Over the week, one of the Japanese Hi-Res stores I rarely frequent, Highresaudio.jp, had a new notice that popped up: They would no longer be selling Hi-Res files starting July 1st, although anyone who purchased before that date can still download their files.
What does this mean? Are they going out of business, or are they only going to sell mp3s? Is there any other information as to why they are discontinuing Hi-Res? Although they did not have much selections to contribute to my site in terms of soundtracks (When Marnie Was There OST and The Legend of Heroes: Sora no Kiseki FC Evolution OST), it was a site that showed promise, with slowly more and more titles being released, especially non-classical, jazz, or recordings more than 20 years old.
They were starting to release Buck-Tick albums before they shut down! So then I started to look online for any answers on why they shut down. I found no answers, not even in Japanese, but I found some sites that announced the shut down and there were of course user commentary about it. So I used Google Translate and gathered up the remarks made by users.
One common reason users said on possibly why they shut down was this: Prices of files were too high. This may have been a case for that smaller company, but I saw it as a problem for the Hi-Res industry as it currently is as a whole.
Is Hi-Res Audio Too Pricey?
While I was down at THE Show at Newport Beach, a coworker of mine showed me an article from Sound & Vision magazine about saving the Hi-Res movement (You can read the online version here: Saving Hi-Res Audio). The author, Ken C. Pohlmann, stated that to save Hi-Res audio, do not sell it at a premium, but sell it at a price like how vinyl, cassettes, CDs, and mp3s are sold now.
Don’t sell as better, but change the environment to where Hi-Res becomes the norm. He compared it to TVs and components, and I would compare to the Home Video and Video Game markets. Yes! If that was how the video market, the video game market, book market, and other personal entertainment markets survive, can’t the already screwed-up audio industry be saved?
When Napster was an illegal hit and right before the iPod hit the market, the audio industry was already in dire straits ad it took Steve Jobs, someone who was not even part of the audio industry, to slap the executives in the faces on adopting digital downloads as the new thing when the executives still wanted to hang on to their exploitative system (Read more about it in Steve Knopper’s Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age”).
Premium Digital Products?
A reason companies maybe charge higher for Hi-Res audio is that the audio is at a better resolution, therefore we can charge more for quality. Personally, I would not charge extra for easily copyable digital copies; physical benefits are the only things worth right now paying extra.
That 24k gold finish, the extra discs of content, an additional cloth map or dragon bookends, something tangible worth the extra dollars. I really cannot think of a way to charge more for a digital file that is not customized for each individual user. If a file, no matter how much work was put into the creation of it, can be made more expensive because the files size is larger.
I do not believe that Hi-Res audio should be made significantly higher than CD or mp3 audio. I am fine with making prices slightly more, say five to ten dollars more, but no more than that for a regular one-hour album. As Mr. Pohlmann stated in his article, just make the Hi-Res be treated like any other file.
If given enough time and being used to the Hi-Res version compared to its low-res version, more people would be able to tell the difference, rather ‘re-train’ ears.
So this ends today’s rant on the Hi-Res scope. I still believe in Hi-Res audio, but I firmly believe that Hi-Res should be made into norm, like how the mp3s were made norm over CDs, how CDs were made norm over Cassettes and Vinyl. Consumer audio needs to keep evolving where this year’s esoteric becomes next year’s norm.
(This post was originally posted on July 6, 2015.)