Comment: Mqa Live, From A Musician’s Viewpoint
As reported on StereoNET UK this week, MQA Live debuted in Austin, Texas with Jake Isaac and his band performing in London's Rocket Studios.
While this marks a proof of concept for live streaming MQA encoded audio, the press announcement got me thinking.
Now, before I start, I am not going to delve into whether-or-not MQA encoded files are any better or worse than, let’s say, FLAC.
However, what I will discuss is whether-or-not MQA Live has any value to the content creators - the musicians.
Having been in bands for longer than I haven’t, I joined my first band in 1988 and have played many genres, from contemporary pop to Acid Jazz, from Doom Metal to my current Punk/Metal crossover outfit, LACK.
Career highlights include supporting Grace Jones at a festival in Sarajevo, gigging with Transglobal Underground, being in a short-lived band with Culture Club’s Jon Moss and, most recently, supporting the mighty Canadian Punks, D.O.A.
Back to MQA Live. Where I do see many advantages being made possible for the music promoters and venues, sadly, I see fewer pros for musicians.
Yes, they may be able to reach more people (something I’ll take a look at later), but will they get a cut in the takings?
This might at first seem a bit of a mercenary statement to make but, in my experience, making enough money to live on from live music is nearly impossible.
I know some bands that you would class as professional (international tours, album releases including vinyl, etc.) who also have to hold down regular jobs to pay the rent/mortgage and eat.
You see, attendance at live shows are down. Not just in London, but across the country. Practically every week there is news that another landmark venue has closed to make way for executive apartments or a chain coffee shop.
Bands get approached to play a gig with either the offer of exposure or the agreement that they’ll buy X amount of tickets to sell on to their fans. If they don’t sell them all, the band loses money – a despicable veiled pay-to-play scheme.
This is not a rant; these are things that I have experienced, firsthand.
I mention it here just to give a backdrop to how it is getting harder to get this art form to those who might appreciate it.
At first glance, MQA Live looks like one avenue to get your band’s music to more people. And I love the idea that you can play a gig in one country while fans in another are enjoying the audio as it happens.
As the MQA Live encoder will be taking a feed from the mixing desk (I assume), I shall ignore the technical issues of, for instance, recording an orchestra or choir.
What does come over in the announcement is that the venue can have it set up to broadcast the show. It is not clear if this broadcast will be behind a paywall or part of a subscription package.
The obvious question here, is who gets paid?
Does the cut from the subscription go to the owner of the encoder or the people who have created the product - the musician(s)?
Of course, depending on its price, I am assuming there is nothing preventing bands buying an encoder, but will the venue allow the gig to be live streamed? That's, of course, assuming the venue's data/internet connection is up to the challenge.
Then there is the end user, the consumer. They will obviously have to have the relevant hardware/software to unfold the MQA-encoded audio origami.
It's also not yet clear whether MQA Live content will be available on Tidal alongside the current MQA content.
Which brings me on to other services that are already out there, such as OpenLive. OpenLive already provides a similar service and is already installed in some live music venues. It's not MQA-encoded, but it is Hi-Res.
For a more DIY approach, bands can already live stream their show on YouTube, Facebook or other social channels.
Granted, it's not ‘audiophile’ quality, but then most gigs aren’t. Wouldn’t live streaming CD-quality audio in a more generic codec reach more people?
I am interested in hearing what you think about this, either as an audiophile, musician or a music enthusiast.
For now, I am intrigued but sceptical about MQA Live. I admit we need more information to be made available before making a proper judgement.
StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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