The Stream the Studio initiative began about three years ago when music companies began realizing that the digital music market was rapidly changing, with the segmentation of conventional MP3 and high-res audio downloads, and a trend toward more subscription streaming than traditional downloads.
The three major labels, all members of the DEG (The Digital Entertainment Group) agreed to figure out a way to address these changes in a more proactive way through consumer research and a targeted marketing campaign.
The music companies started their research by qualifying high-res audio-compatible devices, and defining high-res music. Members of the DEG, CTA’s recording engineers and producers wings, and music companies (including independent labels) provided statistical information and licensing input, eventually agreeing to a logo mark to help consumers and retailers easily identify a high-res audio device as well as what type music file was being supplied without having to look at the spec to see if it was a FLAC, Wave, PCM or DSD file.
The group also analyzed research from CTA and MusicWatch, and then commissioned new research to gain a closer look at the profile of the emerging high-res audio customer.
“Out of the 150-million-plus music streamers in the U.S. today, there is a large percentage of them that are looking for and actually emotionally desiring a better quality experience than they can get from the typical, pedestrian-quality MP3 quality service,” DEG’s Finer said. “In the research that came back from MusicWatch, the CTA, and our own research, the way that most of the non-audiophile listeners describe their experience was not in terms of speeds, feeds and formats, but they wanted they wanted to be in the studio with their favorite artist or band. The word “studio” kept coming up over and over again.”
The potential customer base, according to MusicWatch’s Crupnick, is around 30 million consumers. “That may not sound like a whole lot, but you’re talking about 10-15 percent of the [U.S.] population,” he said. “It’s not just that top one percent; it’s pretty significant in terms of the number of people who are at least willing to consider high-res audio — who think it’s important in a streaming experience.”
The research led to new branding and an all-encompassing message from the group that you can now “stream the studio,” regardless of what file format, what music genre, what type of device and what your lifestyle needs are.
At CEDIA, the group hopes to impress upon attendees that high-res audio products are available, but that integrators need to sell the concept to the entire family, not just one primarily homeowner. “That’s what’s been missing up until this point in time,” Finer said. “And we’re hoping that our keynote session will give them the background and context, and ultimately identify the opportunity for them to be able to address this opportunity.”
And, although many integrators may already know the types of devices or components that can support high-res, most people don’t think about the whole ecosystem, Finer said. “In other words, what’s important to a music fan? It’s the quality of the sound, but it’s also the quality of the user experience,” he explained.
For instance, coming soon are more advanced high-res audio download features via metadata, such as digital jacket art, interactive videos and hyperlinks to more information about the artist and their recordings. “And, eventually you’re going to see things like ‘stems’ — the ability to deconstruct songs with the cooperation of the artists and the producer,” Finer said.
The goal is to work with all of the music service providers to present all of these features, along with studio-quality, high-res sounds, creating a new tier of streaming music. “So it’s no longer a one-size-fits-all industry with the same relatively poor quality MP3 file at a standardized price,” he added. “Soon there will be a way to step up and get a better quality experience — above what you can currently buy — with all of these features and sound quality as a bonus.”