Openlive Hi resolution Music

Openlive – Live and Local Hi Resolution Music

As someone who has been collecting Hi resolution music for several years purchasing it from the likes of HD Tracks and similar outlets, I was intrigued when new players on the Australian Market “Openlive” approached NQ Music Press.

The Dirty little secret of the music industry is that the vast majority of music available for purchase online is in compressed lossy format. In fact, the entire Apple iTunes store only sells files in a format far inferior to CDs, a decades old technology. Streaming services like Spotify, also reduce your listening experience to sub CD quality.

The recording industry has come along in leaps and bounds with digital technology in recent years. Even prosumer level recording products allow musicians and producers to record in higher than CD quality formats. The bulk of the music delivery industry however, seems content to offer lower than CD quality music. Music producers and consumers are both the loser here. Consumers are getting their music in far lower quality than was available years ago. Meanwhile musicians are not getting their music heard the way it was intended to be heard when mixing in the studio.

The Good news is, things are changing. Sites like HDtracks, 7digital.comBandcamp  and Neil Young’s Pono Music are offering high resolution music alternatives. Some of the tracks available on these sites are in 24 bit 192khz quality which is over 4 times the resolution of CDs, with greater dynamic range. Believe me, even with my ears that have spent decades standing in front of loud guitar amps, with the right system, you can really tell the difference.

New players on the scene are Australian based company Openlive, who are intending to put a new spin on the high resolution music scene with exclusive live Australian content recorded at venues around the country.

I caught up with Dale Moore, CEO of Openlive and Chief Technology officer Simon Tait for a bit of Q/A

TM:- Your press release mentions you are opening with an impressive 1.5 million recordings. How hard has it been getting record companies to come on board and supply Hi resolution music masters?

DM:- We’ve had a positive experience with regards to this. And while we’ve established relationships with some record labels, and will continue to do so, we’ve actually partnered with a company called 7digital who power our store. Essentially we have a direct license with 7digital who have direct licenses with labels all over the globe. So this has expedited us getting Hi resolution music on our store. We expect this to continue to expand.

TM:- Can you explain to our readers your take on what tangible benefits Hi Resolution 96k 24 bit recordings offer over lossy formats like mp3s?

DM:- I’m going to hand you over to Simon Tait – our Chief Technology Officer to help me with this one (he’s definitely the audio genius in the business!). From my less technical viewpoint, when listened through a decent system (which I’m fortunate enough to have a great Yamaha system at home) or decent headphones (and by decent I don’t mean glossy headphones sponsored by famous people…) there is more depth and life to a Hi-Res file, more noticeable particularly when comparing to a lower bit rate MP3.

ST:- Listening tests between ‘lossy’ and ‘lossless’ versions of a song will usually show differences in sound quality, and this phenomenon becomes more apparent the more aggressively the ‘lossy’ compression is applied (ie: at lower and lower bitrates). Notably, changes in perceived 3-dimensional space, reverberant information and instrument tonality are where the differences in quality become apparent. Although spatial & reverberant information can often go unnoticed in musical recordings, it plays an incredibly important part in the human auditory system’s ability to process music, a fact which is well understood by top-notch Musicians, Recording Engineers & Producers. It seems our ears need these subtle cues to provide our brain with ‘context’ when we listen to music, whether that ‘context’ happens to be a dry sounding studio (think ‘Cherub Rock’ by Smashing Pumpkins) or a reverberant church (think ‘The Trinity Session’ by Cowboy Junkies). This stuff is often lost or degraded in the process of lossy compression, whereas a well-produced Hi-Res master recording will have these psychoacoustic cues well and truly intact.

TM:- I noticed while browsing through the online store that some of your standard CD quality recordings cost around the same as buying a hard copy of the CD through a retailer like JB Hifi, and of course their are manufacturing and distribution fees attached to CDs. Do you think lowering the price to take this into account would help combat piracy and encourage people to pay for their music?

DM:- It’s an interesting question. There are people that say why buy a CD or an album when you can stream all the music (well most of the music) out there for free (albeit with ads) or download it for free? Personally I think price is mostly a reflection of value, not cost and as long as there’s value, then it’s not price that scares people away. So for a Hi-Res file, if that’s your thing (and we know it’s not for everyone) there’s great value in those files, hence the price. However I do also believe that if we could price CD quality (and above) closer to MP3, then we could potentially expose more people to Hi-Res and maybe educate youth that there is something different to MP3. So listening to low bit-rate music through YouTube etc isn’t the best experience – but I digress. I do think streaming does a good job of helping the issue of piracy, although on the flip side I also think it is, somewhat, devaluing music through the free tier. Ideally, everyone should pay for what they consume. Whether that’s music, movies, food etc. So if Hi-Res files were cheaper would this help combat piracy? Perhaps not in a direct sense. But it would go a way to educating people of the difference between MP3 and Hi-Res files which may lead to people wanting Hi-Res, and in turn paying for it.

TM:- What makes Openlive different from other online Hi Res stores like HDtracks?

DM:- Specifically at this point, apart from our design, we both offer a similar service, being access to Hi-Res music downloads. But our goal is to be more than a download store. You’ll notice our Events and News section that aim to provide more information about the music industry in general while also letting people know the live gigs that are coming up, which will expand significantly in due course. So we want to be a resource for Music Fans as well as a download store. However a key point of difference will be the live music library that we want to accumulate. More on that another time though..

TM:- Can you tell us more about the plans you have for the live music space?

DM:- I can’t go in to too much detail as yet as we’re working through a few things here. But we have some exciting initiatives coming up!

Todd Macalpine

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