The state of loud music today


New Member
I attended a music venue last night and I was rendered partially deaf after less than a minute. My ears are still ringing now. Less than one minute exposure damaged my hearing.

The volumes were far in excess of any emergency sirens, jackhammers, fireworks, or anything else I have experienced.

I would guess at loudness approaching 200 decibels. It was horrific and painful.

I dont know about anyone else here but I need my hearing to function as a musician. I cannot afford to attend music gigs if I am going to lose my hearing.

An audience member at that very loud gig showed me the earplugs she has to use at all these events just to survive them and told me that she recently lost her hearing for several days at just such an event. She still suffers long term effects. A music event is supposed to be enjoyable not painful and harmful.

Wearing earplugs to go to hear a band so you can survive it without irreparable damage is a bit like wearing a flak jacket to go shopping because you expect to get knifed.

I have turned up to a practice session with a 4 piece band and the musicians all immediately inserted earplugs so they would not deafen themselves. Maybe I am being irrational here but is it possible that turning the gain down might have the same effect as turning the gain up and then using earplugs so the amp is not too loud.

Should amp manufacturers simply now fit an on/off switch instead of a gain control, bands seem to need an amp on full or off and nothing in between. Or maybe we should have licenses for musicians and beginner amps that restrict the gain to less than harmful levels until the musicians know how to make music that does not physically hurt or maim people.

I was at an event where an audience member at a gig who knew me left the venue well before the end and he said he could not stand it in there anymore due to the loudness, he said my music was far more enjoyable than what was happening in that venue, he wanted to hear the music in the venue but he could not stand the volumes and was simply unable to stay.

Many times audiences demand that I play louder because they cannot hear my playing from just a few feet away and I was not playing quietly. Maybe society is being systematically deafened by idiots with a 200watt amplifier and a gain control that goes to 11.

Must we wait until venues are closed because of the harm they do to audiences, or prosecuted for injuring their audiences. I like LOUD as much as the next man but harmful and painful is not LOUD it is just wrong.

You can kill a sheep only once but you can shear it many times, musicians should want audiences to come back to hear the band again, not just have one visit and be rendered deaf and never be able to return.

I plan to have a word with the owner of the venue to suggest that he might want to do something to protect his audiences. I expect to be accused of unfair restrictive practices, but Damien Hirst cuts his sheep and cows in two for artistic freedom but he draws the line at slicing his audience members in two. Harming people should not in my view be allowed under the guise of artistic freedom.

Would it be acceptable for participants at a fun run to be left unable to walk would it be acceptable for audiences at a cinema to be left blinded and unable to see. Why is it acceptable for audiences at music venues to be left profoundly deaf and unable to hear anything.

The threshold of pain is 130 decibels the "music" at this gig was far more than 130 db I dont like censoring people especially musicians but I do think that restricting musicians to playing music that is below the painful 130 db level might be sensible. Or do they want their audiences to be in pain and lay themselves open to legal action from a concerned parent with the money to pay a sharp lawyer and medical reports of the harm done by the musicians.

We know how the government works if there are enough complaints and evidence of harm they introduce laws and prevent people from doing things. If we wait and pretend there is nothing wrong the government may act and then introduce draconian legislation stopping any live music that could be called loud and harmful and brass instruments can be called loud. Brass playing might be stopped if loud music is stopped.

Brass can emit sound at up to 130 db but the government if they act might introduce legislation limiting performances to something more like 100 db which would seriously limit performances.

We do not need more legislation.

This deafening of audiences due to excessive volumes appears to be normal round here is it normal nationwide or is it just a local effect.

Lets find out.

Opinions Please.
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David Broad

Active Member
Too loud? In your world. In ours it's difficult to get enough members together to be heard. You practice in a sardine can of a church hall and everything sounds great and play on grass or a Bandstand and no one can hear anyone else. From 100 feet away there is an occasional blast of ff and then just the hum of the traffic while someone stands up with a Euphonium and waggles the valves and the conductor appears to be swatting flies. There should definitely be limits on AMPLIFIED or RECORDED music. But I will continue to tell the band if you can't be heard from the middle row its not really worth playing, while some players play so quietly I can't hear them and I'm conducting. We did Council noise tests on a factory once. Had to be abandoned because of excessively loud Bird Song.


New Member
As a generalisation I think it's all relative, usually to age. Younger generation seem to like loud and Louder and even LOUDER. As you mature into old age and you're hearing is a bit more sensitive, or knackered then loud is invasive and annoying. However, if we're talking Brass Band Loud, that needs to be loud balanced and not blastissimo and is all relative to the standard of the players around the stand.
So to sum up to the original question from trumpetb, for me if somethings sounds to loud and I have the option, I will walk away and leave it to the ones who like loud Music.

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
The situation between typical Brass Band playing in the UK and amplified music in concert venues is different, however I would agree that excessive sound is a health and safety hazard to which audiences and working people should not be exposed to. What’s excessive noise? Well at one point I sat next to the percussionist and was not at all happy about his output next to my ears - things got altered. In another instance a Brass Band that I belonged to was oversubscribed, a concert in one small hall had my wife deciding to stop attending that Band’s concerts because the sound was so deafening to her and to a family member sitting by her. As a player I don’t normally use ear defenders but there’s a pair or two somewhere in my music bag; if I sense excess sound then I will (failing some change) either use ear protection or leave the venue. Your ears are both important and difficult to mend so if the sound is excessive and you can’t defend them then it’s best to ‘walk away’.
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New Member
Absolutely excellent comments and I do agree with all you said it is all very sensible and particularly I agree about loudness being subjective and we do have the choice to leave the venue and that is what I did at the run.

Local residents however have no choice to leave their property so they complain to the council and the council takes action under noise abatement legislation.

But the question here is do we calmly allow ridiculously painful music that is permanently injuring the listeners and wait to see if the venue gets closed, by then it will be too late it wont reopen.

I personally can stand 130 to 150 decibels easily but this was horrifically loud and much louder than 150 decibels.

One question is do we take responsibility for the health of our audiences and should we act if audiences are being injured. Would we walk away if we saw audiences being electrocuted or made blind or losing a finger why do we find it unacceptable to see an audience member harmed or blinded but when it comes to making audiences deaf we just say man up or leave.

And we cannot hide behind the view that it was their choice to stay so if they are injured it is their fault. No a hundred times no, if audiences are injured by a performance it is the performers fault and the performer will find themselves in litigation and they will lose I guarantee it.

Quite by chance last night I dragged a friend from under the wheels of a car and literally saved her from being run over she said to me she cant hear properly now and this happens all the time. Death is waiting to reap her. Loss of hearing is no less serious than loss of sight or loss of limb. I think we need a rethink on this.

I visited the venue last night and spoke to the staff so here is an update.

The local council are now sending officials regularly to the premises to inspect them following several noise complaints and they are going to take action and the venue is very worried they are facing closure over this issue.

And this is the thing as I originally expressed in the OP, Left to their own devices and in the face of several complaints councils and government simply use a big stick to beat the venue and if they close the venue the complaints will stop and they know it. Politicians are about votes and being re-elected and closing a venue to assure re-election is high on their agenda. If they leave the venue open and operating the complaints will probably continue, if however they close the venue they guarantee that the complaints will stop because the residents will then be happy.

Once a venue is closed and closing it fixed a problem for the residents the council can use that as a precedent for handling similar complaints in the future. They will simply move on to other venues where residents complain about the noise and close those venues and over time all the venues are closed and the council has no more complaints so that justifies all the closures.

I do know that many other venues in this city are seeing complaints made to the council over excessive noise and there is I believe a real risk of wholesale closure of venues.

And where do we perform if all the venues close to pamper to over sensitive local residents.

I believe we should take action where we see a problem or we face a bleak future.

I discovered last night that the venue have now instigated a policy of measuring and logging the sound levels several times each day so they are conscious of the problem and they have taken action to remedy it and fight the council and I cant ask for them to do more than this.

I for one will be assisting venues where I see a problem, to sensibly police themselves so as to allow them to resist closure.


I personally can stand 130 to 150 decibels easily but this was horrifically loud and much louder than 150 decibels

I'm interested in how you are measuring sound volumes at events. It's widely acknowledged that sustained exposure to noise over 120 decibels will cause pain and ear injury yet you can handle '150 decibels easily'.

In your first post you made a rather extreme claim of "loudness approaching 200 decibels". The threshold for death is approximately 185 - 200 decibels.

May I suggest you have a more scientific approach to your noise complaint and obtain some accurate measurements from events - decibel meter.



New Member
First of all the decibel meter I use is seeing extensive use.

As an interesting event, one month ago I was asked to measure sound levels by a park where musicians were performing, residents had complained at the loudness and the council were taking action to stop the performances.

I was helping the musicians fight their case, I took readings with a decibel meter at three points and recorded the sound. There was a road between the park and the residents. The measurements showed with music playing and no traffic on the road 45 to 60 db which is normal conversation to moderate rainfall, and when traffic passed the sound increased to 95 to 100 db which is between shouted conversation and a chainsaw. The music was not loud or oppressive yet complaints were sent to the council.

If the council are taking action try to cancel performances over 60 db then why would they not act when the levels are over 150db

In my daily life I regularly see 120 to 130 db and occasionally higher. I see and have measured 115 decibels on the local tram for example, and I am asked often to play on the tram so I have to kick out enough sound so they can hear me.

Brass instruments can kick out over 130 decibels and I have no problems with these levels.

I have occasionally seen 150db and while extremely loud and bothersome as it is unsustained there were no ill effects to me. We have to allow loud noises and I have no problem with loud noises.

Sound falls off rapidly with distance sound levels fall by 6 db when you double the distance, this makes it very difficult to measure accurate sound level exposure as it varies massively depending on the location and distance from the source.

We do not always have a decibel meter with us taking measurements so I do not have accurate measurements for much of the sound I experience including that gig which I guessed as being far more than 130 db. I do know what 150 db sounds like and that is acceptable to me for very short periods although uncomfortable.

As for your statement that the threshold for death is 185 - 200 db I would disagree with that statement however googling your statement reveals this statement in support of what you say "150 decibels is usually considered enough to burst your eardrums, but the threshold for death is usually pegged at around 185-200 dB.4 Feb 2014"

I fundamentally disagree with this statement and my reasoning is that several db tables agree with each other they show that 150 db is a fighter jet launch and fireworks at 1 meter, 160 db is a shotgun blast, 180 db being a rocket launch. and 190 db being the loudest possible true sound

It is interesting that 150 db is also logged as a metal concert.

If the statement you drew your comment from were correct then metal concert fans, fireworks lighters, shotgun shooters, rocket launchers, flight deck crew on carriers, would all be profoundly deaf with burst eardrums. Clearly they are not and therefore the statement that 150 db is considered loud enough to burst eardrums is just plain wrong. And if that statement is wrong it calls into question the other statement that 185 db causes death.

I have also heard 150 db many times and my eardrums stubbornly refuse to burst.

In particular who on earth could have logged the 190 db as the loudest possible true sound if everyone hearing it was rendered stone dead.

I do think that it is fair and reasonable when confronted by sound levels many times louder than any I have experienced in my life and many times louder than150db, to guess that the level of the sound must be over 180 db.

The important thing here is not to trivialise a significant problem by finding arguments that oppose it when the issue is a health issue. We have to be careful with the statements we make on this issue to make sure we are not perpetuating a hidden danger.

It could be argued that encouraging people to put themselves in danger carries responsibility for the outcome.

There are two problems here, the first is the real danger to hearing, and we know this to be true, thousands or more are being rendered deaf every year through insanely loud amplified music, and do not ask me to support that statement with figures. It could be said we dont need actual figures because it is blindingly obvious, like the guy who says it is raining and someone says show me some figures to support that statement, and the guy says just open your eyes and look.

To anyone saying prove there is a health issue here with figures. I say just go ask the people who attend these performances the response will be overwhelming.

I recall the golfer who said "No we dont have any issues with safety, golf is not at all dangerous, I have only hit three people this year"

It is an issue if we make it an issue, it is normal for audiences to be rendered partially deaf often permanently so, the question is, is that acceptable. I dont think it is.

History is littered with dangers everyone lived with and considered just part of normal life, lung cancer, lead poisoning, radium poisoning, arsenic poisoning, the list goes on. If there is a danger expose it get it examined then reduce the danger or ban the cause.

On the lung cancer issue there are similarities nobody believed that smoking caused lung cancer and opposed any action. The researchers themselves disbelieved that smoking could be a cause and tried to blame it on lead in petrol something in the water food issues environment issues, then after several years research and no conclusive cause found, having lost all faith that they could discover the cause they saw a patient smoking then another then another then they asked all the patients who smoked and who didnt and all the cancer patients smoked and the light went on.

Is there a danger here - obviously there is, should we reduce the danger or ban the cause, the council or government would ban the cause we have an opportunity to reduce the danger so lets do that.

Let us not argue over how we measure the statistics let us consider the outcomes of the problem instead, -the widespread loss of hearing, and act accordingly.

And thank you for your opinions, I welcome and value them all. I think the fault here lay with whoever wrote that opinion you found and you honestly repeated it as a contribution, I think it was a misleading statement that you found.


There are numerous online articles, including various scientific research with the same conclusion that sound readings approaching the 200db mark, can lead to death.

This article explains in more depth should anyone care to read it - Can Sound Kill You | How Much Sound Can Kill You On The Spot

If the statement you drew your comment from were correct then metal concert fans, fireworks lighters, shotgun shooters, rocket launchers, flight deck crew on carriers, would all be profoundly deaf with burst eardrums.

Firework technicians - wear ear defenders, shotgun enthusiasts - wear ear defenders, rocket launching - wear ear defenders, flight deck crew - wear ear defenders. Ultimately it's as much common sense as anything else. Prepare yourself with ear protection. Like when people go to Formula 1 events - wear ear protection.

Anyone who has concerns over their hearing has the choice whether to attend certain events or not. If you feel so strongly about this topic as your posts suggest, have a meeting with your local councillor or M.P and see what can be done.


New Member
It is true that wise people wear ear defenders in many occupations but that doesnt mean that death is the result of sound approaching 200 db.

And is this not an example of the harm that loud noise does to human hearing. Should we require all audience members at metal gigs to wear ear defenders. Or maybe and dont quote me on this but maybe WE CAN REQUIRE MUSICIANS TO PLAY AT LEVELS NOT HARMFUL TO AUDIENCES.

190 db is approaching 200 db and sound tables do not have alongside 190 db "Death" they state that 190 db is the loudest possible true sound. Surely the intention of logging the loudest true sound is to log audible sounds. An it is not audible if you die immediately you hear it. You would not be around to remark about if it is audible or not. "You can hear it but it will kill you" hardly makes sense when describing the loudest audible sound.

Much research has been conducted into new weapons using sound to debilitate troops on the battlefield and it was stated many times that they would be very effective but it was discovered that far from sound weapons being the highly effective weapons they were reputed to be when finally fully tested they were not as effective as many had said they would be.

Do you seriously not have an issue about audiences being harmed by music performances I sure do.

Many in here act as though the destruction of hearing abilities in audiences is quite acceptable and if I have a problem with it I should contact my MP or councillor.

Firstly why do you not have a problem with audiences being harmed by musicians, and secondly bringing MP's into it or councillors is the exact opposite of a sensible approach. I would predict that they would take the easy way out and either not deal with it or legislate against all loud music, and Brass musicians make loud music.

Do the members here seriously want to leave it up to Parliament or councils to decide if they should be allowed to perform.

Ok I accept you have your opinion. The clear evidence that huge numbers of audiences are being rendered deaf is not convincing enough that some kind of action should be taken.

The clear evidence that councils act to ban anything they consider too loud for local residents and the clear evidence that local residents complain that 60 db is too loud makes it clear that any musician playing louder than 60 db is likely to face opposition from the council. Or did you not read my posts.

Ordinary people and politicians do not make a distinction between music of different kinds and when they do they consider Brass music as the most offensive so Brass musicians should take this very seriously.

Covent Garden for example does not allow wind instruments, brass instruments, electric guitars, drums, accordions, bagpipes or didgeridooss to perform. These are seen as most offensive instruments through their loudness.

I have to admit that it is difficult for me to comprehend why members who oppose my post first suggest that Loudness is not an issue and then go on to say that 185 db results in death.

So which is it, is loud music not an issue or is death not an issue.

I am saying extremely loud music injures audiences and that is proven, councils attempt to ban loud music that is proven, Brass instruments are recognised as loud instruments that is proven. When the population is at risk governments act that is proven.

Yes I feel strongly I do not want a campaign to be waged over loud music and lose forever the ability and the right to make music. No musician should be happy to accept a complete ban on their playing. And we saw how easily governments ban performances "in the public interest" when they banned all performances during lockdown.

Seriously indifference could result in a complete ban on Brass band music along with amplified guitar music. Of course I can play softly as a good musician should, but I dont want to risk legislative action to eradicate loud noises. I would suggest that other brass musicians think about it and consider what they believe is important.

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
I’m unsure where the OP is based. Here in the UK we have a legal framework that deals with noise hazards and it might well already cover his concerns. See: Noise and Nuisance - What Type of Noise?
That’s not to say that we as individuals need pay no personal attention to noise exposure, but rather that there are laws and guides for us to use in addition to our own judgements.


New Member
Hi 2nd Tenor,

Great comment and thanks for the link

The legislation is largely recommendations and contains this line "local councils can deal with noise from loud music"

I am based in Manchester and there is legislation covering noise nuisance and this is enacted and enforced by local council as stated in the link you pointed to.

There is however no set maximum limit on loudness so all levels including the upper levels beyond 130 decibels are unregulated but they are enforced by council action to prevent noise nuisance.

This means that a kid with an amplifier can make noise at dangerous levels freely and they are now doing just that.

Because there is no guidance on maximum allowed noise levels the council are enforcing limits on noise at all sound levels from 60 decibels and up, based solely upon the complaints they receive, and some people complain about anything. And because there are no guidelines the council is free to impose any limits on noise intensity it sees fit.

Councils approve the use of buildings for pubs bars commercial premises concert halls and venues. If they choose to they can revoke licenses for whatever reason they choose.

This is a very poor situation open to abuse and misinterpretation but to date it appears to have worked out ok. Historically loud events were complained about and councils sent down enforcement officers then negotiation happened and agreements were reached. All in a very unsatisfactory manner.

The situation I am making visible is this, there are no stated limits on loudness just nuisance laws, residents are complaining and forcing councils to act if the loudness is above 60 db and kids with amplified guitars are routinely generating noise well above 130 db. This is a recipe for disaster and people are already taking sides with the residents on one side demanding no noise be allowed at all, backed by the councils, and the performers on the other side making as much noise as they want. The victims when the battle comes to an end are likely to be innocent performers caught up in possible future harsh and draconian legislation designed to stop idiots with amps.

The likely approach of lawmakers might be, if you cannot control it yourselves then we will do it for you for the "common good".

Over time loudness is going up,
acceptable noise levels to residents is going down,
and councils are caught in the middle wanting to protect the rights of residents to a quiet life, and as a result are policing heavier and heavier.

The noise levels produced by performers with amplifiers are already 128 times louder than the noise levels acceptable to residents, the db scale being logarithmic. 130 db is 128 times louder than 60 db. If this is not addressed by musicians and venues then pretty soon it will be become a major issue and councils will I am sure act and not in a way that we would like.

There are several areas of public space where I or any musician are already prevented from performing due to noise complaints and to put this in perspective Traffic and other noise in these areas is already in the region of 100 to 110 db and the music which is banned in these same areas is in the region of 80 to 100 db. These are not guesswork they are measured values.

In other words the music that is being banned for being excessively noisy is quieter than the background noise in that same location. That is not sensible. People are not being sensible on this issue at all.

For this reason I urge members to seek a way to encourage loud musicians to control their sound intensity if they see an obvious problem.

This should be self regulating by the industry but so far it is not being regulated much at all, so let us try to help regulate it.


Well-Known Member
Interesting thread! Strong agree with some points made above:
- There's a big difference between acoustic and amplified music. The amplified ability to generate huge volume without increasing physical effort has caused musical problems of various sorts for quite a few decades now.
- I too think the decibel stats are quite awry. Here's a useful chart. 150 dB is "Eardrum rupture". But that's not of importance to the general topic, just a bit distracting.

I've had a problem with the loudness of amplified music my whole life (born 1979). School discos, gigs, piped music - consistently too loud to permit the intended enjoyment of the space. I just don't go to amplified music gigs for this reason. The last one I went to was a Barenaked Ladies gig in Glasgow - Diane loves this group, and I went along to get the live experience that she raved about. We sat far back in a large-ish indoor auditorium, and this is a group that aims for interest and subtlety in their music. But the sound system blasted us out; painful levels, even sat that far back. Listening through covered ears territory - embarrassing to have to sit there with hands over ears... Totally agree - these levels are insane - but they have been for generations now - The Who in the 1960s were famously producing 120+ dB at gigs for the grandparents or even great-grandparents of people now at gigs.

There's another topic with acoustic playing... And I don't know if it follows amplified loudness, or if it's just coincidence that it's happened in parallel. But the move to larger brass instruments in orchestras and bands 1950s-70s has led us all to play more loudly, chasing the levels at which the instrumental sounds colour up and get brassy. Some brass bands play far more loudly than the music wants or needs - largely because extremes impress at contests. It's all become rather hard work. And for any trombonist who's ever found their ear in line with a big band scream trumpeter and their mic, it's also become rather dangerous to hearing (that's not a gig mistake you make twice!)

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