Quality vs. Convenience: Apple May Upgrade Sound Quality – But Will Enough Users Care?
For a second time, Apple may pursue upgrading the quality of the song files they sell. The goal is to offer downloads that more accurately reflect their original recordings, perhaps at a higher price.
It's a long road ahead of them, but executives like Jimmy Iovine, known for his criticism of the sound quality of song files and involvement in the Beats Audio line of headphones, is helping to push the initiative along. He believes that the war on music piracy and the degradation of sound quality hold the same level of importance. Of course, not every excutive agrees with Iovine.
On the other side of the spectrum, Sony Network COO Shawn Layden, argued that consumers can't tell the difference and don't care. To him, it's about making music more convenient. If his company can make their "Music Unlimited" service easier than torrent networks, consumers will respond to that value proposition.
According to tech writer Kevin Maney, consumers make a trade-off between fidelity and convenience every single day. "Fidelity is the experience of something – not just how good it is, but how it makes you feel or what it lends to your personal identity," he says. "Convenience is how easy it is to get something."
In other words, offering consumers song files with upgraded song quality does have the potential to catch interest. Caring about the quality of your music has little to do with how much a person will pay; it helps them express who they are.
Conversely, convenient music lends little to one's identity. It's either MOG or Rdio, and to the consumer, there will be a vague difference between the two.
Neither app is something consumers can wear like a badge.
Now, it's hard to know if the market of core music fans is big enough to justify the expense Apple will incur to please them. But in an age where digital music is as convenient as it gets, little is left to signify one music fan from the next. This is why high-grade audio equipment and song files may grow even more popular.
Due to the ubiquity of the iPod, it says less about one's identity.
The backlash: fans buy high-quality songs and Beats headphones, because it says something about who they are and how they want to be percieved. "The Dre headphones come with admiring glances at no extra charge," marketer and author Seth Godin writes on his blog. "They come with self-esteem built in."
When you wear white earbuds, you're no different from 250 million others. But when you wear Beats or Porta Pros, it makes you stand out from the crowd.
And to many people, that's worth something.