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Re: [ARSCLIST] The "dumbing down" of Downloaded Recordings
Jim Lindner wrote:
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.
No major shift in media formats has been helped or hindered by
improvements or decreases in quality/fidelity -- it's
always-Always-ALWAYS driven by convenience. Sometimes fidelity loses
(LP to cassette [I'll leave the CD flames to others]); sometimes it wins
(VHS to DVD). In this case it's losing, at least for now.
Downloadable music is painfully old-school for some of us -- I hosted a
bunch of MP2 (yes, *2*) files for BBC Radio 1's Interactive CD Project
back in 1995 -- but it's still brand new to the mainstream media. I see
occasional references to the quality issues when downloadable music is
covered, and expect to see more as people start to realize that CDs
really, truly are going away.
The record companies pushed back on offering higher quality downloads
because they didn't want download sales to cannibalize their sales of
physical media. Now that's it's clear that downloads are going to
clobber physical media no matter what -- and as bandwidth and capacity
increases make it a more viable market -- they're becoming more willing
to offer higher-quality downloads. Since the average listener really
CAN'T tell the difference between a CD and 256k VBR MP3 (Amazon MP3's
default format) or 256k AAC (iTunes Plus format), higher-quality files
will probably be a niche market. But since it doesn't cost the labels
anything more to offer it, you'll probably be able to get them for a
(I suspect even the "golden-ears" types would need to carefully A/B 256k
AAC and CD to distinguish between the two, at least for non-classical
material. The average person almost never does that kind of critical
listening, so why /should/ they care that the quality's lower?)
Let me make it clear: I'm not defending the shift to downloadable media.
I hate it. I've never bought a download and I'm not looking forward to
the day when that's the only way I'll be able to hear something by an
artist I really care about. But pissing and moaning about it isn't
going to change it.
As far as strategy is concerned: recruiting audiophile/Monster Cable
types on the side of higher-quality media in the mass market will
guarantee its permanent niche status. It's like trying to convince the
world that science fiction is a legitimate genre by trotting out a
couple who was married in a Klingon wedding.