There are high-res proponents that believe that better audio fidelity will cause average consumers to upgrade their playback systems and the content that they play through them. I’m not one of them. High-res music will remain a niche market and grab only a very limited segment of the music industry…certainly less than 5%. In spite of the increased attention that Neil Young and Pono brought to better quality music, it remains a very small portion of music sales. If sales of vinyl LPs have “exploded” to 3% of the music industry market, then we shouldn’t expect “hi-res” to do much better. And this includes all of the music that is marketed and sold as “high-res” even though it’s not (Tidal, PonoMusic, and the rest…).
So let’s get real and recognize that most people aren’t audiophiles, most mainstream press don’t understand the appeal of expensive and exotic audio gear, and even audiophile reviewers often fail to understand or accept the scientific basis of music recording and reproduction. The irrational passion for DSD being exhibit “A”.
My recommendation for the organizations and labels would be to narrow their marketing focus. The only way that “the masses” are going to open up to better quality audio (not to mention real high-resolution audio/music) is by word of mouth. I would venture that most people know someone that is “into” their sound system and appreciate the benefits of a well-produced album. I’m that person in my close circle of friends. I’m not only “into” better sound but I’ve dedicated my life to achieving better fidelity in the records that I’ve produced but also been a strong advocate for enhancing our music experiences. Can you imagine my disappointment when one of my closest friends cheers about his “sound bar”? (You know who you are Jim.)
My FB page includes a large number of old high school friends and family. They think I come from another planet. How could listening to music be that important…it’s just music. I’m sure they think I have no life because I don’t post pictures of my breakfast, share political stuff, etc. That’s just me.
IMHO “high-res” music will catch on when music fans, artists, producers, engineers, and labels realize that music can be improved…not by a huge amount but enough to make it worth selecting the higher octane version over the standard issue track. If it doesn’t cost more then why not? This core group will tell their friends and they will engage their twitter feeds and other social media outlets with the news. It may not go viral like the guy shoving his cat across the room with a broom but it can expand well beyond the base of audiophiles.
If there is any doubt about the veracity or benefits of “high-res” music among those that should be most in tune with it, then there’s absolutely no hope that it will become popular among the masses. This is where we are now.
Part 10: Be honest about everything associated with “high-res” music. Audio enthusiasts are smart…they appreciate being told the truth.