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RE: There's no free lunch

>> Then why are these record companies 'jumping on the bandwagon' <<

Good question. There are two things to keep in mind:

1) All of the major record labels are publicly-owned corporations. By US law, the *primary* purpose of a publicly-owned corporation is to "maximize the returns for the shareholders". The end results of this directive has been explored in the documentary "The Corporation" (linked below).

Looking specifically at record labels, their original purpose was to identify, polish, and promote new musical talent that would be bought in large quantities. They used to have things called A&R departments (artists and repertoire) who would scout out new trends and talents. When CD arrived in the early 80's, the record labels learned that by far the most profitable property they own is their back-catalog. All of the costs of scouting, polishing, recording, and promoting were already paid for. Just re-release property they already owned in a new format and it was like printing free money.

Adding to this is the currently unsettled state of the music business (as a business). Vinyl is the only physical format with growing sales, while all other physical formats (and even intangible downloads) are in decline. The only distribution channel that is currently growing over time is streaming, the equivalent of renting music. It's a brave new world, and nobody knows how it will turn out. Given that the back-catalog is still the most valuable property, if you were a record label and an outside party offered a deal to spend large sums of money to promote a new format in exchange for a small piece of the pie, would you say "No"?

2) The second part is hidden in your question - are the "record companies jumping on the bandwagon"? It's far too early to tell. Think back to the "format wars" between SACD and DVD-Audio. Many predicted that SACD would win simply because Sony not only made playback hardware, but also owned a giant record label. But when we stop for a moment and look back, it is clear that Sony Music (owners of the content) dipped a toe in the water by releasing a few SACDs from their library (single-layer only - not backwards compatible), while Sony Electronics (manufacturers of the hardware) primed the pump by subsidizing the production costs of releasing popular titles in the new hybrid format (eg, Rolling Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival) which also had a CD layer.

Although that "battle" seemed to last for many years, it only took a few months for a careful observer to make a prediction that SACD would never become a mainstream success (nor would DVD-A). Why? Extremely simple - as noted above, the primary duty of a publicly-held corporation is to maximize profit. When the record labels released discs in the new formats there were only two things that would happen - they would either make money or lose money. If they had made money, they would have instantly released more and more material until the entire back catalog was converted. The fact that there were only a handful of releases in either new format made it clear that both were money-losing propositions. This was exactly the opposite of DVD-Video was introduced. As soon as a title was released, everybody made money and within a few years there were tens of thousands of titles in the new format.

Regarding MQA, there is a spreadsheet available on the internet that appears to be someone's attempt to collate all available MQA titles:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/u/1/d/10VtON9VjMAt3uyHC2-Oo2MjIa3orv9DKZfwiRQKmTAA/htmlview#

The title of the spreadsheet implies that there are 2,700 titles available, but there are only about 1,700 lines in the spreadsheet, so the 2,700 number is clearly incorrect. It appears to be from a Spanish speaking person, so not likely anyone affiliated with a record label or streaming service. Most of the titles are specifically available at MQA, yet a significant number are blank - not sure what to make of that. Most of the titles also have release dates in the format "DD/MM/YYYY". Except for two releases by The Black Keys dated in May, all others are dated either late January through 13 March. It appears to me that the record labels are dipping their toes in the water and waiting to see the reaction - just as they did with SACD and DVD-Audio.

As always, simply my own opinion and not necessarily that of my employer or yard gnome.



Edits: 06/03/17

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  • RE: There's no free lunch - Charles Hansen 19:45:45 06/03/17 (2)

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