That Spotify-holdout friend of yours who smugly argues that the quality of streaming services can’t compare to his zealously-guarded vinyl collection may just lose his one big arguing point, in light of a new announcement from the majority of the music business indicating support for studio-quality hi-res audio for streaming.
Universal Music, Sony and the Warner Music Group, as well as a number of streaming services and recording industry agencies have pledged to throw their weight behind technology which will fix the compression rate of streaming music – an issue that stems back to how MP3 files were first created, when file size was of utmost importance.
Obviously, back at the turn of the century, it made sense to compress audio as much as possible without losing too much quality – both internet speeds and hard-drive sizes meant that a file larger than 5mb was unfeasible. Although neither issue exists today, the technology is so ingrained that we have been forced to adapt it, rather than dispose of it.
Those days look to be over.
“Universal Music has been laser-focused on Hi-Res Audio, across all of our label groups,” UMG’s Chief Technology Officer Ty Roberts wrote in a statement regarding the shift. “But without the involvement of our technology and distribution partners, all of this would be in vain. Today we’re pleased to acknowledge the support of a number of leading digital providers for this new streaming concept”.
While Pandora, Tidal and Napster have all pledged their support for the new hi-res format, Spotify and Apple have remained silent on the issue, with pundits suggesting they will aim to develop their own hi-fi technology.
Of course, until there is a standard in place, this also has the potential to introduce different payment tiers for different audio quality – something that could kill the user-friendly vibe that has helped both Apple and Spotify become market leaders, alienating those who just wanna stream the new Drake jam without any fuss.