings. This should lessen the incentive for mastering engineers to abuse compression"

I don't understand what they mean by normalize here. Presumably all music released today peaks at more or less the same level, so how can they achieve a relatively consistent volume without limiting?

Does anyone know what they're doing?
Old 1 week ago
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Craft View Post
In the recent NY Times article: Opinion | They Really Don’t Make Music Like They Used To - The New York Times

There was this line:
"Streaming services like Spotify now “normalize” the music’s output, so that we aren’t always adjusting our volume settings. This should lessen the incentive for mastering engineers to abuse compression"

I don't understand what they mean by normalize here. Presumably all music released today peaks at more or less the same level, so how can they achieve a relatively consistent volume without limiting?

Does anyone know what they're doing?
I don’t know what they’re doing, but the problem is that their catalog spans many decades, when masters weren’t as hot as they are post-loudness wars.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
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White Falcon's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Craft View Post

Does anyone know what they're doing?
They turn the volume down on songs that are mastered very 'hot', and turn the volume up on more dynamic recordings.

You can upload your tracks here:

Loudness Penalty: Analyzer

and roughly find out how much (or little) they will mess with your masters.
Old 1 week ago
  #4
What are streaming services doing to music?

...all kinds of bad stuff. But in this particular case, it's good. My opinion. Don't want to go off topic.
Old 1 week ago
  #5
When I did a trial subscription to Spotify some years ago (I really do not care for the UI and the stunted queue management, or, of course, the company's exploitative attitude and big label hookups), I experimented with the 'pro' player's approach to 'volume leveling' and found it greatly wanting, specifically, it very much appeared to primarily involve program compression, not the far more sensible/rational/effective approach of a volume indexing scheme a la Replay Gain (RG) where each track is pre-analyzed and given an average level index score and then playback level of each track is adjusted to compensate on a whole-track basis.

(If you use RG to index your own collection, you have the choice of per-track indexing or per album indexing. For instance, albums of pop songs, or collections of unrelated music benefit from per-track indexing; whole work albums like classical records benefit from per-album indexing, so that the dynamics of the whole work are untouched.)

The benefit of using program compression as Spotify seemed to be doing when I tested is that the stream company doesn't have to do anything except add in a little compression algorithm [which, by the way, can be turned off in the settings, as I recall]. But such compression will affect the dynamics of all the signal going through it, potentially skewing the dynamics of even individual songs. (Indeed, switching back and forth, you could feel the moderately heavy hand of the compression when it was in.)

With an indexing system like RG, on the other hand, individual tracks have their original dynamics (and, in album-mode, that extends across a given album that is so-indexed, as noted).

I can't guarantee Spotify hasn't changed their system -- but I haven't heard about it.

Also, though they may have changed it in the interim, when I checked out Spot, users of the pay-for desktop Spotify player service could turn the volume leveling on or off in the same general settings are in which paid subscribers are allowed to switch the default bitrate from 160 kbps up to 320 kbps.

(It's appeared in the past that many paid users had missed that setting over the years, not getting the benefit of the 320's they were paying for. I'm not sure if they changed the subscription default or not. Frankly, I doubt it, since everyone who leaves the default at 160 kbps saves 'half' of the company's bandwidth for that account. And Spotify doesn't seem the kind of company to give a sucker an even break. But maybe their treatment of artists has jaded me.)

FWIW, I use Google Play Music, which has a far superior user interface from my perspective, though no volume leveling at all, meaning the level can jump moving between properly mastered music and crazily squashed contemporary pop mixes; and, of course, there are those who find Google as villainous or worse than Spot -- although Google has on average tended to pay more per stream to those who own their own rights.

Last edited by theblue1; 1 week ago at 07:11 PM..
Old 1 week ago
  #6
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Sigma's Avatar
lol on the radio they have been using variations of the OPTIMOD for years..if ya didn't know read it and weep
Overview — Orban
Old 1 week ago
  #7
Teen AM radio in the 60s sounded AMAZING.

Amazingly bad. Squashed jukebox singles pushed through multiple layers of audio compression at the stations to maximize signal/coverage/loudness. And then pushed out in some teenager's shirtpocket over a really crappy 2.5" speaker... I can hear it now... "Duke, Duke, Duke... Duke of Earl."
Old 1 week ago
  #8
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ProgFree's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Craft View Post
What are streaming services doing to music?
They are killing it in many different ways...
Old 1 week ago
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by ProgFree View Post
They are killing it in many different ways...
I think it's too soon to see what the overall effect will be, but, so far, it seems to be a mixed bag and perceptions, as always, depend on perspective.

For me, as a songwriter/musician who learned to hate record companies while working as an engineer and producer and who, based on that experience, developed a strong desire to have nothing more to do with them than absolutely necessary, I was looking forward to some form of digital, non-physical music distribution since the first time I read in the mid-1980s about how fiber optic cable would eventually change music distro.

And, for me as a very eclectic, rather adventurous music exploring listener, having the musical world at my fingertips for one monthly fee has been a heaven sent. I can honestly say that while I certainly still have a real soft spot for my 1200 LPs, several hundred singles and 78s, and maybe more muted affection for my 500 or so CDs, I can truthfully say that I find the modern streaming experience to be the best music access paradigm I have ever used.


Not all streamers are created equal, for sure. I've subscribed to 7 different services since around 2005, and tried a few others. I already noted that I don't care for Spotify's UI at all. Worse, though, was Tidal's! The sound of their lossless tier definitely sounded good in informal testing, but their UI and queue are only really usable for people who want to play one album or playlist at a time. If, like me, you're the kind of active music listener who often puts together the day's music listening on the fly, moving things around in the queue to suit changes in mood or to create more interesting song segues, such stunted queues like Tidal, Spot, and the utterly dismal failure, Beats Music have/had can be really frustrating.
Old 1 week ago
  #10
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ProgFree's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
I think it's too soon to see what the overall effect will be, but, so far, it seems to be a mixed bag and perceptions, as always, depend on perspective.

For me, as a songwriter/musician who learned to hate record companies while working as an engineer and producer and who, based on that experience, developed a strong desire to have nothing more to do with them than absolutely necessary, I was looking forward to some form of digital, non-physical music distribution since the first time I read in the mid-1980s about how fiber optic cable would eventually change music distro.

And, for me as a very eclectic, rather adventurous music exploring listener, having the musical world at my fingertips for one monthly fee has been a heaven sent. I can honestly say that while I certainly still have a real soft spot for my 1200 LPs, several hundred singles and 78s, and maybe more muted affection for my 500 or so CDs, I can truthfully say that I find the modern streaming experience to be the best music access paradigm I have ever used.


Not all streamers are created equal, for sure. I've subscribed to 7 different services since around 2005, and tried a few others. I already noted that I don't care for Spotify's UI at all. Worse, though, was Tidal's! The sound of their lossless tier definitely sounded good in informal testing, but their UI and queue are only really usable for people who want to play one album or playlist at a time. If, like me, you're the kind of active music listener who often puts together the day's music listening on the fly, moving things around in the queue to suit changes in mood or to create more interesting song segues, such stunted queues like Tidal, Spot, and the utterly dismal failure, Beats Music have/had can be really frustrating.
All that sounds great, but these services are not paying properly for the usage of other peoples work. So they are destroying the raw material from which they make their fortunes. Kinda hypocritical to say the least...
Old 1 week ago
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by ProgFree View Post
All that sounds great, but these services are not paying properly for the usage of other peoples work. So they are destroying the raw material from which they make their fortunes. Kinda hypocritical to say the least...
And the artists themselves are letting them do it.
Old 1 week ago
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by ProgFree View Post
All that sounds great, but these services are not paying properly for the usage of other peoples work. So they are destroying the raw material from which they make their fortunes. Kinda hypocritical to say the least...
How so?

Are you suggesting there is something illegal going on? I don't think you're going to find that is the case.

How are stream companies 'destroying the raw material' from which they make their 'fortunes'?

I put fortunes in air quotes because, of course, none of the music streaming services or stream divisions of larger companies are making a profit, as far as we know -- although stream revenues to artists and labels are seen as being the primary contributors to the revenue turnaround of the music industry in the last few years -- a big, much wanted shot in the arm for the labels -- and, for artists who control their own rights and don't have a label taking a slice, the potential for more equitable payouts than they would get through a label.

(That said, those who want to be big pop stars are probably best advised to stick with labels, since the 'tradeoff' for those signing is typically a far smaller slice of revenue of all kinds, but hopefully good promotion budgets and staff. That said, today's label A&R have pretty specific ideas about what they want to see and many talented artists probably don't fit the [theoretically easily marketed] bill. If an artist is not young and pretty and malleable, today's major labels may not have a berth for such artists.)


Here are a few articles on the music industry's streaming-driven turnaround over the last 4 or 5 years:

AppleInsider, April 2018: Streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify helping to turn around global record industry

NBC News, April 2018: The music industry needs Spotify to be successful — but not too successful

NY Times, March 2017: Streaming Drives U.S. Music Sales Up 11% in 2016

SF Chronicle, May 2017: Streaming music surges, turns tables on recording industry

The Guardian, April 2017: How streaming saved the music: global industry revenues hit £12bn

Billboard, 2016: Is the Record Business Really Back? How Streaming Is (And Isn't) Turning a Profit
Old 1 week ago
  #13
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Well I'm glad we haven't strayed off topic.
Old 1 week ago
  #14
After watching most of the Grammy performances last night, gotta wonder?

Streaming, computers in general.
Old 1 week ago
  #15
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ProgFree's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
How so?

Are you suggesting there is something illegal going on? I don't think you're going to find that is the case.

How are stream companies 'destroying the raw material' from which they make their 'fortunes'?
How? I said it: by not paying the artists properly for using their material. All the sources you mention are owned in a way or another by investors that put money in Spotify etc. of course that for them the state of affairs is very good now. I see that you never got a paycheck from Spotify. You should google how much they pay per play.

You talk about promotion. I have a record waiting to be mixed, you want to do it for free? It’s good for your promotion.
Old 1 week ago
  #16
There is a popular band in the UK called Foals, a great band in fact just about to listen to them now. The lead singer likened Spotify to an expensive restaurant where people have trained for years and worked really hard cooking and presenting the most extraordinary meals, and many people come and fill the restaurant and enjoy the cuisine, only to get up and leave a few pennies in the table a tip and then not even pay the bill.
Old 1 week ago
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aural Endeavors View Post
And the artists themselves are letting them do it.
Mostly no.
Old 1 week ago
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by ProgFree View Post

You talk about promotion. I have a record waiting to be mixed, you want to do it for free? It’s good for your promotion.
Right on.
I'm actually in music and working with people of all kinds all the time.
The streaming companies have stripped most of the income out of recorded music.
It takes millions of plays to earn a couple of thousand. Bear in mind the average UK wage is around 20,000. So a recording musician is lucky to earn 10% of the average workers pay packet in a year.
Of course, many artists don't even reach millions of plays.

The way artists make up the difference is through touring.
It's easiest of you are a major hit artist - fewer shows, higher ticket prices, great hotels, nice arenas etc, etc....
If you in the average artist bracket, it's going to be many more shows, in smaller venues, for more months of the year, living on a bus, poor quality fast food. It's pretty brutal.
Old 1 week ago
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by bill5 View Post
Well I'm glad we haven't strayed off topic.
The title is:
'What Are Streaming Services Doing To Music'.
The OP chose to concentrate on the audio quality - which is a consumer issue, not a participation issue.
Old 1 week ago
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Craft View Post

Does anyone know what they're doing?
I'm out of the loop, unfortunately.

Old 1 week ago
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post

(It's appeared in the past that many paid users had missed that setting over the years, not getting the benefit of the 320's they were paying for.
So far, every single Spotify subscriber I`ve met here in Japan, did not know about the quality setting and had it on the original low setting. Even some friends and family back home in South Africa. I wonder what percentage of subscribers are unaware of this.
Old 1 week ago
  #22
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ProgFree's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
I put fortunes in air quotes because, of course, none of the music streaming services or stream divisions of larger companies are making a profit, as far as we know
Do you really believe that? Spotify had 6 billion $ (!) in revenue in 2018 alone.
Old 1 week ago
  #23
I believe Spotify are yet to make an actual profit.
Of course they've had a lot of investment, and aim to dominate the streaming scene, as Google dominates search engines.
The main aim is not to run a streaming service, the main aim is to make Spotify an attractive business, then sell out with a buy out, making the original investors millions.
Old 1 week ago
  #24
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Silvertone's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
I believe Spotify are yet to make an actual profit.
Of course they've had a lot of investment, and aim to dominate the streaming scene, as Google dominates search engines.
The main aim is not to run a streaming service, the main aim is to make Spotify an attractive business, then sell out with a buy out, making the original investors millions.
That is correct Music is the loss leader for a lot of services these days (Apple anyone) but especially the streaming services.

Unfortunately what we do becomes disposable with this model.

Not as much longevity in the industry anymore... for the artist or the song.
Old 1 week ago
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
Mostly no.
I'll rephrase. The content owners. They are the ones in control (or were) of letting themselves get shafted in exchange for "getting heard". But this is off topic.
Old 1 week ago
  #26
You're talking about labels. They aren't being shafted because they've done a side deal with Spotify.
The problem for artists is that between them Spotify and the labels have created a dominant platform. Be angry about the amount you are paid and the only choice is to leave the system......then you disappear from the marketplace to a large extent.
Old 1 week ago
  #27
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
The title is:
'What Are Streaming Services Doing To Music'.
The OP chose to concentrate on the audio quality - which is a consumer issue, not a participation issue.
So you answer threads based on very broad sweeping titles only? If you read the OP's first post, the question is very specific, and yes, it can be discussed where forum members can participate. Why don't you start another thread?
Old 1 week ago
  #28
Ugh.
No need for 'another thread' as we've discussed the business model many, many times at Gearslutz.
The title is:
What Are Streaming Services Doing To Music.

I have answered.
It is several things, possibly including the issue the OP wanted to raise.
But their title wasn't that specific, and you are not the thread police around here. First you want to blame artists, then you don't want to talk about it any more.
It's a music forum, mostly aimed at the makers and producers of music. Not a forum about buying and listening to music. So I think it's fair to add: streaming services are performing a bad service for the vast majority of music makers.
Music consumers on the other hand might be more upset about whatever sound issues there are.
Old 1 week ago
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
Ugh.
No need for 'another thread' as we've discussed the business model many, many times at Gearslutz.
The title is:
What Are Streaming Services Doing To Music.

I have answered.
It is several things, possibly including the issue the OP wanted to raise.
But their title wasn't that specific, and you are not the thread police around here. First you want to blame artists, then you don't want to talk about it any more.
It's a music forum, mostly aimed at the makers and producers of music. Not a forum about buying and listening to music. So I think it's fair to add: streaming services are performing a bad service for the vast majority of music makers.
Music consumers on the other hand might be more upset about whatever sound issues there are.
Way off topic, so have at it. Titles can only hold so much information, and that's why their is a body to be more specific. In this case way more specific. Add to the noise all you want. Unsubscribing.
Old 1 week ago
  #30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aural Endeavors View Post
Unsubscribing.
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