An Open Letter To Audiophile Record Labels About Blu-ray For Music

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GoldCD.gifTo All Audiophile and Specialty Record Labels,


Today is the day to see the extraordinary opportunity in front of you. The days of selling retro-vinyl titles or dead-format SACDs are over. The Blu-ray era is here and you have every reason to get involved, as the reasons are so plentiful. The most compelling reason is the majors are distracted by the low-hanging fruit of downloads, even as there is an enthusiast base of music lovers who can buy thousands if not tens of thousands of your new and even more profitable back-catalogue titles right now.

Additional Resources
Learn more about SACD here.
Read a list of the best, audiophile grade Blu-ray players from the likes of Oppo, Denon, Cambridge Audio and many others here.

To recap some of the many reasons why Blu-ray is something you should be jumping into with both feet:
- Blu-ray as an audio format can accurately replicate the master tape - no matter how high its resolution - with a one-for-one copy that blows away the audio performance of any other format on the market today, including vinyl, Compact Disc, DVD-Audio, DVD-Video, SACD and most HD downloads.
- Blu-ray is copy-protected at levels that would make Hollywood studios feel comfortable. It's pretty hard to steal the files, yet there is room to give MP3 files or other lower-resolution files to add value for consumers if desired.
- Blu-ray can be connected with one HDMI cable, unlike the ghastly nine-cable nightmare of DVD-Audio and SACD.
- Blu-ray players are downright affordable with retail prices of below $200, yet they pack audio performance simply not available from the best $15,000 SACD players and $50,000 turntables. Of course, audiophile-grade Blu-ray players could sound even better, but the barrier to entry is so low for consumers to get in on Blu-ray for music that the opportunity is just screaming at you.
- Blu-ray, unlike SACD (the current and only real audiophile format left), has video capabilities. Millions of people buy HDTVs every month for HD video. Imagine selling HD music discs to even 1/100th of one percent of them.
- Labels like 2L from Norway are bundling SACDs with Blu-ray discs for audiophiles to make the most of both formats and to open up the possibility to sell more music to more people.
- Blu-ray as a format can do 5.1 audio or even 7.1 audio to recreate a surround sound experience that makes DVD-Audio or SACD sound "last decade," even if the audiophile print magazines think "last decade" is somehow more desirable. DTS Master Audio and Dolby True HD are incredible audio playback formats.
- Every receiver on the market today and dozens of more audiophile-grade AV preamps have HDMI inputs and can reproduce master-quality audio for very little money.
- I could go on and on and on...

Today the opportunity is sitting right in front of your noses to be more like Microsoft than Micromega and to sell your entire back catalogues all over again on Blu-ray. Today, the opportunity to license important music from the past and remaster it for HD will get the attention of bigger record labels in ways it wouldn't have done even five years ago.

Imagine an audiophile or specialty HD audiophile label selling 1,000 copies each at $20 per (the discs don't have to be cheap, as you need room to pay the artists and labels for the better music, the remastering costs etc.) - think of the sales for your smaller labels. If I were going to start an audiophile/specialty label (don't think it hasn't crossed my mind, but my plate is pretty full producing movies in 4k like April Showers, in theaters on April 24, 2009 - shameless plug), I would go to DTS and see if I could license their back catalogue of 5.1 mixes of the music of Sting, the Eagles, Queen, Lyle Lovett and many others. Some were on 5.1 CDs, others on DVD-Audio, but all are close to being ready to be re-released. What happened to AudioQuest Music? Could there be a stash of music waiting to be released in HD on Blu-ray? How about JVC Music? Think Concord would take your call for you to re-release Telarc recordings on Blu-ray? Why wouldn't they, if you do the heavy lifting and they share in the profits? It's worth a call to ask, but before you make that call, dial up your banker, because as financial institutions free up their lending in the coming months, you might need some upfront money to land and remaster the goodies. Trust me, it's worth it long-term.

To the specialty retailers of the world, like Acoustic Sounds, Music Direct and even Amazon.com: how about putting out a purchase order for enough discs so that these small labels can feel the effect? How about priming the pump a little, the way the Federal government is trying to stimulate the economy? There is only so much risk a small label can take when it is selling its music directly to the consumer. Look at these labels as your partners and help them gain some market traction.

To audiophile and home theater electronics companies: stop fearing making a higher-end Blu-ray player. Where is my Meridian Blu-ray player? Yes, I want a Sooloos media server, too, but I want a player with all of Meridian's (or Krell's, or Levinson's or EMM Labs' or DCS's or ...) insight and experience for Blu-ray music and movie playback. I would pay thousands for it and there are thousands of others like me. Goldmund can't be the only high-end company on the planet with enough guts to make a high-end Blu-ray player. It's time to step up and invest. OEM companies can help and it doesn't have to be that painful or outlandishly costly.

Read more on Page 2


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EMI-Logo2-thumb-255x155-74.gifTo the audiophile and HD-loving consumers: what if you bought a $200 or $300 Blu-ray player today for your best audio rig and looked for some of the newest titles on Blu-ray with the same enthusiasm as you seek out rare vinyl or high-resolution SACDs? They are out there. Buy the Neil Young catalogue. Buy some stuff from 2L. Buy some concert videos on Blu-ray. As soon as labels see that you are out there and are willing to spend the money that you might spend on a hot dog and a Coke at a baseball game on a Blu-ray music disc, they will make more. Record execs and RIAA statisticians track the sale of music on new formats like Blu-ray and your support makes a difference.

To specialty AV retailers who still care about selling audio and home systems to make profitable audio sales in the future: what if you made 100 percent certain that every person who walks in your door gets a demo of some music (even if it's in HD stereo) hears what Blu-ray can do in reproducing music. Show these people the future and ask them if they want to invest. How about calling every audiophile client you have sold a stereo preamp to in the past 20 years and send your salespeople out with a player and a Blu-ray music disc under their arms to do an in-home demo for 10 minutes? Think you might get some people back in the store for some sales? Do your salespeople have anything to do better right now than this kind of grassroots movement?

Computer software companies and Hollywood studios make their vast fortunes selling the same basic data over and over again, each time with new twists and performance enhancements. The major record labels used to follow same business model until the mid-1990s. As much as the major labels want to blame Napster and peer-to-peer file sharing for their ills, that's not the issue. The issue is that the compact disc isn't an HD format and consumers want everything HD today. Blu-ray is HD on all levels. Blu-ray is good for surround sound in HD resolutions, it's copy-protected and it's cheap to get started. It's a stunning value proposition for audiophiles, as well as for consumers far more mainstream in the marketplace today.

My open challenge to you, the HD-loving, performance-oriented audiophiles, is to embrace Blu-ray for audio right now. Buy a player. Buy some discs. Write letters. Send emails. Post about HD audio on Facebook. Talk about Blu-ray on Linkedin's audiophile group. Ask your local record shop to start a Blu-ray section. Do the same at your local audio store. Start your own small movement. Get 10 or 20 of your music-loving friends to support the movement. It gets viral and that's how things get legs these days.

Meaningful HD downloads are coming without question, but won't be mainstream for years to come. Time will tell how you respond to the challenge and vast opportunity that I outline for you here. I see a bright future for HD audio if the people who truly love HD look to the future more than they cling to the past.

Optimistically,

Jerry Del Colliano
Publisher

HomeTheaterReview.com

Additional Resources
• Learn more about SACD here.
• Read a list of the best, audiophile grade Blu-ray players from the likes of Oppo, Denon, Cambridge Audio and many others here.

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