Neil Young’s Toberlone-shaped Pono high-resolution music player, which was supposed to be released in the fall, has been delayed until the first quarter of 2015. This product earned $6.25 million on Kickstarter, then $7 million on Crowdfunder, which is a crowd-funding investment site, so the company has around $13 million (though they don’t have all […]
Qobuz, a French digital music retailer and streaming service, has been placed in protection by the courts in France, in a procedure similar to chapter 11 protection in the US. This site, which is one of the only sites offering lossless streaming, and which is available in several countries in Europe, just launched its service […]
Back in 1967, Bob Dylan, after his motorcycle accident, holed up in Woodstock, NY, with the members of The Band, and recorded lots of music. In the basement of “Big Pink,” the house where they lived, they recorded and recorded. In 1975, a double-album was released: The Basement Tapes. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) With only 24 […]
Yesterday, the UK newspaper The Guardian published an article about high-resolution music. The article – entitled How much difference is there between MP3, CD and 24-bit audio? – starts with a leader: “Debates rage over whether hi-res music is a gimmick. Three Guardian writers put four music formats – and their ears – to the […]
An article in the Guardian today, How much difference is there between MP3, CD and 24-bit audio?, examines a question I’ve looked at here often: can you here a difference between high-resolution music and CD-quality music? They discuss “24-bit audio,” without talking about sample rates. Most “high-res” music is 24/96, or 24-bit, 96 kHz, but […]
Archimago has posted results of a detailed, well-crafted study and survey about high-resolution music. He provided 140 listeners with three pairs of files (read the procedure used for the test), and asked them to determine which one was the high-resolution, 24-bit file. The results were as expected. For two of the three files, the results […]
“On July 2, 1969, Paul McCartney recorded “Her Majesty” live with his acoustic guitar in Abbey Road Studios. The song, less than 30 seconds long, took three takes get down. It was meant to appear between “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam” on Abbey Road‘s now-famous B-Side Suite, but on July 30, McCartney decided he didn’t like that sequence. He asked the tape operator, John Kurlander — a young man just starting out in music production — to get rid of “Her Majesty” all together. Kurlander, as the story goes, knew to never destroy a Beatles recording, so he removed the song and instead tacked it on to the end of the album, leaving 14 seconds of blank tape between it and “The End.” When the album was pressed, “Her Majesty” didn’t appear on labels or album covers, making it one of pop music’s first hidden tracks.”
I was interviewed for this article, because I don’t like hidden tracks. It’s interesting to see the lengths that some artists have gone to in creating hidden tracks. But I still think it’s a futile exercise in doing something that’s cool just for the sake of being cool.
“How much is a recording worth to you? What’s its value – both artistic and in monetary terms? This is something that’s been brought into question quite starkly in recent years. Firstly, the increasing numbers of super-budget back-catalogue reissues – or even new recordings from the likes of Naxos – have caused many a buyer to pause a little longer before shelling out for a full-price disc. More recent still, the rapid developments in online music – first downloads, then streaming – have made most of the history of music available for free or at the very least through an astonishingly good value subscription model.
How things have changed. An industry colleague this week told me of the price to a record collector, back in 1963, of Herbert von Karajan’s first Beethoven symphony cycle with the Berlin Philharmonic, issued by Deutsche Grammophon (the Ninth Symphony is the subject of this month’s Classics Reconsidered – see page 108). The eight-LP set, when purchase tax was added on, cost £14 and 8 shillings (£14.40). At the time, the average British weekly wage was about £15. In the US it cost $47.98 – about 40 per cent of the average weekly American wage at the time, but even so, still a very significant investment. (As indeed was DG’s in making the recording – the label spent 1.5m Deutschmarks and had to sell at least 100,000 to break even. They need not have worried as, one decade on, it had sold 1 million copies.) The set’s just been remastered and handsomely packaged. You can now pick it up for about £45, less than a tenth of today’s average weekly wage.”
(I’ve added the word “classical” above; the excerpt comes from Gramophone, a classical music magazine. Readers on the site know it’s not referring to a pop or rock recording.)
While music sales have been decreasing, no one seems to have addressed the fact that the cost of music has dropped as well. Not just from the extreme mentioned above, but the price of an album. If you look at the standard $10 price of a download, that’s just a baseline. While iTunes doesn’t discount, Amazon does, with steep discounts on many new and popular albums, with some for just $3 or $4.
In classical music, the precipitous drop in per-disc price has been astounding, and it’s certainly a good thing for those who buy a lot of music. Yes, new, single CDs by big names cost the same, but lots of classical music can be had for a pittance. With the price of box sets dragging down the general price of CDs, it’s increasingly difficult to justify full-price any more. Even small box sets – say, 5 or 6 discs – are now sold at the price of a single disc, while bigger sets often come in at $1 – $2 a disc. A set that once would have cost hundreds of dollars, such as Vladimir Horowitz Live At Carnegie Hall (Amazon.com, Amazon UK), is only $106 or £72 on Amazon as of today.
It’s tough for the recording industry to keep a balance between these low prices and profits. With classical labels selling fewer copies of each release – nothing sells like the million copies of the Beethoven symphonies mentioned in the article – it’s harder to break even.