Universal Music Group Goes MQA
The announcement comes after the embrace of MQA by major label Warner, and the launch of the "Stream the Studio" campaign at CES 2017. Spearheaded by DEG, the Digital Entertainment Group, the campaign included a press conference where all the major labels and a number of indies pledged support for hi-resolution audio. Also at the press conference, Tidal announced MQA "Master" streaming, and both Pandora and Rhapsody/Napster announced hi-rez streaming. MQA-encoded files are also available internationally on select music download sites.
Michael Nash, Executive Vice President of Digital Strategy at UMG, is quoted as saying, "The promise of Hi-Res Audio streaming is becoming a reality, with one service already in the market and several more committed to launching this year. With MQA, we are working with a partner whose technology is among the best solutions for streaming Hi-Res Audio, and one that doesn't ask music fans to compromise on sound quality for convenience. We're looking forward to working with Mike [Jibara, CEO of MQA] and his team at MQA to make our industry-leading roster of artists and recordings available to music fans in the highest quality possible."
With no one from either Universal or MQA available for comment at press time, the announcement left a host of questions unanswered. First and foremost, what kind of a timeline are we talking about? When will the first UMG releases appear on Tidal, assuming that to be the first service to offer them? Will they appear on other music streaming services at the same time or shortly thereafter?
Are we talking classical, pop, jazz, blues, legacy, or all of those and more in UMG's humongous catalog? What are the priorities in terms of titles and recording date, and what rollout schedule can we expect? Is there a target date by which a certain portion of the catalogue will be available in MQA? Will the MQA-encoded files be limited to older, digital, Red Book recordings, or will they also include newer hi-rez digital masters?
That's just for starters. Are Universal and MQA preparing MQA-encoded downloads for various services, including but not limited to HDTracks, or will the files only be available for streaming? Is there any talk of MQA-encoded CDs?
Finally, are all new Universal recordings going to be encoded with MQA from the get-go? Does Universal now record most titles in hi-rez? If so, are recordings usually limited to 24/96, or are some engineers/studios equipped to go higher? Is UMG still recording anything in DSD?
I'll bet you have a ton more questions. Please feel free to share them below.