People forget that the Beatles didn’t release any of their music on CD until February 1987, almost five years after the compact disc was unveiled. The organization wanted to make sure that CDs were actually going to take hold in the marketplace before they committed a single second of their precious and highly valuable music to this new industry scheme. Once they did, though, the music-buying public took that as a sign and began gorging on the CDs. Sales went through the roof.
When iTunes made digital downloads a thing, the Beatles hung back, waiting until they were absolutely ready to go the all-digital route. Although iTunes had been in existence since 2001, it wasn’t until November 10, 2010, that Apple was able to sell us anything. Shortly after, iTunes became the number one music retailer on the planet.
The next frontier is streaming. Neither Rdio and Spotify have meaningful Beatles catalogues; selection is restricted to the group’s earliest recordings and other people covering the band. Want to stream Abbey Road? Not available. My guess is that once the Beatles organization gets things sorted out with the streaming music services, that new form of music consumption will be on the road to reaching critical mass with music fans.
And hang on: what’s this? Neil Young has scored a coup with his High-Res Pono system–which, by the way, goes on sale today for $399 for delivery next month. According to Showbiz 411, Paul McCartney has agreed to transfer all the Beatles’ music into lossless files so it can be sold in the Pono store. (Don’t look for High-Res audio on iTunes yet; it can’t handle those files.)
Is this a milestone for High-Res audio? I sure hope so. I’m tired of people settled for audio that is good enough. I’ve been road testing a Sony High-Res player for the past month and I love it. If you were around when we made the transition from the crappy, thin, recycled vinyl of the 1980s to CD, you’ll have some idea about how dramatic the difference is between MP3s and High-Res audio. I can’t wait to hear Abbey Road in this format.
It’s time we rolled things back to the 80s (or even the 70s!) to discover how good music can sound and feel. Who’s with me?