Dr. AIX's POSTS — 28 October 2014

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I had breakfast with a close friend this morning in Venice, California. Richard is in town with his daughter to visit USC and check out the music industry program there. His father was the founder and head of a major UK-based record label back in the 60’s and his aunt was one of the leads in “Help”, the second Beatles movie.

He knows the record industry and follows technology as a consultant and expert. It’s always fun to get together and share what’s been going on in our lives. It’s been 8 months since we last had breakfast at the same cafe on Washington Boulevard.

We talked about a variety of things…the school, family, music, my encounter with Sprint in July, Amazon and an artist that he’s been working with Prince Ea, who’s getting lots of views on YouTube and FB. Turns out you can get millions of views on FB and not generate any revenue…no big surprise. Music is not valued. It’s just something to share with friends.

Then he said, “Last month was the lowest month for music sales on record”. I was not really shocked. When was the last time you purchased a CD…or even a vinyl LP? Audiophiles are certainly willing to spend more money than the average Joe, but with streaming and YouTube becoming the norm in music consumption, it’s no wonder that the music business continues to struggle. Even my wife is using the Apple TV in our media room to stream music through our home theater instead of playing CDs or the radio. There is a fundamental shift taking place these days. And it doesn’t bode well for music regardless of fidelity.

High-resolution audio amounts to about 2% of sales. And that’s not even the real stuff! Vinyl LPs are another 2%. Where is the other 96%? Well about half is happening at sites like iTunes and the other half comes from compact discs. There’s additional money being generated by licensing to the movies and games, but it’s important to recognize that fidelity isn’t a driving factor when it comes to music sales.

Music is important. There is more music being played and consumed than at any other period but the reality is fewer and fewer people are playing for it. There’s just no value in spending the time and money to produce music when it ends up spread across the web for free. I appreciate that AIX fans are willing to support my efforts and purchase our recordings. Thursday, I’ll fly to Toronto to the TAVES show and stand in front of a sales table for three days telling people how great music recordings can be. But we live in a bubble.

The music industry train has left the station and frankly I’m uncertain whether it’ll come back. Richard’s daughter and my engineering students may get a great education in the music business and audio engineering but if there’s no one purchasing music…what good will it do them? High-resolution music is not the savior of the music industry as some people have imagined. We’re a blip on the screen with sales in the 100 of thousands not millions. When was the last time a record went Platinum? It hasn’t happened this year.

Brace yourselves…there will be more new record lows.

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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.

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