Major Labels Talk Hi-Res Audio — From music downloads to physical formats such as SACD and DVD-Audio, hi-res audio has always been a sort of niche for audiophile music fans. The three major labels—Sony, Universal and Warner Music—hope to change that and give hi-res audio mass-market appeal. The tech film MQA was also on the panel in Berlin. They see major opportunities for hi-res by getting the younger persons to appreciate that hi-res doesn’t just sound better, but is worth paying for. They grew up with MP3, and haven’t had any exposure to high-quality audio. Part of their job is to reach out to the young people so that they can hear it. The sound sells itself.
One of the label heads said “We don’t really have to educate the 40, 50 and 60-year-olds because they already know…the benefit. But we’re getting excitement in the younger demographic segment.” Another talking point was the potential for hi-res to be about more than just the audio. The vinyl comeback was mentioned as a guide to features that may appeal to fans. They also want to return to providing digital booklets and the lyrics to the tunes. All new releases are requested in hi-res audio. UMG currently has around 60K tracks available, Sony as more than 50K and WMG has nearly 12K albums. The emerging device category of smart speakers was also seen as a relevant trend for hi-res audio. The Warner Bros head said “…we feel like the entire market should move towards offering high-resolution audio.” An Australian survey shows the hi-res market to grow 77% in the near future.
A New Generation of Left Podcasters are Dethroning Rush Limbaugh and Right-Wing Talk Radio — Since the recent election, subscriptions to left-leaning podcasts has exploded. They are beginning to fight the network of right-wing radio hosts who hold so much sway over American politics. The most prominent is Pod Save America, the brainchild of for Obama adminstration speechwriters. It has up to 1.4 million listeners. Another is Pod Save the People. The left’s new stars are actual experts in public policy, unlike their competitors. The relentless diffusion of smartphones has made podcasts increasingly valuable, but don’t forget that everything is compressed to MP3 worlds.
Sonos is 15 Years Old — Sonos was the granddaddy of the connect home audio marketplace—a pioneer ahead of its time. However, its weak point is its software. Apple makes integration of your software-hardware look easy. But the Echo is not a super high-quality audio experience. Sonos works well enough now, but not perfectly. In the app economy, consumers expect apps to work perfectly, and not to have to use a different one for each device. Sonos has many challenges in this now highly competitive market.