My sudden obsession with having Tool’s Fear Inoculum played at high-end audio shows is directly related to my love for Qobuz. Tool released their entire catalog on Qobuz, as well as their first album in thirteen years, just a couple of days before I headed out to 2019 Rocky Mountain Fest. I listened to Fear Inoculum just once before the show, streaming it on my Qobuz account. My first thought was, “Hopefully everyone will be playing that at the show.” That’s where it all began.
David Solomon, the Chief Hi-Rez Music Evangelist of Qobuz, was particularly thrilled when they nabbed that exclusive. “Tool even put us on their website,” he told me at the 2020 Florida Audio Expo, where the streaming service was celebrating its first year in the US. This was a big deal, of course, since Tool has famously refrained from allowing any of their music to be streamed. The fact that they finally changed their mind says a lot about Qobuz, and how they do things differently than other digital streaming services.
“I still listen to the others,” David admitted, as did I. But throughout the conversation, David stressed how Qobuz is supportive of other industries and how the France-based company walks the walk–which isn’t always the case with past and present services. For instance, most of Qobuz’s competitors say they support high-end audio. “Only Qobuz supports high-end,” David said. A quick glance around the Florida Audio Expo and you’ll quickly see what David is saying. There are Qobuz banners everywhere. Many of the rooms are actually streaming Qobuz and are co-sponsored by the streaming service. In addition, Qobuz often sponsors events at high-end audio shows, such as live performances in exhibit rooms and David’s frequent and mobile turns as a DJ.
It’s been a successful year for Qobuz, which prompted me to ask David what’s next. He spoke of a second phase of expansion for the catalog, noting with enthusiasm that Rickie Lee Jones’ catalog would be the next big announcement after Tool. Last year’s new lower pricing structure really brought in more subscribers, especially audiophile subscribers, which led to a paradigm shift. When Tidal first appeared, the source was better than the gear. Now, that’s flipped. “All the pieces are in the right places,” Davis explains, which is why it’s time to grow the catalog even more.
Qobuz is also working to obtain rare and hard to find music for inclusion in the streaming service. He mentioned the legendary Swedish audiophile label, Opus3, as an example. On the other hand, the “hits” can always been found as well, which brings in more subscribers, which fuels more acquisitions. Another angle, as David said, is to get those “MP3 peeps back” to the fold so they can experience what digital streaming has become in 2020, not what it was a few years ago.
“We still have some holes,” he said, explaining how time-consuming it really is to spot-check the sound quality of so much music. “It can take six to eight months to ingest 14 million songs.” But David’s advice is “Come back later!” If you can’t find what you want, wait a bit. It might magically appear one day, just like Tool did for me.