Dr. AIX's POSTS — 24 June 2014

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New York City Day 1

I arrived in New York City early yesterday morning. I actually managed to sleep through most of the midnight flight from Los Angeles to Newark. Then a bus, a train, a couple of subway rides and I made it Brooklyn and the apartment where I’m staying. It was beautiful day in Manhattan, which means tourists especially at Rockefeller Center overran the place. The iconic gold statue is in front of me and a huge flowering sculpture of a cartoon character looms behind. It’s a stereotypical early summer scene in midtown Manhattan. Nice.

I had my first meeting with a licensing executive at Warner Music Group (they right next door at 75 Rockefeller Plaza). I finally put a face to guy behind the emails that we’ve been exchanging for the past 8-9 months. It was a great meeting and laid out some of the things that I’m going to have to do to get a solid deal moving forward. It’s all about numbers. The folks at WB and the other labels want to see numbers that clearly demonstrate that it will worth their time to engage with me in a relationship that is distinct from the existing HDtracks and Acoustic Sounds deals. It’s going to be challenging. As you might guess, money talks.

The reality is that they and others should be focused on delivering exactly the right end user experience rather than concern themselves with short-term gain. I get it. The ability to find newfound sources of revenue is what it’s all about. The high-resolution audio download marketplace didn’t exist 5 years ago. David and Norman Chesky pushed the labels and established without a doubt that there are audiophiles that will pay premium prices for tracks from their catalogs. The people at the labels were blown away and have fostered new relationships in the same market.

But I think they’re reaping short-term rewards without looking at the long-term picture. I don’t have a crystal ball but something tells me that high-resolution audio is not a growth industry. Currently, it’s a niche market and is completely unknown among the masses…and among the engineers and producers that are generating new releases. They may think they know what high-resolution means by quoting numbers and sample rates but at the end of the day, the records still sound the same. What we need is to introduce a real paradigm shift in the mix. Demonstrate to the labels, the engineers, the artists and the producers that there are benefits to delivering better sounding music to consumers.

The hardware people are riding along. The devices are certainly available but where is the content?

So my dilemma is how can I structure a deal that essentially guarantees a certain upside to WB or other labels in order to try the experiment that I want to start? How can I target 10 albums to release AND ensure that there will be enough return to make the licensor happy. And how can I do this against the existing backdrop of competing high-resolution download sites?

I’m got some thoughts but it’s not going to be easy.

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About Author

Dr. AIX

Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

(4) Readers Comments

  1. Hi, Mark!

    It’s a tough call, indeed! The goods are out there already, that’s a great advantage.
    I guess, first of all, the big labels should look into one thing: they have the power in their hands to make the best sounding HD audio. They have the money and the means. Studios equipped with the best technologies in the world. They already make HD audio for film and for most of their music in the first stages of production.

    That may be a starting point. Hardware available (THEY can push Apple into the HTC line!), great gear at their studios… what else do they need?

    Convincing the consumer. And that’s exactly where the problem lies. I think most engineers who know their trade would be happy to deliver their best. But, how to convince 2 or more billion people to switch?

    Just the way they already sell remastered albums! Daft Punk, Lorde, Bruno Mars can already deliver HD (I mean, their labels). If they actually do (and ten albums is not a far-fetched goal) then, people who have the hardware will notice.

    And what happens if they don’t?… there’s the second push: (the labels will have to do the lobbying) make hardware available. We ALL know that the choice for more than half of the market is a smartphone as camera AND music player. There’s a fantastic article that focuses on trends that affect the economy as a whole, and I’m sure Big Labels are looking at these issues…another road to explore. (http://mckinseyonmarketingandsales.com/digital-disruption-evolving-usage-and-the-new-value-chain).

    Thanks for all what you’re doing to go the extra mile!

  2. Suggest that you think of a definitive brand, such as Real HD Audio, which you are already using, or something else similar, to differentiate you from the others. Dolby has True HD Audio, so that is already taken.

  3. Perhaps ask WB for some data on growth in sales in the bluray Music category. At least that is an example of high def multi channel audio in the current marketplace.

  4. I mean AV Music, not audio-only Music category

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