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The Data Speaks: Pop Music Is Too Loud and It All Sounds The Same (The Echo Nest Corporation, 08/20/2012)

Posted by ElJay Arem (IMC OnAir) on August 20, 2012

It’s common knowledge in musical circles that a “loudness war” is underway, wherein producers compress ever more volume into their productions to make them sound as loud as possible. You know how television commercials tend to sound louder than shows? Most music released today is compressed in much the same way as those advertisements, so it all sounds loud, with little dynamic range.

Many of us already suspected as much, but that’s just one of the interesting findings from a pop music study published in Nature that is garnering a lot of attention this summer: “Measuring the Evolution of Contemporary Western Popular Music.”

The study relied on data from the Million Song Dataset, “a freely-available collection of audio features and metadata for a million contemporary popular music tracks” provided by The Echo Nest. We released it in March 2011 to help commercial and academic researchers conduct important experiments without having to build their own datasets. It’s nice to see another use of these valuable data, which we made available to the world under an open-source license.

In addition to the finding that pop music has grown louder, the study unearthed two less-intuitive trends. Not only are the timbres of pop music instruments (i.e. their innate sonic characteristics) becoming standardized, but so their chord progressions are growing more similar too. In other words, the study claims, all pop music sort of sounds the same in three significant ways.

Some of this uniformity might be chalked up to professional studios being involved with so many hit artists. Or maybe it’s just the nature of cultural evolution that pop music wants to sound somewhat the same.

Whatever the cultural reasons behind these scientific findings, we’re excited to see another use of these data, released by The Echo Nest in collaboration with Columbia University’s LabROSA.

More on the Million Song Dataset:

(Source: 08/20/2012 – The Echo Nest Corporation | Blog)

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