MusicDNA to challenge the MP3 format with a planned summer 2010 release

In the long-running defense of musical purists who say there is no way to replace a record, CD or other physical album format, there may soon be a common ground for the record store crowd and MP3-downloading Gen Y’ers to find solace in their music listening experience.

Norwegian developer Dagfinn Bach and German Researcher Karlheinz Brandenburg, debuted their comprehensive file format, called MusicDNA at the currently ongoing Cannes Midem music conference. Back in 1993, Bach and Brandenburg broke ground on the trend-setting MP3 format with the former creating the very first MP3 player and the latter credited for inventing the format. Now the two pioneers, along with BACH Technology are seeking a richer music experience with MusicDNA.

“What we are bringing back to the end user is the entire emotional experience of music. We think it got lost in the transition to the digital era”, says BACH CEO Stefan Kohlmeyer while speaking to Reuters. How are they doing this? For one their new format is capable of carrying up to 32GB of extra data. This extra data can include many of the items we’re accustomed to seeing in physical album packaging like lyrics, album artwork and photos (but probably not a cool poster). And being a digital format MusicDNA can be tied to artists’ MySpace and Twitter posts, tour dates and anything else they decide to add. Each file will also be updated every time it is activated.

This will rival Apple’s anticipated iTunes LP, which was announced this past summer and is currently available with a handful of albums. While iTunes LP offers similar benefits and is also is aimed at supplementing the music listening experience, it is unclear how the two services will differentiate themselves. Convenience is part of it as is sound quality and distribution rights. Cost will surely to play a role too.

This past decade a few online music retailers successfully cut MP3 costs through innovative business models. Lala offers variable pricing through streaming and MP3 options, and Amie St. runs on a hype-based model – prices start out low then increase as more people buy and talk about the music. Amie St. MP3’s never top 98 cents and Lala’s are consistently 89 cents. As novel as these structures were when they launched and even as they hold up today, their price-cutting strategies still have them standing in the shadows of Apple’s empire.

Naturally a beefed-up music file like MusicDNA or that of iTunes LP will come with a beefier price tag.  This will come as a shock to some having rarely seen MP3’s rise in price.  Then again we haven’t seen any major recent innovations to warrant such price increases. Lately we’ve only seen throwbacks in the resurgence of vinyl.  The question will be whether or not these new file formats will incentivize consumers enough to make the switch from the old format.  There will undoubtedly be a niche following, but will there be enough sustainability to challenge an empire?

Even with all the loyal record buyers in the world today it would be naive to think record companies would regress and promote CD’s over MP3’s in the foreseeable future. But if MusicDNA can offer everything that we can hear and see on a CD, minus the disc of course, then maybe music purists and Gen Y’ers can retable their debate in a few months. Maybe MusicDNA will be the new standard of the music format.

Already the indie labels Beggars Banquet in the U.K. and Tommy Boy Records in the U.S. have signed up to use the new format, which will have it’s beta launch this spring. If all goes to plan MusicDNA will be set for a full launch this summer.


Follow Consequence