Telarc, the Cleveland area audiophile record label, will cease producing its own music at some point this month. The multiple-Grammy winning record label's roots go back classical recordings from the 1970's. Today the company's president stepped down and the parent company, Concord Music Group, will slash 26 of the label's 52 jobs.
Michael Bishop, the engineer most associated with the forward thinking label, has left to start an upstart audiophile label called Five/Four Productions which will focus on audiophile endeavors going forward while Telarc is said be planning on "outsourcing" is music production.
The Telarc label was always at the forefront of new audio technologies when the major record labels were anything but enthusiastic for the likes of 5.1 surround sound, DVD-Audio and SACD. Today as Telarc changes its corporate DNA forever, the major record labels still only offer their music in low resolution, 25 year old Compact Discs or one quarter the resolution of a CD MP3 downloads.
The end of Telarc as we all know it is sadly predictable as audiophiles are becoming senior citizens having never inspired a younger audience to share the same passion for music. Today more people love music than ever as proven by the insane success of Apple's iPod and iTunes Music Store, yet the demand or even responsibility for labels to create music in high definition simply isn't there. DTS Entertainment invested millions behind DVD-Audio and music in 5.1 surround. Sony put even more millions into the SACD format. Both projects failed miserably. Today, independent audiophile labels are able to a few thousands copies of an SACD or CD title but even the best selling commercial audiophile records rarely sell more than 20,000 copies (excluding the hybrid SACD of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon which sold over 1.1 million copies). Pricey AV equipment, cables and lack of specialty record stores make selling audiophile music increasingly difficult. The lack of a video component to traditional audiophile music ignores the 3,000,000 HDTV sets sold every month as the heart and soul of mainstream user's AV systems. To compound matters farther, the lack of video leaves Generation X and even the younger Generation Yers without the video content that they know and love from formats like MTV, video games, DVD-video movies and the all-important source of entertainment in their life - the Internet.
Those who hold out hope for higher quality sound reproduction point at the Blu-ray format as a current viable option. While SACD was nearly almost a stereo - not a 5.1 surround sound - format Blu-ray can accommodate HD audio codecs that are far higher resolution than anything SACD could dream of. While DVD-Audio had video capabilities which was a major advantage over SACD, the need for upwards of nine cables, a new $1000 player and an AV preamp or receiver with 5.1 audio inputs to listen to a mere handful of A-list music titles left mainstream consumers saying "no thank you!" Today Blu-ray players sell for less than $200 in every electronics store in the world and the format with its one-cable, copy protection via HDMI good enough for the movie studios that has 7.1 surround for HD audio as well as HD video all on one affordable to produce disc. Why majors and indie labels aren't making, remastering and reissuing masses of music into Blu-ray is beyond me and everyone else who would re-buy their music collections to get the music in a HD format. The Blu-ray format has it all including 15 percent market penetration as well as the youthful consumer base built around Sony's Playstation 3. Artists fearful of piracy in new formats like SACD and DVD-Audio are worried about the lack of places to sell their music other than downloads. Blu-ray remains as a viable option for at least five to ten years while the pipeline for HD content via the Internet gets wide enough to accommodate more media buying consumers. In the mean time, audiophiles are left sifting through bins of filthy, played out LPs in what remains of dingy record stores trying to convince themselves that some how the high signal to noise ratio and lack of dynamic sounds better than HD audio because the majors are just too stupid to repackage their music in an HD format that people could repurchase their entire back catalog of music in at least one more time.
Sources: Telarc.com, Cleveland Plain Dealer