By Jack Sharkey, August 31, 2018
I can’t think of a better time to be a music fan. I can think of quite a few more exciting times to be a music fan, but this is not one of them. That’s not to say there isn’t fabulous new music being released – there is, it’s just that the thrill is kind of missing.
Back in the day, when music was supposed to be so much more superior than it is now, we had exactly four ways to listen to it: the radio, vinyl on your stereo at home, cassette in your car, and the live show. Life was easy. Music was good.
Now music consumers get the best of both worlds – the magic of vinyl and the convenience of digital. In fact, most new vinyl albums come with a download card for you to get yourself a digital copy of your new record. With each new album you get a digital download of…an…mp3 file. No choice, just dregs.
“Well, mp3’s let you store a lot of music on your phone.” Okay, but who’s really storing music on their phones anymore? It’s not 2008 – we have streaming services we carry around with us freeing up tons of phone storage space for important things like food selfies and pictures of weird people we see at Starbucks.
There is an entire segment of your market you are completely ignoring, so here’s my idea: To accommodate those folks who are stuck in the Aughts, go ahead and offer the mp3. But for those of us who want the best possible sounding music we can get regardless of the platform we listen to it on, offer lossless downloads. I would love to have vinyl for when I’m in the mood for vinyl, and a decent sounding lossless file in a decent resolution to store on my server for the convenience and quality digital platforms provide. Then I would truly have the best of both worlds.
In fact, here’s a novel idea – why not give consumers a choice? Lossy formats for folks who store music on their phones and lossless formats for those of who care more about quality than quantity.
“Well, people don’t know the difference.” Personally, I don’t think you’re giving people enough credit, and for those who don’t know the difference print something like this on your download card:
If you intend to store this album on your phone, download the lossy format
If you want to listen to this album in all of its artistic beauty, download the lossless format
And here’s a fun-fact: Despite what your unpaid techie interns are telling you about the technology, there is no added cost to provide a file in lossless format over lossy. It’s literally a menu item selection when you render the song. Sure, you may take up a little more storage space on your server, but seriously even you bean counters who run the majors would be hard-pressed to see a huge cost differential.
I’m so put off by this lack of choice that I’ve stopped buying vinyl and am just buying the lossless formats, which results in a loss for both of us.
“Well, you’re a weird fossil who is into things like high-quality audio. No one else really cares.” Again, with the lack of credit for your audience’s intellect. And besides, maybe if the actual source of the music – the record label – put a modicum of effort into educating new music consumers about the singular magic of really good sounding music, you’d, I don’t know, sell more product.
Come on gals and guys who run the majors and the major independents, the iTunes revolution is dead. We live in an age where we can have the best possible musical experience for a mere fraction of what it used to cost, yet you are still stiffing us out of that magic through indifference and ignorance.
Just like the scam of increasing the length of an album so as not to waste all of those unused bits on CDs, there is no cost difference for you to offer lossy or lossless files. In fact, the only cost to you is the cost of printing up the download card and a few nano-cents in storage on your server. Seriously, give it a try. You've got nothing to lose and you might just wind up offering a product people will buy.