The Playlist: Surround-Sound Audio Albums

That content is the extras such as videos, interviews, and outtakes--the special features that you'd find on a movie DVD. In fact, when 5.1 Entertainment Group records new artists for its Immergent and Silverline record labels, it takes high-definition video of recording and song-writing sessions right from the get-go. "You can get the surround sound and an array of bonus features that really do add the value to the consumer," says Trickett.

One telling sign of market demand is Immergent Records' Beyond Warped Live Performance series. This series of DualDiscs contains high-definition audio and video of primarily pop and punk bands that played in the Vans Warped Tour. Garage-band punk isn't naturally conducive to super-high-quality audio the way classical or jazz would be; however, the listeners of garage-band punk--teens and people in their 20s--have come to expect extras packed onto their movies, and now their music. So, it would appear that marketing bonuses are carrying the high-quality audio and not the other way around. The reason is another audio technology: MP3. Its popularity has trained most to listen to lower-than-CD-quality audio and like it. "Now that super-high-quality audio is readily available--and, thanks to desktop audio software like Digidesign Pro Tools and Apple Logic Pro, is getting cheaper to make--most people don't even really want it.

I hope that we, as a group, can learn to crave surround-sound music albums the way we crave HD movies and TV shows. The technology is there, but unless the public asks for it, there's no impetus for the record labels to consider it anything more than value-added content.

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