I've commented extensively on this topic and I agree that low-quality audio distribution is a very
large minus to the whole "evolution" away from packaged media. I think ARSC list postings are
google-searchable so one could refer to past discussions on this topic. It would be interesting to
see a group like ARSC take a stand on the topic but I doubt it would matter as long as people
continue to pay for and not complain about inferior-quality downloads.
One group I've been surprised hasn't taken a stand on this is Consumer's Union. It seems to me that
they'd be all over iTunes, Amazon and others for charging $10 (the street price of most CD's) for an
album's worth of very much inferior-sounding format downloads, plus no album art or booklet. It's a
genuine ripoff from my perspective, but (legitimate) downloading is now a $2+ billion business,
according to one report (see today's NYT). Billboard reported last issue that overall music sales
were at a 25-year low last year because CD sales are down much more than legal downloads are up. I
would suggest part of the problem is rampant stealing by morally-challenged folks (no doubt spurred
on by Big Music's stance of treating customers as criminals -- lack of respect breeds contempt both
ways), but another big part of the problem is that a sensible consumer likely doesn't see good value
in a $10 crappy-sounding download album. So the answer might be sell CD quality downloads for $10
per album and have album art/booklets downloadable as PDF or some other printable format, or to sell
the inferior-grade downloads with no album art and booklets for much lower prices. Perhaps the
typical iTunes 128kbps AAC file should be a free loss-leader item since it is only of marginally
better audio quality than a free online stream from a radio station. Some free podcasts downloadable
through iTunes are of higher-resolution (though not many). Finally, I think the biggest problem in
the music business is lack of compelling and well-marketed product that sells itself.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jim Lindner" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, January 25, 2008 8:54 AM
Subject: [ARSCLIST] The "dumbing down" of Downloaded Recordings
> Is it just me who wonders about this? With the hundreds of articles I have been reading on the
> changes in media distribution (literally hundreds and is this a REALLY big surprise??) I have not
> read one - not one - that makes any mention of the fact that the quality of the recordings being
> distributed by download are significantly compressed and poorer then those distributed on media.
> Of course it does not have to be this way - there is no reason why .wav files could not be being
> downloaded instead of AAC or MP3 - but no one seems to care - at all.
> I figure that if anywhere - the members on this list should care. I don't get it - why aren't
> people complaining? Has our benchmark for quality become Apple Ipod earbuds? Tell me it isn't so.
> While people are spending untold thousands on Krell's and esoteric speakers what we are
> witnessing here is a recording media and quality implosion and I for one am concerned that
> getting a recording that is of the former relatively high (ok we can debate that but this is not
> the real point) quality of recordings on CD will become an impossibility in the not too distant
> future. How come there aren't a bunch of audiophiles - or professionals - or both - speaking up
> and saying to the downloading public and to the distributors - hey wait a minute - if I am
> paying the same prices for downloading as I am for physical media - the least you can do is give
> me the same quality.
> All I hear is - silence. To me this is a HUGE threat - even short term - to what you are going to
> be able to listen to, and the quality of what you will be able to listen to.
> So, members of ARSC - I ask you - to discuss this - and - OK I will say it - as an organization -
> take an actual position on this subject - let the world know that this is a BIG issue. That is
> right - I am actually advocating for standing up and talking out loud - not to our group but to
> the rest of the planet. If we are not going to take a stand on this - what will we take a stand
> on? Get some manufacturers behind you - you know the Krell and "monster cable" kind of folk that
> have lots of marketing smarts - because there really isn't any point in spending thousands of
> dollars on esoteric gear when the quality of the recordings will not let you hear it anyhow. They
> have allot to lose also. What we are talking about here is the dumbing down - the AAC'ing of all
> distributed music and I for one think this is an issue. Does anyone agree?
> Jim Lindner
> Email: [log in to unmask]
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