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IFA 2017: Labels Sony, Universal and Warner outlined hopes of mass-market appeal for hi-res music

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We are at a time where we are seeing major opportunities for hi-res: to get the younger generations to move on to hi-res. Formats like MQA make it more portable, so it’s easier to have it yourself, in your car and outside the home. So I think that’s a great opportunity,” said Morvan Boury, VP of global digital development for Sony Music.

During a panel discussion at IFA 2007, representatives from Sony Music, Universal Music, Warner Music and MQA exchanged views on how hi-res music can appeal to the mass market.

Traditionally before hi-res music was made available on the Internet via downloads stores and streaming sites, the availability of higher quality music has been through from DVD-Audio Discs and SACDs. These physical mediums had to be played using special players and made higher quality music a niche for the audiophile community.

Recent developments in technologies with formats like MQA has made hi-res audio more portable, coupled with affordable devices that support hi-res audio brings portability and affordability to the mass market.

“Part of it is that the younger generation grew up with MP3s and they haven’t had the exposure to the high-quality audio. But once they get it, they get it and that’s part of our job: to reach out to them so they hear it,” Universal Music’s SVP of global digital business development Bill Gagnon said. “The sound sells itself.”

Michael Drexler, VP, digital strategy and corporate development for Warner Music cited the resurgence of vinyl sales that was mostly driven by Gen X and Gen Z that are now discovering hi-res audio.

We don’t really have to educate the 40, 50 and 60-year-olds because they already know. They have CD collections at home, they already know the benefit. But we’re getting excitement in this younger demographic segment. From things at colleges, tests and consumer surveys that back up that theory that there are true demand and interest for hi-res in the younger generation.”

Representatives of the three labels also provided an update on the conversion of their catalogues into hi-res formats. Sony Music has more than 50k, while Universal Music currently has around 60k tracks available and Warner Music has nearly 12k albums.

“Every day it’s growing more and more. Universal is really committed to making all of our content available in hi-res,” said Gagnon. “Any new releases coming in, we’re requesting them to be delivered in hi-res audio,”  added Warner Music’s Drexler. These are testimonies of the labels’ commitment to hi-res audio.

With portability and accessibility being the key selling point of MQA, the three labels are working together with the technology provider as they seek to widen the appeal of hi-res music beyond audiophiles.

“As much as we’ve had history over the years with different audiophile or hi-res physical formats, this is something that I think we’re all committed to introducing to the masses and that means very popular music, as well as all the great classics and jazz,” said MQA’s CEO Mike Jbara

Universal Music’s SVP of global digital business development, Bill Gagnon sums up the challenges ahead, ““We need to make it easy for the consumer. There needs to be a clear message and it needs to be easy. They need to be able to use their phone, to be able to use it at home, when they get in their car it activates right away. It needs to be simple.”


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