Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Many music streaming consumers would pay more for better sound quality

Written by Dennis Sellers — According to the Japanese language website Mac Otakara — as noted by MacRumors — Apple is preparing to offer higher-quality audio streaming in 2016. If so, the time is right for such a move.

According to a new research study presented last week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) by MusicWatch, a company providing consumer research for the music industry, there are an estimated 25 million U.S. consumers who value sound quality in music enough to pay for it. They also feel that current quality from music on mobile devices is “not good enough,” which is important because 67 percent of music streamers listen on their smartphones.

“Consumers who value sound quality and are willing to pay for a premium experience are younger, more affluent and much more engaged in music buying and listening, which makes them a perfect target group for the music industry and supporting tech companies,” said Russ Crupnick, managing partner of MusicWatch. “The challenge is how to define and market something as amorphous as ‘better sound quality.’”

Respondents who were using a free streaming service were asked what would get them to pay for a music subscription. While “control,” or the ability to select specific artists, albums and songs on-demand, was the most important feature noted, “sound quality” was as important as “wireless access in the car” and “artist exclusives.”

For this study MusicWatch used the term “as good as in the recording studio” to define better sound quality. “Rather than using ‘lossless,’ ‘better than MP3,’ and other technical jargon, it’s important to communicate this new reference point of recording-studio quality,” Crupnick said.

The MusicWatch study also asked music streamers to rank features of their ideal music-streaming service. Not surprisingly a “free listening option” ranked first, but respondents also valued sound “as good as the recording studio” on par with having a “wide variety of music” and the “ability to connect in the car.”

“The music and tech industries need to work together to help early adopters understand not only why they should buy products with improved sonics, but also what to buy and where to buy it,” said Crupnick.

The data referenced by MusicWatch is from the company’s “Sound and Streaming Study,” which examines the features that consumers value in music streaming services and what would motivate consumers to pay for a subscription.The study was independently conducted by MusicWatch, with input from the major music companies, working under the auspices of The Digital Entertainment Group (DEG).

It’s been rumored for some time that Apple planned to introduce higher-quality audio formats (at 96kHz/24-bit) on the iTunes Store. A 2015 rumor said Apple planned to introduce an upgraded Lightning cable to accommodate hi-def audio playback on Made for iPhone (MFi) audio accessories. A Hi-Res Audio file is typically either 96kHz/24-bit or 192kHz/24-bit. It has twice the bit depth of your favorite CD and up to 9612Kbps of sonic information.

Surveys of 7,700 U.S. consumers age 13 and older were completed in November 2015. Results were balanced and weighted and projected to the U.S. population. The research was presented by Crupnick, as part of a special CES panel titled “Understanding the Hi-Res Music Customer.”

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