Dave Viney, a post-graduate student from London College of Music, has published research on the effects of over-compressed music in a report called ‘The Obsession With Compression’. Dr. Viney was looking into the correlation between compression (the dynamics-processing type) and commercial success in popular music, which has been widely discussed in recent months and years in the music press and the wider media.
To conduct his research, he’s polled a select group consisting of 36 producers and engineers from around the world, including Treelady Studios' Chief Mastering Engineer, Garrett Haines. Dr. Viney analyzed music sales records, and made detailed measurements of the loudness of commercial material using a meter provided by DK Technologies.
"When I received the request from Maureen Droney, the President of the Grammy Foundation's Producer & Engineering Wing, I was honored and excited about the project," said Haines. "In mastering circles we often talk about the ill effects of over compression, but until now there has been limited quantitative research on the subject." Haines is no stranger to statistical research. His master's thesis written at Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College combined econometrics, census data, and geographical information systems to analyze the concentration of municipal governments in the Southwestern Pennsylvania region.
Meanwhile, in London, Dr. Viney is using his 77-page post-doctorate paper as a catalysts for discussion on over-compression, such as the reaction to the release of Metallica’s Death Magnetic album in 2008, and goes on to display the research in graphical form; there are over 300 charts.
Louder is NOT better
Summarizing the report, Dr. Viney comments, “there is no evidence of any significant correlation between actual loudness (and thus overall compression) and commercial success. Furthermore, assessments suggest that less-compressed material is more pleasant-sounding”. He concludes, “the obsession with compression tends to limit commercial success!”.
Having completed this report, Viney is hoping to establish himself as a part-time researcher for the music business. He can be contacted at dave-viney [AT] btconnect.com.