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Neil Young To Release His Music Catalog on Blu-ray  Print E-mail
Home Theater News Blu-ray Software News
Written by Jerry Del Colliano   
Thursday, 08 May 2008

Neil Young, the “Grandfather of Grunge” looks to add the title of “Pioneer of Blu-ray” to his resume with an announcement today that he will be releasing his entire catalog on the Blu-ray format. Up until now, record labels have stuck their heads in the sand with any high definition formats, having been lured by the not-so-profitable world of selling music by the download.

Young, by releasing his entire catalog, understands clearly that today’s music buyer doesn’t just listen to an album or a single song as much as they listen to an entire genre. The major record labels, when failing miserably with half-assed efforts in promoting and developing DVD-Audio and SACD, never released any sizable amounts of content from any one artist. Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon was made for SACD and even sold over 1,000,000 copies as a hybrid SACD/CD, yet The Wall, Wish You Were Here and Animals were never remixed, remastered or ever released on the high resolution format. Metallica’s “Black Album” was released by Warner Bros. on DVD-Audio (and sounded horrible despite being a cool record) and was never followed up with any of the band’s critically acclaimed back catalog titles. Led Zeppelin, one of the best selling bands ever, had a DVD-Audio release from a 1975 live show that also sounded terrible. None of the first four Zeppelin records we ever remastered, remixed for surround or released to support the DVD-Audio format. Consumers looked at the value proposition of buying a $1,000 player, the need for additional electronics and handfuls of cables and said, "no thank you" quite enthusiastically. They want entire genres of music, full catalogs in high definition before they spend their money. Many consumers are proving they are willing to spend on Blu-ray players and software, not to mention HD video games, HD sports packages and HD movie channels from cable and satellite providers.

Blu-ray as a format solves most, if not all, of the problems that underperforming major record label executives complained about with DVD-Audio and SACD.  Blu-ray players today are relatively cheap in comparison to DVD-Audio and SACD players with Sony’s Blu-ray based Playstation 3 offering the cheapest point of entry currently.  Recent reports show Blu-ray already has eight percent market penetration, which is exponentially higher than anything DVD-Audio or SACD could boast no matter how hard any label or electronics company tried to cook the books. DVD-Video, as a format has 91 percent market share, but to get from zero to eight percent is truly a feat this early in the game.  With HD DVD out of the way and players getting cheaper this coming holiday season, the Blu-ray market share will continue to grow at a rapid clip.  Even more impressive is the fact that Blu-ray is an HD video format.  DVD-Audio has standard definition video and amazingly SACD had no video at all on the disc.  Most importantly, (as if anybody wanted to steal music in surround sound) Blu-ray has one-cable connectivity via HDMI that is copy protected in a way that makes it pretty damn hard to steal. The labels could only hope for enough consumer demand that people wanted to take the time to try to steal these large, high definition audio tracks from Blu-ray. It would be a sign of success that they haven’t seen in two decades.

Neil Young’s announcement today should serve as a wake-up call to major recording companies as how to get back to making money selling their back catalog.  For the love of god, the records have been paid for decades ago and Generation Xers and Baby Boomers have proven they will spend to buy them over and over again, but not when the resolution is at CD quality or in the case of an “HD download” a mere one quarter of CD quality.  That won’t fly.  Selling entire volumes, entire catalogs, and entire genres of music in HD is a path to success for the music business. Ask companies like Vizio with who have gone from zero to two billion dollars in sales doing nothing but selling HD if they think there is anything to the idea of selling people content in HD.

The question is: have the majors hit rock bottom with selling music by the low-res download and out-dated Compact Disc by 2008? Are they over the fears of people stealing their content when in fact they just ignore their content? Only time will tell.  But if you ask this former CD/DVD-Audio/SACD buying addict, there is no downside to selling back catalog records on Blu-ray. The movie studios are doing it and will profit wildly from it – so why shouldn't the record labels?







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