Upcoming Moody Blues & Elton John SACDs Top News from MIDEM

MIDEM 38: During the recent 38th MIDEM International Music Mart show in Cannes, several key announcements were made about work to advance the Super Audio CD format. Among the most significant was the news of upcoming SACD releases from Universal Music and Sony Music including several new discs by The Moody Blues and Elton John. Also announced were new marketing programs to promote the format as well as updated figures on the number of SACD discs on the market.

Philips Reports Increased Acceptance of the SACD Format
At this year’s Super Audio CD exhibit at the MIDEM show in Europe, officials from Philips provided updated statistics on the “year of strong growth and increased support” that the format has received during the last year. According to this report, there are now over 1,800 Super Audio CD titles available worldwide from over 200 record labels supporting the format. Of the available SACD discs, 1,200 of these now available in Europe.

In terms of available discs, Philips and Sony state that there were “over 21 Million SACDs in circulation” at the end of last year. The SACD format sponsors say that this figure will increase to over 100 Million SACDs by the end of 2004.

Universal Plans SACDs by the Moody Blues & Elton John
The Universal Music Group has been a key supporter of the Super Audio CD format with its worldwide catalog of SACD discs now topping 150 titles. At MIDEM, Universal announced plans to release both new and catalog albums in 5.1 Surround Sound SACD format.

New catalog releases to appear as Surround Sound SACDs in Europe this year from major Universal Music artists will include titles from Bon Jovi, Elton John (4 albums), Eric Clapton (3 albums), Bjork, and the Moody Blues. These titles will supplement recent key Universal Music SACD catalog released by artists including Sting, Texas, Shania Twain, Ronan Keating and The Who.

Included in the new release category for the European market are SACDs from Jamie Cullum who Universal describes as “a jazz superstar whose album Twentysomething already went platinum in the U.K.” as well as an upcoming album by Zucchero and Boudewijn De Groot which is said to be “a major Benelux release”. The Zucchero and Boudewijn De Groot album will be available as a Single Inventory Hybrid Surround Sound SACD with the SACD disc serving as both the SACD and CD release of the album.

Another key SACD release from Universal Music International in Europe will be the release of 5 albums from the Mercury Living Presence vaults using the original 3 track master tapes this May. (This series of SACDs is currently slated to debut in the U.S. market in March).

Dirk De Clippeleir, Director of New Formats at Universal Music International indicated that

“Music is our business but still technology is important since the delivery format must meet the needs of the music industry and the music consumer in 2004. SA-CD is an important new format for Universal Music. Its superb surround sound quality and robust anti piracy measures give us good reason to feel optimistic about its growth potential within our core music recording business.”

Sony Music Plans Additional SACD Releases in Europe
Sony Music has now released over 250 Super Audio CD titles according to the reports from MIDEM. Upcoming SACD releases from Sony Music Europe will include Hybrid Layer Surround Sound SACDs from several key artists including Beyonce (Dangerously in Love), David Bowie (Reality), Stevie Ray Vaughan (Couldn’t Stand the Weather) and Herbie Hancock (Future Shock).

Leslie Cohen, Vice President, New Formats & Business Development for Sony Music Entertainment said that

“Super Audio CD represents an important development in music technology and helps us attract music lovers back in to the stores with its superb high quality surround sound. This format can help us increase recorded music sales.”

Comparing his work on David Bowie’s Reality album to the earlier SACD Surround Sound release of “Heathen”, Bowie’s producer and engineer Tony Visconti noted that

“Like Heathen, I wrapped the instruments around the listener and put David stage centre for most of the mixes. In 5.1 SA-CD, you can hear every part more distinctly, including David’s breathing. With 5.1 mixes, I tend to walk around the room rather than sit in one ‘sweet spot.’ This can give you an ever-changing perspective of the music.”

SACD Regional Conferences to Promote Format
One way that Philips believes they will be able to continue the growth of the Super Audio CD format is through a new program of SACD Regional Conferences. The first such conference will be held in Europe this summer. It will provide a way for record companies, recording studios, mastering studios, disc manufacturers and SACD player manufacturers to meet, network and develop new programs to work together and promote the Super Audio CD format.

David Walstra, Director of the Sony Super Audio CD Business Centre Europe said that

“There is heightened interest in SA-CD from many record companies ranging from Universal Music to independents covering every music genre and market. By working together, we can accelerate the rate at which this exciting new music carrier becomes established and benefit the entire music industry.”

Jos Bruins, Marketing Director at Philips Standards & Intellectual Property added that

“The main objective of these regional conferences is to strengthen confidence in the SA-CD format and increase the information flow to the music industry. Another priority is to provide a networking platform with a diversity of special interest groups where the nuts and bolts of cross company and cross industry co-operation can be worked out. Especially for smaller independent labels this facility is highly valued.”