Scott Bahneman, CEO of MusicGiants, talks about the company’s unique approach to digital music distribution.
CEDN: Tell us a little bit about what makes MusicGiants unique in the industry.
SB: MusicGiants has been in business for almost four years, and the company launched to the outside world on September 28, 2005. MusicGiants provides HD content, primarily for home audio systems, including the digital music libraries of the four major labels and a growing number of independents. MusicGiants is for music lovers who want to experience the highest sound quality, up to seven times that of standard downloads.
CEDN: Are your customers buying “HD” music for their iPods or is this type of service aimed squarely at audiophiles and their home audio systems?
SB: While we are certainly selling into the audiophile market, it is a subset of a larger target audience we call überphiles. They purchase the best of everything that they are passionate about in their lives, including music and other content. While our primary focus is on the home market, our customers might listen to HD content on their boat, in their car or on a portable device capable of playing ‘lossless’ music. An excellent example of a portable device is the Toshiba Gigabeat 60, which provides exceptional sound quality playing Windows Media Audio lossless files with digital rights management.
The key benefit in the home market is that überphiles have already made a major investment in audio equipment, and they want to take advantage of that investment by listening to the highest sound quality music available. The same way a sports car enthusiast would only purchase premium fuel for his cars, überphiles want premium music for high end home audio systems. With the easy availability of MusicGiants through Windows Media Player 10 and 11, it’s extremely convenient for our customers to access HD music, purchase it, download it, burn it to a disc and listen to it in a variety of places.
CEDN: Does MusicGiants offer a subscription service on par with NapsterToGo, or simply per song or per album downloads of lossless HD audio?
SB: There is not a subscription service. Digital music is an appreciating asset that should be owned, not rented. Unlike CDs or vinyl, the quality of digital music does not degrade over time. Our typical customer owns the things they are passionate about and we agree with this philosophy.
CEDN: As more and more content providers move to expand their offerings from audio to video, such as Amazon’s UnBox launch and the iTunes Store expansion, how is MusicGiants staying ahead of the competition?
SB: We will continue to push the upper limits of sound quality and are licensing more and more high sound quality music, including multi-channel, high-resolution audio. We also are moving into HD video content in a big way and will have more announcements to make on that front soon.
CEDN: Are more partnerships with companies like Imerge on the horizon, and if so, what is the future of Internet-connected, hard disk-based audio?
SB: Yes, in addition to Imerge and all of its partners [ELAN; SpeakerCraft; Niles Audio; Revox; Xantech; and Marantz] we’ve announced Crestron, Niveus Media, Inteset, ADA and Onkyo. We are continuing to pursue many other hardware partners in order to make MusicGiants a ubiquitous, turnkey offering for the finest HD content.
CEDN: What does the growing proliferation of HD radio, satellite radio and other forms of ‘audiophile-ready’ hardware and HD broadcasting mean for MusicGiants as well as consumers?
SB: While this proliferation brings more attention to HD, it’s important to understand what constitutes true HD sound quality vs. just marketing terminology. A true audiophile would not accept as HD much of the content that is presently called HD. For example, HD Radio, at about 128 kbps, is about one-eighth the data rate of a CD. MusicGiants has the same sound quality as a CD, so there is a major distinction. When consumers hear true HD sound quality, they don’t want to settle for anything else.