Last week new local audiophile download service HD Music announced its arrival on the scene. Witchdoctor wanted to know more about the people behind HD Music and the service they offer. So here’s our HD Music Q&A.
HD Music: We are two guys, Phil and Ricky, based in Nelson with different audio backgrounds. Ricky has a long history in music and hi-fi, having owned a record shop in the ’90s, and is current co-owner of Living Sound with Phil, who started working life as an audio producer in the UK before eventually moving to NZ and becoming label manager for a music importer.
Witchdoctor: What gave you the impetus to launch your own HD music online store?
HD Music: Being in the hi-fi industry made us realise that current hi-fi technology has moved way beyond the common digital formats. We first started forming the company and vision almost 18 months ago, when we felt that New Zealand music fans would want their own store to buy music (local and international) in the highest quality available.
Witchdoctor: With overseas hi-def download stores already in existence, is there any real benefit for the customer in ‘going local’?
HD Music: We believe the HD Music website stands up against the rest in terms of its presentation, ease of use and navigation. Also, being a New Zealand-based business, we aim to have all the Kiwi content we can get hold of in full quality, in addition to all new international titles.
Witchdoctor: Our readers have questioned your small selection, both in quantity and type of music. Are you planning a rapid expansion, and will it necessarily always be somewhat leaning towards audiophile classical and jazz labels?
HD Music: Rapid expansion! Our goal is certainly to feature as many labels and genres as possible so that we can offer people choice. It is important that we keep the site simple to use and not lose integrity as a high-def-focused store. However, as HD audio content and compatible hardware becomes more prevalent, we expect to be able to offer something for every listener.
Witchdoctor: What’s your real point of difference?
HD Music: Apart from offering HD downloads to NZ legally, perhaps the key thing, as we said earlier, is that our website is more enjoyable to use and we have an emphasis on featuring local content of high quality.
Witchdoctor: Will there be any quantity purchase incentives or ‘loyalty’ schemes down the line?
HD Music: Who knows? Our current priority is securing more labels and more content to make sure we are the first port of call for any customers looking for their next music purchase.
Witchdoctor: How much NZ material are you planning?
HD Music: As much as we possibly can! We already have Rattle Records content, much of it in 24bit, and we plan to feature major local artists alongside independent musicians who want to offer their music in full quality.
Witchdoctor: Can you explain in simple terms what people will get from you? For instance, will it invariably be BETTER than CD quality? Can it be played on iTunes from your computer, or does it need some kind of conversion? Can it then be streamed? How long does it take an album to download?
HD Music: The bit depth and sample rate will depend on what is supplied to us by the label/distributor, which is in turn dependent on the original quality of the recording. We also offer CD quality Apple Lossless versions of every title. However, at this stage, we don’t see any point in offering anything below CD quality, as there are already a number of outlets offering this. All downloads from HDmusic are DRM-free; in other words, there is no restriction on the purchaser converting the files into any format they may prefer to use, whether that be for a music server, iTunes or any other software. Download speeds will depend on the strength of the user’s internet connection and the size of the album being downloaded, which varies between around 250MB to 5GB.
Witchdoctor: Where do you see the business going long-term?
HD Music: We think that people are becoming more aware of the quality of downloaded music. There is still some recovery to do to repair the view of downloaded music being a poor-quality alternative to the physical format equivalent. When we first approached NZ record labels 18 months ago, some were not entirely sure what we were talking about when we wanted access to their HD master files for our website. Now though, we’re even seeing mass-market electronic brands putting a focus on high resolution audio, as with Sony’s new hardware range announced earlier this month. So it is a fast-moving world and we want to make sure we are best placed to provide our customers with the music they want in the best quality possible. We have also secured the rights to retail all HDmusic content in Australia and plan to launch the store there in early 2014. However, we want to make sure we get it right in NZ first and grow our music catalogue.
Witchdoctor: What kind of music do you like?
Ricky: I mostly enjoy jazz, blues, rock, folk and a bit of classical. It’s probably easier to say what I don’t tend to listen to, which is house and hip hop!
Phil: Having grown up in Manchester listening to Nirvana, Compulsion, Fugazi and the like, I played in rock bands throughout my late teens and even experimented with progressive house. This offers no explanation for my current taste in alt-country singer/songwriters and, more recently, instrumental jazz trios… in HD of course!