Universal Music Group, the largest record company in the world, released its first 10 SACD discs in the United States earlier today. Universal also announced plans for 8 more SACDs in November along with information on additional SACD titles in the months ahead.
Prior to today’s release, Universal Music’s SACD activity had been limited to a few Universal SACDs released in the Hong Kong and European markets. Universal had also been involved in the SACD market through its distribution of SACDs by other record companies (Rounder Records in the U.S. and the Rolling Stones Remastered SACD series in Europe and Canada).
Universal Music Comments on Today’s SACD Releases
According to Universal Music «Starting with the first SACD releases on October 29, 2002, UMG plans an ongoing program to make a combination of best-selling artists and core catalog titles available on SACD in major regions worldwide. A substantial number of these releases will incorporate SACD’s multi-channel surround sound.»
«By making our music available on SACD, UMG continues to bring consumers more choice in how they enjoy music, now in a high-quality, multi-channel format,» Larry Kenswil, President, eLabs, Universal Music Group. «With its many benefits for consumers and recording artists, Super Audio CD has the potential to become a standard for the industry.»
Today’s 10 SACD Releases from Universal Music Group
As noted earlier, today’s SACD release from Universal consists of 10 SACDs. They are:
8 More SACD Releases from Universal Music Group in November
On November 26th, Universal Music Group plans to release 8 more SACDs. They are as follows:
More SACD Releases Planned
Confirming what we heard a few weeks ago at the SACD Industry Update at the AES Convention, Universal indicated that there are indeed more SACD releases being prepared beyond those scheduled for release in October and November.
In terms of specific titles and artists, 5 additional SACDs are now shown on the Universal Music Group New Formats web site (see web link below).
These upcoming SACDs are:
In addition to these 5 SACDs, Universal announced that in the months ahead, they will be releasing SACD discs by artists including The Wallflowers, Steely Dan, Three Doors Down, The Police, Marvin Gaye, Shaggy, The Roots, and The Who.
Universal Decides to Issue Both Single Layer and Hybrid Layer SACDs
One of the things that you will notice from the Universal Music SACD release listings is that they are releasing their SACD discs in both Single Layer and Hybrid Layer SACD format. We first mentioned that Universal was planning to go this way in last month’s story on the new September 2002 SACD Disc catalog.
This is a bit outside the norm when it comes to issuing SACD discs. While Sony Music and Red Rose Music have released Single Layer SACDs in the United States, just about every other record label issuing SACDs in the US only releases them in Hybrid Layer format.
The difference is that the Hybrid Layer SACDs carry a Stereo CD version of the album which is compatible with CD players while the Single Layer SACDs only carry SACD versions of the album (Stereo SACD on Hybrid Stereo SACDs and both a Multichannel SACD track and a Stereo SACD track on Hybrid Multichannel SACDs).
A Different Approach to SACD Disc Labeling
Another interesting difference you’ll notice on the Universal Music SACDs is how they are labeled. Universal decided to skip the use of the familiar grey labels found on other SACD discs that indicate that the disc is «Hybrid Stereo», «Hybrid Multichannel», «Single Layer Stereo» or «Single Layer Multichannel».
In its place, Universal offers their own grey labels on the front of the SACD case that indicates the SACD is either a) playable on both SACD and Stereo players (Hybrid SACDs) or b) is only playable on an SACD player (Single Layer SACDs).
Additionally, the type of audio tracks on the SACD appear on both the back of the SACD jacket and on the hinge portion of the album case. So a Single Layer Stereo SACD will have the words «SACD Stereo» in both of these locations. Similarly a Single Layer Multichannel/Stereo SACD will indicate «SACD Multichannel & SACD Stereo» in these locations while Hybrid SACDs will say either «SACD Stereo & CD Audio» (Hybrid Stereo SACDs) or «SACD Stereo, SACD Surround Sound & CD Audio» (Hybrid Multichannel/Stereo SACDs) in the same places. An interesting approach to describing what type of audio options are available on each SACD disc.
A Two-Tiered Pricing Model
Unlike most SACD record labels that have a one price for all single disc SACDs, Universal is taking a page from Sony Music’s SACD pricing strategy by using a two-tiered pricing model for their SACDs. However, the two companies diverge on both pricing and the rationale for the differential pricing.
At Sony Music, Stereo SACDs carry a list price of $19.99 while Multichannel/Stereo SACDs carry a list price of $21.99. Over at Universal, the difference in pricing isn’t the existence of a Multichannel SACD track but rather what type of SACD is being sold. So Universal Music has a list price of $15.98 for Single Layer SACDs and $18.98 for Hybrid Layer SACDs.
Some Universal SACDs Cost Less Than Stereo CDs !
The Universal SACD pricing leads to some interesting results. On some of their newer titles on SACD, a Single Layer SACD at $15.98 is actually cheaper than the Stereo CD version of the same album which lists at $18.98!
However, this may be only a temporary situation as the Single Layer SACDs from Universal Music carry the notation «Special Introductory Price» on their jackets while the Hybrid Layer SACDs from Universal do not.
No one at Universal Music would comment on the rationale for the lower Single Layer SACD pricing — or how long the «special pricing» might last other than to verify that some of their albums are indeed being priced cheaper on Single Layer SACD than on conventional Stereo CD.
My guess is that this is being done to test the waters and see how consumers respond to a chance to buy Single Layer, SACD only discs for $3 off the list price of a) Hybrid SACD discs and b) current Stereo CDs. Time will tell if consumers find this to be an enticing offer — or not !
The first 10 Universal Music SACDs are now in stock and available for purchase at a variety of outlets including Tower Records stores as well as several web sites that sell SACDs including Acoustic Sounds, Elusive Disc, Music Direct, Red Trumpet, CircuitCity.Com, CD Now and CD Universe.
Preorders for the November SACD releases from Universal Music Group are also being accepted by some of these web sites.
Check the sites for more details.
Ella and Louis by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (Verve Single Layer Stereo SACD 0314-589598-2)