I have limited expertise in the area of marketing. Since I started my little label back in 2000, I falsely believed that if you made something really great AND different than what existed before that it would be accepted by the market and succeed. For the longest time I subscribed to the “Field of Dreams” model…”build it and they will come.” AIX Records was unique and remains unique to this day. Our recordings are captured during a single session in an acoustically rich auditorium. There are no overdubs, post processing, equalization, mastering, or artificial reverberation applied to the tracks that we release. AND we include video of the sessions on our DVDs and Blu-ray discs (a fact that has never really noted in the reviews that we get…and which has rarely been duplicated by other labels). We include multiple mixes, lots of extra features and charge roughly the same as vinyl LPs. I’ve managed to carve out a little niche in the audiophile world but the success of AIX Records hasn’t been as over the top.
It’s all about marketing. It’s not whether you produce something really special or not. I received a lengthy and very thoughtful email this morning from a reader that introduced me to a few fundamental concepts about marketing. The opening paragraph describes what it takes for a product to be successful:
“For a product to achieve successful market penetration it must provide the customer with a 3-fold perceived improvement over the “old” product, vs. a single-fold detriment (usually price). That’s easy if the product is in a totally new category, but if not, it’s a struggle. The CD achieved faster than expected market penetration by providing the buyer with 1. Improved sound quality 2. Improved durability and 3. Ease of use. The detriment was only price, which eventually came down in hardware, and became the default for software.”
The writer then evaluated the HD-Audio initiative against the above criteria:
“Unfortunately, HD audio suffers from the lack of a 3-fold improvement. The audible improvement is often questionable (for all the reasons you know too well), and it’s the only improvement. Detriments include higher cost (not only the files but the necessary hardware), the difficulty of utilization (“it don’t play on my iPod!”) and a confusion of file formats, and sampling rates, and production chain integrity.
From a purely marketing standpoint, HD Audio can’t ever achieve general acceptance, and is probably destined to a splinter market at best. Particularly in the US, general purchases are made based on cost, not quality. Not to say you can’t make it in that market, but until Apple’s product fully support high-res files, AND Apple provides them by default, or at least user choice at very modest price points, in the iTunes store, the idea won’t become main-stream.”
I think he got it about right. That’s why I’ve pushed so hard to make sure that high-resolution audio really does offer something dramatically different than the existing norm. But I’ve missed the mark with regards to the other factors.
I’m beginning to envision an alternative strategy to the whole high-resolution challenge. I’ll talk about that tomorrow and beyond.