Qobuzissimes, and label margins

It has been a delight so far to explore Qobuz (UK version) in Roon.

While the experience will vary according to taste, I have found all sorts of music which I did not know. Just working through the “Qobuzissimes” takes us to a widely eclectic, and delightfully cultured selection.

It is also (again others will have different tastes) a huge relief to escape the barrage of hip hop and rap that seemed to be the centre of Tidal’s editorial world.

One question it exposes, for classical music at least, is how labels cope with this new business model. Several labels refuse to stream (eg Hyperion, Chandos, Linn Records); others (eg Channel Classics) will sell high res but refuse to permit hi res streaming. Do they make enough margin? Have we priced everything too low? Can and should a small label distribute through hi res streaming?

I tried engaging one label CEO about this. His response was very blunt, saying that it might be good for the listeners but isn’t if the label wants to stay in business. I argued (without knowing what Qobuz’s business model is) that this was incremental revenue, ie for a particular generation of customers they simply won’t buy records, so why not stream in high res and get the additional revenue. But I do not think they will shift. Perhaps Qobuz is offering too little fee per pay, or too little added incentive for high res?

Thank you Roon for connecting to Qobuz; and thank you Qobuz for bringing such cultured editorial content and high quality reproduction. But there is still some way to go before everyone in the industry is willing to join in.

I really don’t know where this hip hop comes from. I’ve used Tidal since day one of existence and never had it thrown at me at all. But I do get a barrage of classical on Qobuz that I have no interest in whatsoever.swings and roundabouts.

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There are now many Chandos discs available on Qobuz for streaming (at CD quality at least), including the latest releases. Channel Classics are also available on Qobuz for streaming at CD quality. (I cannot comment on “hi res” streaming as my subscription allows discount purchases of hi res albums - and hi res streaming for the purchased albums - but only CD level streaming for everything else).

I should have added - I used to buy a lot of Hyperion and Linn releases, but I hardly buy any of them now. I tend to purchase these days those releases that I have been able to listen to via streaming. With the integration of Qobuz with Roon, I suspect that I will be purchasing fewer downloads - but then listening to a lot more streamed music. In effect, this will squeeze Qobuz which will have to pay a greater proportion of my subscription in streaming royalties and will also lose out on the sales of downloads.

It’s a pity Hyperion jumped ship a few years ago. However I can see that there are over 2300 Chandos albums available.

ECM came on board a while ago, so perhaps there’s hope that Hyperion will return at some stage.

Hyperion and Linn allow purchases of lossy AAC downloads through the iTunes Store, but you can only purchase CD quality or better downloads directly from their own sites and nowhere else.

Here is why Hyperion don’t licence their catalogue for streaming (from the Gramophone):

Take the example of Hyperion Records, who have decided not to make themselves available on any on-demand streaming platforms. In 2013 a well-reviewed Baroque vocal album cost them £36k to make. During 2013, this album earned £10,847 through 2,104 CD sales and £2,152 through 444 download sales. However, 34,947 streaming events on iTunes Radio earned just £22.13. Not good, even within the context of iTunes Radio paying out less than a subscription service.

Full Gramophone article here https://www.gramophone.co.uk/feature/making-waves-classical-music-and-the-rise-of-streaming

My Qobuz subscription has really enriched my life, but I still buy an occasional download from Hyperion and others, and I do worry about the sustainability of the streaming model for classical musicians.

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It’s not just classical that’s at risk, it’s anything that’s not mainstream. If musicians cannot make a living making albums they’ll be forced to so making music and we’ll all be poorer for it. Streaming in is current form is a ■■■■■■ business model.