Demand for high res audio files is set to drive sales of new hardware in Australia while bringing consumers back to online music stores to upgrade their music collections.
Industry experts meeting in New York this week claim that
hardware sales will broaden even further if high-resolution DACs start to be
built into new mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets and that both the
specialist and mass channel retailers will benefit from the sale of high res
audio content and hardware.
They claimed that the
selection of high-resolution music is growing and that mainstream download
sites have taken notice of high-resolution audio’s growth, and that the growth
of high-end headphones for mobile use will encourage high-res music listening
on mobile devices because they let consumers hear the difference between a
conventional MP 3 file and a new high res audio file.
“Our retailers today are starting to focus on the audiophile
market,” said Howie Singer, senior VP at Warner Music Group.
Richard Murray the CEO of JB Hi Fi said that his Company
will benefit from consumers upgrading their CD collections to high res while
also buying new hardware such as headphones, wireless audio devices and new Hi
Fi systems designed specifically to deliver high res audio. “We still sell
a lot of CD’s to audiophiles” said Murray.
TWICE reported that Jim Belcher, technology and production
VP at Universal Music Group said “PCs are fading as consumption devices” among
consumers, and he expects high-resolution audio chips in smartphones “will
encourage a lot of people” to listen to high-res music. Major music-download
sites will be more interested in selling high-resolution music downloads as soon
as high-resolution chipsets are available in “the large majority of phones,” he
Some retailers have not “formally” indicated an interest in
selling UMG’s high-resolution music, Belcher noted, but “it’s on their radar.”
To expand the market “to music lovers beyond the
audiophile,” hi-res files must be as easy to access as lossy compressed files,
Large high-res files over today’s networks mean slower
delivery, he pointed out. Although high-resolution music downloads are in their
infancy, Belcher said UMW is “encouraged” by sales so far.
A few years ago, he said, there were no high-resolution
retailers at all, and UMG licensed its first retailer only a couple years ago.
“That dealer exceeded our expectations,” he said, and UMG since then has
expanded its roster of licensee retailers to three.
Warner’s Singer is
also encouraged by sales so far. Warner offers only a limited catalogue through
several retailers, and they are delivering “good performance relative to the catalogue
Singer said. He
expects high-res revenues per store to rise and for more stores to enter the
market. The music companies acknowledge, however, that it has been a challenge
to deliver high-res files to stores, but the challenges are fading.
One bottleneck has been older mixing hardware and software,
but recording engineers have been upgrading their equipment to more easily
create digital high-resolution masters, said Maureen Droney, senior executive
director of the Recording Academy’s producers and engineer’s wing.
Apple is encouraging the creation of high-resolution digital masters with its
Mastered for iTunes program, under which it sells songs with sound quality
higher than that of its regular offerings.
Music companies “need a high-resolution file to
participate,” although Apple doesn’t sell the songs in a high-resolution
format, Singer noted. Hundreds of albums have been delivered to Apple for its
Mastered for iTunes program, Belcher noted. To offer more high-res music, music
companies are converting archival analogue masters into high-resolution digital
masters, working with CD-era digital masters, and working with DSD masters
created originally for physical high-resolution SACD discs.
Sony Music started early on to create high-resolution
masters, said John Jackson, A&R and content development VP for Sony’s
Legacy Music Group. Sony began making DSD masters for its physical SACD discs
in the late 1990s, and it started a preservation project several years ago to
archive music from the 40s, 50s and 60s to high-resolution digital masters that
can now be used to create high-res files for consumers.