Sorry in advance for the long and technical post but this is really important if the AJ ecosystem wishes to maintain its competitive edge in the light of (not so) recent developments.
As we all know, it is quite common among AJ authors to maximize the volume of their tracks with compression/limiting. The logic behind this is that, other things being equal, we humans tend to gravitate towards louder stuff. When a customer is browsing through search results, if your track is louder than mine, you have a higher chance of selling your item.
This phenomenon has been a major issue in the music industry for a long time, and it’s called “loudness war”. What makes it an issue is that when you squash your music to make it louder than everyone else’s, you compromise its dynamic range and it usually ends up sounding harsh as well.
Pros in the music industry have been preaching against loudness war for years, and their efforts are finally paying off. Many leading digital platforms have in recent years started to implement their own normalisation algorithms in an effort to maintain consistent volume from one song (or video) to the next.
Youtube, for example, normalizes everything to around -13 LUFS, which is very quiet compared to what most authors offer here. What does this mean? I’m glad you asked.
Take a look at this screenshot from a search result I grabbed a couple of minutes ago:
The track in the middle is mine, and it conforms to Youtube’s new standard. Meaning, when someone purchases it and uses it in a video, Youtube will not raise or lower its volume. It will remain the same, and sound the same.
The track above it, however, has a loudness level of ~ -8 LUFS. Youtube will turn it down significantly, and it will end up sounding much weaker. Imagine what that waveform would look like if you cut it in half horizontally. That’s what it will sound like as well.
If you’d like to know more about how and why this is important, and how you can measure LUFS values for your own tracks, there are excellent articles available all over the internet. There’s an excellent one here.
Long story short, as we try to out-maximize eachother’s tracks for attention here on AJ, we are inevitably violating new standards and causing potential confusion and disappointment for customers. If AJ’s competitors take the lead in embracing these standards, they will definitely have an edge. No one wants to upload a video and then find out that the music sounds almost half as quiet as it did on their video editing software.
So what is the solution? The best solution would perhaps be for Envato to implement some sort of automated normalization on uploaded tracks, or to impose a standard on authors. The next best thing would be for us authors to reach a gentlemen’s agreement to end this war and to observe these standards for the benefit of everyone. It is also important to educate customers that the loudness war is (mostly) over. I’m planning to mention this in my item descriptions in the future, but with my tiny little portfolio, that won’t really mean much