I was listening to the mix-down of a recording session I played in recently. The production was top-notch, but THE MUSIC ALL SOUNDED LIKE THIS!
It was compressed and maximized so that every last ounce of dynamic range was squeezed out of the performances. Of course, this wasn’t by accident, but a desired result. Most popular music is designed to jump out of your radio or CD; as a result it is compressed so that everything sounds really loud.
The bizarre part is that no live music is performed in this fashion. Even rock and roll played in stadiums has its loud and soft parts, although less pronounced than in jazz or classical performances. But the audience recognizes dynamic range is as much a part of the music as hitting the right notes; it conveys emotion, depth, and context to the piece. Singers and musicians intuitively know when to lay back or when to let it rip.
So why does the music industry assume that recorded music has to scream at you constantly in order to get your attention?