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CES opens as RIAA reports first half of 2017 sees streaming accounting for 62% of music-industry revenues / TWICE

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The music industry is shifting to a streaming model from a download model, spurring new high-res streaming services to prepare for launch and more audio hardware companies here at CES to support high-res streaming services. Retailers at CES will also find a growing selection of car audio products that support various high-res formats, a growing selection of high-res home and portable products supporting studio-quality MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) audio, and more wireless-multiroom speakers supporting high-res playback.

Attesting to the streaming shift, the RIAA reported that, in the first half of 2017, retail-level music-industry streaming revenues grew 48 percent to $2.5 billion to account for 62 percent of total industry revenues of $3.99 billion. Downloads accounted for only 19 percent of industry revenues in the first half, falling 24 percent during that time to $757 million.

The shift in consumer preference has also had an impact on high-res music downloads. "High-res downloads are holding their own," said David Chesky, co-founder and CEO of download site HDtracks. "We feel the streaming pinch but nowhere as much as the industry standard."

MusicWatch statistics also underscore the shift. Seventy percent of the Internet population ages 13 and older streamed music in the past month, or about 156 million streamers, based on Sept. 2017 data, said managing partner Russ Crupnick. That compares to 19 percent of the population that, in 2016, bought at least one music download, or about 42 million people, and they're listening less to their downloads as "download listeners increasingly substitute streaming," said Crupnick.

With the shift, HDtracks plans to launch HDmusicStream, a streaming site featuring MQA-encoded music. It was originally targeted for a late-2016 launch. HDmusicStream will join Tidal, which launched an MQA streaming service in 2017 with titles from the big three music companies and independents. Groovers in Korea was expected to launch MQA streaming before the end of 2017. AndNugs.net, which offers high-res MQA downloads globally, is gearing up for a global MQA streaming launch through iOS and desktop players. In addition, Deezer made an "announcement of intent" to stream MQA in 2018, said MQA inventor MQA Ltd.

In 2017, Pandora and Napster also announced intentions to offer high-res streaming, but the projects had not yet come to fruition by the end of the year following management changes.

Meanwhile, the amount of high-res music available has grown to more than 40,000 high-res albums globally as of late 2017, most available to U.S. consumers, the FindHDmusic.com database shows. Of that number, thousands of MQA-encoded albums were available to U.S. consumers for download in late 2017 from three online stores - HIGHRESAUDIO, 2L and Onkyo Music - from such labels as Warner Music, RME Premium Recordings, Sono Luminus, Unamas, and 2L, said MQA Ltd. In addition, Nugs.net provides MQA downloads globally of recorded concerts.

High-res music is available through more download sites than ever before, hitting 90 at the end of 2017, most of which are available to U.S. consumers, the FindHDmusic.com database shows. The sites include artist and music-label sites.

Despite growing interest and availability, high-res audio is still a niche, said HDtracks's Chesky. CTA statistics support that assessment. In its mid-2017 forecast, CTA forecast that high-res-capable home-audio receivers would account for 32 percent of 1.32 million receivers sold in 2017 at the factory level. That percentage will slip through 2012 to 28.6 percent of 1.31 million units sold.

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