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Sony Revving Up High-Res Efforts

SAN DIEGO — Sony is stepping up its efforts to promote high-resolution audio downloads while the CE and music industries continue working together to develop a common high-res definition, unified messages to consumers, and strategies to promote better audio to music enthusiasts.

Sony marketers provided the update along with representatives of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group and Universal Music Group at Sony’s headquarters here.

Now is the time to promote high-res audio because the digital download market has matured in the U.S., where the dollar volume of downloads fell 2 percent in 2013, said Jim Belcher, Universal’s digital technology and production VP. Digital downloads accounted for 60 percent of the American music industry’s dollar volume in 2013, Belcher added in citing statistics from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

The music industry continues to make progress in getting more high-resolution music out faster to download stores, but challenges remain to widespread adoption, including a need for more high-resolution portable media players and smartphones, the participants said.

In the meantime, Sony plans in May to launch a new high-res audio promotion in which purchasers of any Sony high-resolution product get a free high-resolution download of Xscape, the second posthumous album of previously unreleased Michael Jackson tracks. The album will be released by Sony Music Entertainment.

Purchasers of select audio products not part of Sony’s high-res audio lineup will get a free MP3 version of the album.

The promotion will be a “big focus” over the next several months, said Sony home audio division director Jeff Hiatt.

On top of that, Sony is expanding the number of high-res audio events that it will hold at stores, said product marketing manager Aaron Levine. Sony held 10 events in March, and 10 more were to be held in April.

Sony also promotes high-res audio through print and digital ads, dealer materials, and dealer advertising, Levine added. Ads have featured musicians Sting and John Mayer, but other artists will appear in a new round of ads, said Hiatt.

Sony has also taken its high-resolution message to consumers at consumer audio shows and at SXSW.

To promote within the music industry, Sony is working with DEG, the Audio Engineering Society, and other industry groups to ensure artists and engineers understand the concept, said Hiatt. Sony is also working with CEA board members to drive growth.

Best Buy is working with CEA’s audio division, which is “working on messaging and exploring how to take that messaging to expand it to retail,” added DEG’s Finer.

Universal is kickstarting the market in several ways, in part by making its catalog available for high-res-au-do remastering from the original sources, said Belcher. The company is also digitally archiving music in high-resolution PCM instead of CD-quality PCM like before.