Dr. AIX's POSTS — 12 November 2015

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My time as a board member of the Consumer Electronics Association’s Audio Board will end at the end of this year. Thanks to my friend Ray Kimber, I was welcomed to the board as the first record label among hundreds of hardware companies over 5 years ago. And I’ve enjoyed being a part of the organization. I’ve met a lot of interesting, knowledgeable and highly skilled people. I developed a demonstration disc for the CEA and was very pleased to be a part of several demonstration sessions including one held at Jungle City Studios a couple years ago. But the 2016 CEA Audio Board…or CTA if you want to start using the new name…will tackle the hard issues of hi-res audio and hi-res music without me. And not because I didn’t want to continue serving on the board.

I got an email announcing “The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® is now the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)™. The change to ‘Technology’ reflects the breadth of our industry and how our membership has evolved and grown. As the industry has expanded, it’s time our name evolved, too.” I also read President and CEO Gary Shapiro’s explanation for the name change. It’s all about wanting to include companies outside of the traditional “electronics” circle…companies that produce apps, wireless products, etc. “The word ‘technology’ better defines what we have become and who we represent”.

I got to know Gary during my days working with Yoostar, a game start up that brought a product to market that allowed you to replace an actor in a movie scene or singer in a music video. Gary came to the AIX studio and played a number of roles including Dr. Frankenstein, Charlton Heston, and Cary Grant. He’s an energetic actor and did a really great job! I produced a short video promoting the game that was played during his opening keynote at the CES in 2008. It turned out he lives in the same town I grew up in Birmingham, Michigan and commutes to Washington DC. Very nice guy.

Last week, I received an invoice for my CTA membership dues for 2016. I find it a little curious that the newly named organization wants my money but won’t allow me to continue to participate on the audio board. The leadership of the audio board didn’t explain why I was told that I wouldn’t be welcome in the coming year. All they could say was that I wasn’t the only member that wouldn’t be returning. Another company Grooveshark, a very large music download site (now defunct), was also dropped from the board…but they were shut down after admitting that their business model depended on making millions of copyrighted tunes available without first securing licenses from the rights holders.

The CEA audio board isn’t the first board that I’ve served on and it won’t be the last. Upon learning that the group wasn’t interested in hearing my perspective on high-resolution audio and music any longer, I wrote to Gary and informed him what had transpired. He was cordial and wrote, “Life is better if you choose your battles carefully. Not everything can be the end of the world. Life is more enjoyable if you show some flexibility on the little stuff and only fight for the most important issues. My test is will it matter on my deathbed?”

Only fight for the most important issues? That’s what I thought I was doing…pushing for transparency, honestly, accuracy, and information when in reality the group wants “to convey the experiential side of music, it’s a win win for everyone and all that really matters”. I could write a whole post talking about the “experiential side of music” vs. the necessity to provide meaningful information to consumers about the realities of high-resolution music.

The new Hi-Res Music logo also made news this week. The major so-called “high-resolution” download sites are on board with the new logo and will be displaying it on their sites. The only requirement is that they also provide the digital specifications of the delivery format of the files…that’s all it takes to qualify for high-resolution status. What about provenance?

The CEA or the CTA could have been instrumental in clearing away the confusion…but it turns out that they and others are more interested in the short term profits of their member companies over the establishment of a growing marketplace and serving the needs of consumers. Maybe they should have changed the name to the Companies Selling Technology Association because they sure aren’t doing any favors to consumers.

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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.

(25) Readers Comments

  1. Board member or not Mark I still read your blog/newsletter when it hits my inbox. I too have attempted to promote the same understanding regarding provenance and get met by blank stares or straight up hostility. This is very similar to the stigma that anyone prior to Snowden faced when they spoke of surveillance and anything else that seemed conspiratorial.
    Until the ads on TV and billboards and in web banners push the truth people will continue to prefer that warm marketing fueled feeling when they fire up the “BEST HI RES OF THE 60’s” in mono @ 192/24…

    • I’ve learned a lot by serving on the board. I can only imagine the private conversations that must have occurred to have them remove me. Although, I have received a number of very supportive emails from other members. I have a number of friends on the board. But I’ve come to understand that once they come to consensus on a position (like the definition of hi-res audio/music), they expect everyone to be in lock step with that consensus. And I simply can’t actively be part of a campaign of spin and misinformation in the pursuit of profits.

  2. I doubt if anyone is interested in truth and honesty in the music business. This has always been the case. And the high end equipment manufacturers are just as guilty. It really is sad that it’s all about making money any way, any how. It’s really like pissing against the wind. I just hope that if enough of your readers get the real word out that a lot of these crooks will go belly up. I know, wishful thinking.

    • There are lots of really good people in the music industry…but in the end it’s a business and people want to maximize the amount of money that can be extracted from customers. It’s the American way…and I’m part of that. They will continue to push the high-res myth and plenty of money will be spent int he search for new sounds from old records.

  3. CTA was the Chicago Transit Authority and from what you posted they chose a good name associating themselves with Chicago. I lived there for 62 years and sounds like both organizations do business in the same manner, greedily.
    It is a shame they try to shut you up like that but you hit the nail on the head, it’s all about the money, AGAIN.
    I salute your integrity, a word your “friend” Gary doesn’t seem to understand.

    • I was going to reference the Chicago Transit Authority…I remember the original name of the band Chicago. The CEA or CTA is not unlike any other trade organization. I’ll be giving the keynote address in Las Vegas just prior to the CEA 2016 show for the ALMA organization…and they specifically sought me out because they understand what I have be saying.

  4. Might Gary be a little condescending ? “Little stuff” ? Marketing has become shameless, full steam ahead. Follow the herd, or “get out of the way” !

    • Gary leads a major organization and is charged with keeping a variety of consumer electronics companies happy…a very difficult task. He doesn’t know anything about high-end audio. He follows the research and issues encouraging press releases but he doesn’t know that high-resolution audio/music is one of the most important things happening in consumer technology. He should want to get it right, I would think.

  5. Hi Mark,

    For me Mr. Shapiro’s comment seemed somewhat condescending in so far as saying that “life is more enjoyable if you show some flexibility on the little stuff”.

    My take is, they have “removed” a voice for real Hi Res, so that they can market anythig as Hi Res, so long as it is in a Hi Res container. They certainly do not fool me.

    Provenance for older recordings will always be difficult, as in the S&V guide it says the information was not always recorded, but that is rendered pointless anyway because most older recordings are analogue anyway. Remastering is great news, but not Hi Res.

    I would like to rant further, but I am not sufficiently expert to do so. I will finish with this, keep up your work on Hi Res, the fact that you were in europe showing students how to make Hi Res recordings is great and may give the next generation of artists the tools they need.

    In the mean time I believe the industry is milking the public for their pension funds and doing virtually zero for advancing recording and playback of actual Hi Res.

    Mr.Shapiro would be best advised to …………. (too angry to print)

    Sorry to hear that a major body doesn’t want your expertise anymore.

    Best regards

    Gordon

    • Gordon, I’m not angry…but I am disappointed that when given the chance to have an experienced authoring in their midst, they chose to follow rather than lead. The CEA audio board moves in harmony with other organizations and seems unable or unwilling to exhibit any real leadership in the area. And they do that because their member companies want to make short term profits rather than move the industry forward.

  6. Unfortunately you will have many enemies if still committed to expose those who try to deceive potential consumers of what is real HD audio . Surely you shut up other doors. It’s a shame. They know that your business is doomed to failure because people are not stupid and do not spend money on something that does not bring them any advantage.
    Of course , to me they will not cheat . The best information, like yours , is the best defense too.
    Mark greetings and encouragement.

    • Thanks Federico…I’ve been approached by some major national press outlets and will be on a major syndicated radio program in December. The message will continue.

  7. Well, Mark, I’m not surprised and I don’t know anything about anyone in the organization. As you suggest, the adage of “follow the money” is at play here but perhaps in modified form: “follow the easy money.” If one ever watches Fox News “Water’s World” they will understand that the native intelligence and overall knowledge of the population at large, and especially college students (not talking MIT or Georgia Tech here) seems to have slipped — considerably.

    Most people who like music – even many musicians — don’t have the mental ability or interest in understanding the technical process of digitization and will settle for far less than what is possible. The history of MP3 is proof of that with people spending 3 times the cost of a pod device for a small speaker to hear sounds that aren’t there or ones that shouldn’t be. Cost is another factor: a good 5.1 system is not trivial. So, the diluted version of Hi-Res sound (low res sound in a high-res container) appeals and seems to satisfy a large listening audience. That is what is being merchandised, that’s were you will end up if you follow the money. How about a new organization?

    • I did dream of an organization called the High-Definition Surround Music Association…maybe it’s time to look again. But in all honesty, the industry doesn’t want to know about all of the high-res nonsense so I doubt I would have any members. I spoke to a show organizer recently and he confided that some of the other vendors complain about me being part of the show…”it’s bad for commerce”.

  8. Hello Mark,

    This is really disgusting and at the same time enlightening. This exclusion, and the not so subtle way of telling you you should have kept your mouth shut and gone along with the orchestration of the fraud this and other organizations are perpetrating, or looked the other way, only confirms the value and timing of your efforts. It shows the moral quality of the people pretending to offer standards, guarantees and accurate information to consumers, and their real colors.

    I am truly disgusted by these kind of gestures and outright corruption, and see nothing in this decision but the unequivocal way of this organization to manifest its true intentions. The industry behind and represented by this organization is just digging their own grave with the path they have chosen. Their lies won’t survive the scrutiny of consumers on the internet, and in the end they will lose more than they ever hoped to gain, and that will certainly be their lesson. I have no doubt about it.

    As I have suggested before, its time for musicians, engineers, labels manufacturers of audio equipment, creators of digital means to distribute and reproduce music, etc., to unite and organize in an independent organization that truly looks for the interests of musicians and consumers alike, and promote better practices, new business models, standards, and accurate peer-reviewed information, as well as guidelines for ethically and technically legitimate advertising. There really is no more time to be wasted trying to save these people from themselves and their greed, it’s time to leave them behind altogether.

    We urgently need a new business model for the whole industry, and this can’t be a more unequivocal sign that some people just won’t be part of that change, and that we’ll have to make it despite their efforts to support something that we should have gotten rid a long time ago, and precisely by the solutions that digital technology and communications have provided us with.

    We musicians and music consumers need people like you, that will put personal gain aside and say it like it is, and that can envision a new way of doing things without the fear of losing their current positions and businesses. People that have the moral fiber and lack the opportunistic instinct that tells them “Life is better if you choose your battles carefully”, or that “Life is more enjoyable if you show some flexibility on the little stuff and only fight for the most important issues.”

    If anything, this all just confirms how much your integrity is really worth, and how absolutely nothing other people’s integrity can really be worth.

    Cheers!

    • Thanks Camilo. It seems honesty and integrity are only casual notions to some. I suspect this situation manifests itself in virtually all market segments. They can continue without me but I won’t stop promoting real high-resolution productions.

  9. I know this isn’t the best place to post this link but it IS about sound.
    I found it fascinating.

    • Scot, I tried to go to the link but the content is not available.

  10. They won’t fool me!
    Keep up the good work, Mark.

  11. Dear mark,

    My point of view is that you must not bother with participating in the Consumer Electronics Association’s Audio Board. It is better to join the best than continuing participating with the worst. Your name is above all the controversy in the High Resolution Audio field. It is not possible to contest your arguments when they are technically and scientifically proven. The audiophiles who want to listen to bad quality recordings and those that like old recordings as if they are new ones in high resolution buckets want to be deceived. For this kind of people there is no hope!

    Another matter. Did you read the new Guide to High Resolution Audio published by Sound & Vision magazine? It is a joke and it is against all the established audio parameters for High Resolution Audio. They completely forget the provenance of the source. It is a pity that such a kind of literature can take the audio aficionados to wrong conclusions!

    All the best.

    • Thanks Ronaldo…it was the work by Sound & Vision that put the final nail in the coffin. I haven’t seen the final version but I was involved in reviewing the drafts and made many notes. I was shocked at the quality of the document…very disappointing.

  12. Alright Mark. The way I see it the story needs press. We may not be able to get Rolling Stone’s Matt Talibi, though it’s worth a try, but possibly the NYT might or even 60 minutes. Perhaps you should investigate the possibilities of an unbiased truth telling organization.

    • I’m exploring additional press outlets. I’ve been approached by several and will undoubtedly try to get the truth out to consumers.

  13. Well hang in there and don’t be discouraged. Just keep talking about a consistent production chain and provenance. The industry is clueless, but eventually enough consumers will figure it out.

    Look at the push for 3D television — a total failure despite tens of millions of industry marketing.

    Bit of an uphill climb for correct hidef anyway given most music buyers are OK with Spotify and mp3’s but why not make engineering and distribution progress despite low demand? It’s the professional thing to do.

    • I’m not discouraged…I’m disappointed that smart knowledgeable people allow this to happen. There is no future for hi-res audio/music because there is no commercial hi-res content being made available. The industry will continue to deny the facts and spew forth endless statements claiming black is white and white is black.

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