A reader sent me a recent news item regarding Pono and their new relationship with Omnifone, a large UK-based aggregator of digital music tracks. Neil Young is pictured with two of the principals of the company beaming about their new collaboration. Omnifone is a supplier of digital music. They take care of the back end chores for a variety of download music sites and will be handling the same responsibilities for Ponomusic, when it launches in October.
Every website that is delivering music files (of any other type of files) needs to have a server to store the files AND to process purchases. For iTrax.com, my own high-resolution digital music site, I maintain my own server at a local company. There are more than 6 terabytes of ultra high-resolution music contained on the hard drives attached to my machine, which sits in a cage somewhere near the airport.
HDtracks uses servers provided by Amazon. There cloud services are distributed around the country and scalable. The thousands of tracks that they sell are spread across the Amazon cloud so that they’re close to their customers. I asked David Chesky about how many albums they ingest and process at HDtracks. He told me that they get ten or more albums from their licensors per week…and that there are many thousands of albums available on their site.
The announcement over at Audiostream boasted that Omnifone has over 35 million high-resolution files available now. Once the Ponomusic site is designed and functioning, the Omnifone servers will provide all of these “high-resolution” tracks for sale.
But wait a minute! If HDtracks has been provided around 10,000 albums by the major labels and other independents where did Omnifone get their high-resolution materials? The fact is they don’t have 35 million high-resolution tracks unless you accept the definition that was recently revealed by the DEG, CEA, NARAS and major labels, which accepts anything ever recorded as “high-resolution”. The tracks that Omnifone has on its servers are ALL standard-resolution and were probably ripped from compact discs.
Of course, it’s possible that they’ve received the same files that HDtracks gets but that’s a far cry from 35 million…in fact, it’s a far cry from 100,000.
So what’s going on here and what can we expect from Omnifone or any of the other aggregators of digital music tracks? Certainly not 35 million high-resolution tracks. That’s not to say that getting uncompressed CD quality music or standard-definition files is a bad thing. It’s the expedient thing to do if you’re trying to get a large number of albums online in a very short time.
I remember John Hamm ex-CEO of Pono telling me that they wouldn’t be in the business of remastering or retransferring old master tapes. The decision by new CEO Neil Young to plug into an existing catalog of tracks will ensure that purchasers of their Pono players will have plenty of content to consume. It’s just unfortunate that it won’t be the fidelity that will “return us to the soul of music” as they’ve claimed for many months.
Photo credit by Omnifone