The way we consume music has changed dramatically over the last few years, with streaming becoming the most popular method, and this is creating some positive changes to the way songs are mastered.
Mastering is the final stage in music production. A mastering engineer will take a mixed song and make tiny adjustments to the equalization and volume of certain parts to polish the sound, and make the song sound "radio-ready".
This mastering process often includes changing the dynamic range of the track by compressing it in order to make it as loud as possible, so that it stands out when played alongside other songs that aren't quite as loud.
This practice created, what is known in the industry as the Loudness War, and the effects have been quite negative on the overall sound quality of what we listen to because while heavy compression has the effect of making the song louder, the sound has to be squashed in order to achieve it. This is OK perhaps for tracks by the Sex Pistols, Green Day or Nirvana, but it's not so good for most other genres of music.
The number one complaint streaming platforms (Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play, You Tube etc) receive from their listeners has been the inconsistency in volume between songs, requiring the listener to make volume adjustments when listening to songs back to back.
To overcome this issue, the streaming platforms now have a target volume level and use automatic normalization techniques to hit it. If a song is too quiet, it is turned up. If it is too loud, it is turned down.
So, if a song has been mastered to be super loud, the sound is already squashed, and Spotify will then turn the volume down to hit the target volume. The result - your super loud, squashed song is now a much quieter, squashed song.
All of my songs (and 99% of all songs out there) were mastered loud for CD and download, so they are way above the streaming target volume level, and they need to be remastered, which I have started to do.
The streaming platforms do not allow you to simply replace a song with a remastered version. Instead, you need to delete the song from the platform, and submit a new version. This means that if you have any of my songs in a playlist, and they suddenly disappear, it's because I'm remastering it. Have no fear, the song will reappear in a couple of days, and will sound much better, but you will need to add it to your playlist again.