So says one blogger:
“Record labels for decades have tried to make records louder, on the mostly-correct theory that louder music is more likely to pull you in on first listen. But the way you make music louder is via “compression” … Compression shrinks the difference between the peaks and valleys, so there’s less dynamic range [but w]hen a song has less dynamic range, even if it’s louder we are — paradoxically — more likely to tune it out”
“[W]hen is it desirable for music to be at a consistent volume? When it’s not being actively listened to; i.e. when it’s intended as background music. Sudden (or even gradual) dynamic changes in ambient volume disturb people from what they are otherwise doing (shopping, eating, working) by making them pay attention to the fluctuating sound rather than the task in hand … So it is with music too—it may grab your attention more effectively at the start, but it’s ultimately easier to ignore too. All music becomes background music if it’s at one flat level, no matter how loud. And flat, hypnotic background music is a form of social control.”
Leaving aside the “OMG! Record companies are using music to CONTROL OUR MINDS!!!1” hyperbole for a second, he’s spot on. At the risk of sounding like an out-of-touch old-timer, I happened to be listening to a random mix on Winamp while reading through this article and it played a relatively old (c. 1991) Orbital track back to back with a recent track by M83. They’re both great bands, but the M83 track was ear-splittingly loud in comparison to the Orbital one. It’s a crude example, particularly because mp3s are hardly the be all and end all of musical quality, but it illustrates the point.
Of course loud music is better, but like the man says: “If you want to listen to something loud, there’s a simple method—turn it up.”