There is growing concern that the quality of commercially distributed music is deteriorating as a result of mixing and mastering practices used in the so-called "loudness war." Due to the belief that "louder is better," dynamics compression is used to squeeze more and more loudness into the recordings. This paper reviews the history of the loudness war and explores some of its possible consequences, including aesthetic concerns and listening fatigue. Next, the loudness war is analyzed in terms of game theory. Evidence is presented to question the assumption that loudness is significantly correlated to listener preference and sales rankings. The paper concludes with practical recommendations for de-escalating the loudness war.
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