T.H.E. Show Newport
Beach 2015 Report
Seminars here at T.H.E. Show Newport 2015 helped to educate and inform attendees. Everything from turntable setup to loudspeaker design was on the menu for attendees to benefit from. Since i love music and know that the future for most music lovers is streaming, i was highly enthusiastic to attend the seminar titled Music Streaming: Today & Tomorrow. This seminar was moderated by Ron Goldberg of High Res Audio Central, with panel members including Owen Kwon of Astell&Kern, Bob Stuart of Meridian/MQA, David Solomon of TIDAL, Marc Finer of The DEG, and Ron Guttenberg.
The basic premise is the same as compared to physical media pertaining to sales. Streaming allows music to be accessible to everyone at all times. Unlike the limitations of carrying around physical media, live streaming combines with offline storage has major advantages. Marc Finer says "The industry is facing new business models and challenges." Streaming is more focused such as Netflix, with on-demand opportunity for listeners. Unlike over-the-air radio, streaming provides benefits and advantages including choosing a wider variety of genres, customization of playlists, etc.
Bob Stuart says, "The curious thing is that every generations interacts and interfaces with music differently. The fact that it can not be available is full studio quality is a game changer." Owen Kwon says, "It is instantaneous that we can deliver to the newer generations, which treat music in a different way. Nowadays, younger generations enjoy music more as a lifestyle." Astell&Kern wants to offer easy access to their music content. Streaming can be akin to the radio and in the future there is little doubt that streaming music may become the predominant way people access their music.
Bob Stuart wants to ensure the quality of not just the music itself, but also the metadata as it enables a way of involvement and interaction with music. We can stream the sound easily today, yet we want people to engage with the music, the artist, etc says Bob Stuart. Marc Finer feels that we tend to oversimplify or go to extremes. The reality is that there is a wide diversity in how people enjoy the music. It is important that when we move from one platform to another we take advantage of the strengths of how the music is accessed, how the industry provides the way enthusiasts receive the information they desire. We need to find a set standard for metadata to then enable services to build-out functionality based on said metadata.
David Solomon says that "if the Beatles, for example, continue to not allow streaming then within 10 years few will know who the Beatles are." He makes a good point there. The ability to seamlessly go from physical to streaming still needs to be provided for as well for the time being. At some point we need to be ready to enjoy streaming and no longer need physical media, with of course the small niche of those who still desire (in the future) a more eccentric way of listening to music. Physical media will always be around for the future and just like cassette and 8-Track tape, there will also be enthusiasts of various formats no matter how dated they may become as time and technology progresses forward.
QUESTION: What are the most important drivers for streaming?
David says hopefully it is sound quality. We don’t have those limitations as we did in the past.
Marc agrees, whether it is the processing speed, storage, etc, there has been tremendous progress in the past 10 years. Marc says there is an interesting parallel, as streaming is good yet there is a resurgence of the vinyl LP. The need of brining those together as a defining factor needs to be accounted for. It is seeking a better experience, an emotional level, in their music. It needs to ensure the value of thee musical experience.
Bob Stuart feels that we need to ensure there is a connection, emotionally, to the music. To Bob, this fragmentation is part of the difficulty. The way the music industry drives people to music is different than the music providers such as YouTube. How do we bring people the information they need so they feel connected to the artist.
Owen Kwon thinks that from a consumer perspective is cost and easy access plus sound quality. Easy access was an early key, and now we can go from mp3 to higher quality music that is appreciated by consumers.
QUESTION: It is 2015 and lossy music (mp3) is still widely available. Will we be migrating to high quality music?
Owen says that processing power and the data pipeline constraints will be eliminated soon. We need to figure out how to charge consumers for access.
Bob Stuart says that there are many 'threads' of this. In vinyl there was a single record and you chose how to play it back. With digital, Meridian is trying to solve the way we hear and get the music in an efficient 'space'. There is a certain amount of data needs to be preserved that we can actually hear. Looking for an efficient ways in coding. MP3 uses a very efficient way of coding. As sampling rates go up, we need to keep the high quality audio and have it neatly fit into a small enough bandwidth package.
Marc Finer thinks that there are lots of markets for lots of things. We had the benefit of format standardization years ago. Digital technology is so widespread that the days of one size fits all is gone. We need to find a solution for delivering the music. The CEA did a study that 3000 music consumers, 5% didn’t care about music at all. 5% are audiophiles and tech oriented. One group liked the convenience and they are a largest group. 30% to 35% are passionate music lovers who want to fit high quality music into their life. We need to provide a way for them to experience it. We need to ensure convenience first, then insure sound quality.
TIDAL's David Solomon said his wife heard high quality audio and commented how much better it sounds than mp3. She heard the difference, yet didn't care to a high degree about this benefit. We want people to care about higher quality. Sooloos, for example, gives sound quality and a vast quantity of data about the music, the artist, etc. It is music and artist discovery being easy that is of great benefit.
Marc Finer says there is still not a standard for metadata for the music industry. There needs to be a set standard that can then set a precedence to bring people the ability to access additional data they desire. We need to bring more value into the experience.
Bob Stuart says that if you had access to all the music in the world, how would you know what to play next. The ability to offer additional, valuable data to provide the ability of then choosing the next song.
QUESTION: If you can stream anything you want, will there still be a desire to own physical media?
David of TIDAL feels there is a need to have a physical format. While not a large percentage do want own, there is a market. Of course you can't play a vinyl record in your car, and carrying CDs all the time as this can be a chore.
Marc Finer feels physical media will be around five years from now, even when high resolution audio can be streamed. Platforms are evolving constantly, and there will be a group that wants to own something that is important to them. Artists being connected to her fans is important, such as Taylor Swift, who while she removed her music from streaming, her fans still wanted hr music and engage with the artist.
QUESTION: pertaining to business models, what is the best chance for viability?
David feels that freemium is not sustainable. The business model is not settled and freemium may not be around forever. We are still a bit in the Wild West today, as the market share is not fully solidified. Scandinavia is at 92% streaming whereas the USA is at 32% or thereabouts.
Marc Finer feels that freemium has a chance, yet is evolving. Freemium may not be the focus, a trial of a new way to expose people to a new way of enjoying music. Services will be paid for, with fees depending on your requirements and desires.
Bob Stuart was asked about subscription, versus a trial such as Marc Finer discussed. Streaming will be important and enables us to not necessarily throw away quality. All the music industry has to do is get $1 from everyone on the planet and we solve the financial dilemma.
It was a very interesting seminar and i highly recommend you watch the video when it appears online.