Lossless Streaming Music: Welcome To 20 Years Ago
Welcome to the February 2019 edition of Enjoy the Music.com's Review Magazine. Yada yada new reviews, some other bits here and there you may enjoy in this issue, plus of course a wonderful think piece by Roger Skoff. There's a World Premiere Review of the ultra-fi, and incredible, $73,000 per pair Triangle Art TA-200M Class A monoblock power amplifiers, plus bargain vinyl lovers can enjoy our review of Sumiko's $149 Rainier moving magnet (MM) phono cartridge. MrSpeakers Ether 2 over-the-ear headphones, etc, etc, and yes etc. Look, just insert all the usual (boring) stuff that always seems to appear within an editorial about whatever the heck is within that magazine's monthly issue.
There, now that we've dispensed with the typical stuff...
Music Streaming 1999 / 2000
If we fast-forward a few years to 1999, as Enjoy the Music.com already had streamed music online without the need for a browser plug-in around 1997 (Louis Armstrong's What A Wonderful World), the major labels and software / hardware companies were at 'cold war' status. No audiophile magazine seemed to (really) care about online music back in 1999, because, well, am not sure because to me the Internet brought amazing possibilities! This issue of our Review Magazine features two show reports from those years (1999 and 2000 to be exact). If you want to know what you've missed out on, and the ideas that are still as of yet to be done, you should read these show reports imho.
There's are reasons why I personally took the time to go back to the original digital photo files and 'remaster' them to today's larger size and re-webmaster them as well, yet not editing a single word of those original reports. It is certainly not the photos that truly matter, it is the ideas and concepts within these reports that might get you scratching your head and wondering why in 2019 are we 10 years behind the curve? Upon re-reading what I wrote back then, and keep in mind I've not bothered doing anything with, or reading, those HTML pages in about 18 years.... Yet this past week, after watching Nat Geo's "Valley of the Boom" series, there was a nagging feeling to go back and read about those early days of music streaming.
"Music on demand will one day be the norm. Not just compressed audio, but audio far ahead of what we experience today in my humble opinion," I said back in 2000. In 1999 at the Interactive Music Xpo (IMX), then President and CEO of the RIAA Hilary Rosen, said that 98% of traditional music is sold through "brick and mortar" stores. Back then, music as a product (as it's always been) versus music as a service (as it is today in 2019) was a mere concept. We all know back in the day the major labels were being ______ plus they were very, very, very far behind the curve. It was (frankly) embarrassing. In some ways, they still are an embarrassment pushing lossy compressed music and calling it Hi-Res, but let's not jump the gun just yet in this article.
Keep in mind that MusicGiants.com, the very first company to license from major labels to sell "high definition music" on the Internet, was still seven years away (2007). So, back to 1999 and 2000 listening to WAV files for lossless CD was a challenge (FLAC was released in 2001) as the then new Rio 500 personal music player featured 64MB of base memory (expanded with 96MB more memory via flash memory card). That's MB, not GB folks (1 GB = 1000 MB). So you can see why lossy mp3 was relevant in that 56kbs dial-up world, unless you had a T1 connection at work. Plus DAC chips, as was normal back then, were being developed and improved upon at a very rapid rate.
Side Note: It's sad how music lovers are paying for mp3 sound quality streams decades later (in 2019), when Napster was 'giving it away for free' in 1999. Oh, and 'Hi-Res Music' in nothing new either as we had that in 1998 with Classic Records DAD discs (see our WCES 1998 show report). So yes, the entire recorded music industry has had over 20 years to get their shit together for Hi-Res. Imagine all the lost revenue to musicians and labels as they've seemingly ignored higher sound quality (and RnR'ing back catalog for easy money).
Was reading for the first time in nearly two decades my old IMX 1999 and Streaming Media East 2000 show reports and found it quite enlightening! Having 'forgotten' most of it, as it was 20 years ago and have probably written many millions of words / lines of code since then, was in awe of the ideas and concepts that were written about nearly 20 years ago and how only recently has some of these ideas and concepts (finally) have become a reality to some extent. One thing that caught my eye while reading this show report from Streaming Media East 2000 was, "The 500 kbs streaming media resolution was definitely comparable to VHS in my humble opinion. As dedicated to audio only, this content can truly be better than 'CD quality' sound. As we get better at compressing data and have access to higher bandwidth rates, we will one day have better than DVD-Audio sound quality over the Internet. The Meridian Lossless Packet (MLP) was approved by the WG-4 for DVD-Audio and one day we may see their MLP lossless technology of very high quality audio delivered on demand over the internet. Who knows, one day there may be no need to compress data at all!" So yes, in my mind circa 2000 the ideas of Hi-Res Music streaming was already there. Sad that Meridian, I mean that three letter acronym they spun off, is now pushing lossy compressed music when there's no need for it.
Hi-Res Audio And Hi-Res Music
Streaming: 10 Years Too Late
"It makes no difference if mainstream audiophile media is ignoring this fact, time marches on and one day we will all be enjoying high quality music delivered through the Internet. Music on demand will one day be the norm. Not just compressed audio, but audio far ahead of what we experience today in my humble opinion," I said within my Streaming Media East 2000 show report. Here are a few more goodies within my 1999 and 2000 reports that made me smile....
"Soon MP3.com will be offering a home audio component that hooks up to the Internet that will allow you to enjoy music from MP3.com through your home stereo." It would have been the first consumer home audio stand-alone streaming media player (Muzak, remember them, was already streaming music to businesses).
"Of course Michael Robinson did touch on securing music. He said it is not about protecting their music but in creating revenue from the music. In fact he said protecting music interferes with creating revenue from music. Instead, an 'all you can eat' buffet for $10 a month is a great way to go." That's year 2000 valuation, so with the ongoing reduction in value of Federal Reserve's Debt Note US Dollar product at ~5% annual devaluation (a.k.a. inflation) it should be around $25 a month in 2019.
Also, within my Interactive Music Xpo '99 report it says "It's about the fact that the record industry has desensitized the connection between the music / musician and music lover says Thomas Dolby. How the commercialism has desensitized the primal instinct about music. The web has an advantage here as it has mailing lists, newsgroups, etc. It allows people to feel closer to the musical artist."
And now, 20 years later, Sony's new motto for their 360 Reality Audio announced at CES 2019 is "Get Closer To The Artists".
Where Are We Today?
FYI: Those of us developing for / using the AutoPC in 1998 were already doing various integration and voice recognition for music enjoyment.
It Truly And Deeply Pains Me To
So here's my message to you lossy compression folks, with tears in my eyes....
Today, all proprietary lossy audio compression schemes are roadkill imho as we can easily enjoy true lossless music streaming services such as Qobuz and others. And so any scheme that is not bit-for-bit perfect to the remastered master tape is most certainly not needed within the 2019 and beyond landscape.
You're also causing confusion, which only makes matters worse.
Not using a standardized codec makes matters worse...
...and more costly to virtually all involved.
Money-grabs in the music biz steals from musical artists.
The right idea, sure, perhaps, maybe, yet 8 years too late my music-loving friends. No worries, just pivot your company to a remastering label like MoFi, Analogue Productions and others have done for decades. It's a proven roadmap as it is the remastering that is important, not the proprietary codec. Wait, you mean they are not paying for all the remaster work? If that's true, then what are they contributing to the overall workflow besides a money grab wrapped within a proprietary codec scheme?
Authentication is a major insult to all record labels, because it's like telling music consumers that they can not trust record labels and streaming music services. So if anyone ever says "authentication" to you, change it to saying "You can't trust music labels and streaming music services, but you can trust us. Trust me".
Note, am (generally) avoiding writing about DRM, tracking and other bits because history proves those can be defeated or are illegal. Any tracking will get privacy rights activists buzzing like a proverbial bee hive disturbed by a bear, and in some countries you trackers stand virtually zero chance of success within a courtroom. The bear (DRM / tracking) might get some 'honey' at first, sure, yet the many (legal) stings will just keep on coming until the bear goes away. Apple's protected music scheme didn't work out for them. So let's not worry about DRM and tracking, as that may be Black Death for music providers. At the very least, those types of activities are highly frowned upon by many people. And if word ever got out that....
Why is it i want to use Silicon Valley's 'middle out' compression scheme joke here?
As I said earlier, it has been nearly 20 years since I bothered to read those old reports. In a sense, what's old is new again. But we still have a long way to go my friends. One day we'll all look back at the crapshoot of software and hodge-podge of today's hardware to enjoy Hi-Res Music and LOL about it. Very much look forward to where we are 10 years from now in hi-fi and music industry technology, yet hope it doesn't take (another) 20 years to 'get there'.
Rumors And Whispers
Are we doomed to the whole "Apple, we're getting back to our roots" well-worn business strategy as they foist up an old pic of evangelist Steve Jobs and his idea for the iPod and his love of music?
There's quite a bit at stake here folks, including a huge payday (follow the money) and, frankly, we have virtually no control to what the Big Boys decide to graciously bestow upon us. Now that being within the music biz is big profits once again, which only took them 20 years to figure this shit out after much reluctance in the beginning, we need to be cautious because 'follow the money' could once again rear it's ugly head combined with any and all protection scheme(s) they think they can slide by possible legal roadblocks.
Demand lossless compression and settle for nothing less! There is zero need for lossy compression ever again! We know this is possible and is being done with Qobuz. If we allow proprietary formats that are not better than decades old FLAC and other codecs when it comes to bit-for-bit accurate compression and decompression to produce lossless results...
"If we don't take action now
Florida Audio Expo: Be There!
We also look forward to attending the many shows during 2019 as once again Enjoy the Music.com is sponsoring the Thursday night industry/press party for AXPONA and RMAF plus both event's seminars. HIGH END in Munich, we'll be there too of course. We're doing our part to spread the good word of music via high-end audio during the past 23 years.
Everyone at Enjoy the Music.com hopes you love what we have to offer within our February 2019 issue.
We very much appreciate you reading Enjoy the Music.com, joining our social media pages, and of course recommending us to your music loving friends. As always, in the end what really matters is that you...