Ask any audiophile and they’ll tell you the tragedy of digital audio is that the glorious spectrum of sound is compressed to fit in a small space. Kind of like the way psychotropic drugs flatten life’s highs and lows so users can muddle in the middle.
CDs and MP3s are the most common culprits. And once you purchase a CD or music download and dub it onto your favorite MP3 player, the souls of recording artists die just a little, knowing that you’re only hearing a portion of their artistic vision.
The newest entry into the paid radio space, Deezer is “coming soon,” promising high-resolution, streaming audio at 1411 kbs, 5x the bitrate sample of most digital music. And while audiophiles will rejoice, even casual fans of music should be able to detect and appreciate the difference. The question is: Will they? And will they pay for the privilege?
In an already crowded digital marketplace dominated by Pandora and its 76+ million weekly listeners, will enough audiophiles pony up $19.99 per month to stream high-quality music through Deezer? (Their basic service subscription will be priced at $9.99/month.)
For starters, Deezer’s high end product is aiming small. Their website claims you’ll need a Sonos or Bose music system to stream Deezer at the bitrate required to receive the premium service. That’s a good fit, since Sonos and Bose system owners tend to be above average income consumers with an appreciation of music.
Deezer’s also boasting a music library of 35 million songs. That’s nearly double Spotify’s 20 million and light years beyond the million or so titles available through Pandora.
But if Pandora delivers only a fraction of the titles of Spotify, why has Pandora run away with the digital audio market share? Pandora was the first to truly infiltrate the mass market. Competitors have been unable to wrestle away significant market share. And who needs 20- or 35-million titles when 1 million will clearly do? Most radio stations program their formats with a music library of fewer than 1,000 titles. So 1,000 times that number (one million) certainly seems like enough variety.
Much of Deezer’s success in cracking the market will ride on its ability to woo the audiophile. In a Rolling Stone interview with Tyler Goldman, the company’s U.S. chief executive, Goldman noted that audiophiles are not the biggest market, “but they way overspend.” If Deezer can deliver the sound, the variety and a little bit of WOW curated by its music programmers on its “FLOW” personal radio platform, Deezer can carve its niche in the digital music universe and survive.