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Connecting Through HD Music with Alicia Keys at CES 2020

Alicia Keys is excited about streaming music in HD and thinks listeners should be, too.

A half-hour before the “C Space Storyteller: Amazon Music” session began, every seat in the room was taken. By the time the panel walked onstage, the room was packed with people filling every available space. While HD music streaming is an important and valued topic, no doubt the main reason for the throng of attendees was that one of panelists was 15-time Grammy award winning artist Alicia Keys. Keys, whose new single “Underdog” drops today in HD, was joined on stage by collaborator Emily Lazar, founder and chief mastering engineer, The Lodge, and Andre Stapleton, head of label relations—North America, Amazon Music. The session was moderated by Andrew Hampp, consultant/founder of 1803 LLC.

Three months ago, Amazon launched Amazon Music HD, which delivers music in lossless quality in HD (CD quality), UHD (24-bit/192 MHz), and 3D (immersive formats such as Dolby Atmos and Sony 360). “From the inception [of streaming music], there were constraints that made it cost-prohibitive to take the actual recordings from the studio and get them to the listener’s ear—bandwidth and storage issues,” said Stapleton. “As those constraints have fallen away, we set the table around a new vision of HD where we take the music exactly as it was recorded and deliver it in a lossless way to a mass market. Now we have convenience plus quality.”

Grammy Award-winner Alicia Keys at CES 2020
Grammy Award-winner Alicia Keys

The difference between standard streaming music and the HD formats is staggering, and Keys thinks it will have a profound effect on listeners. “The experience as a listener, as a fan, is what brings us together,” said Keys. “I am excited about mixing ‘Underdog’ in immersive audio and the highest HD. Music creates a spiritual experience that connects us. What is missing in the world right now is the connection between us, which allows these divisions to come to life. We need that connection.”

Lazar, herself a Grammy winner, was able to explain the difference in listening to HD vs. standard. “Music is art,” she began. “Music makes us feel things and make those connections we desperately need. I dare anyone to tell me they would pay to go to a museum and see a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of Starry Night and have the same experience as looking at the real painting. How it makes you feel. It is the same visceral experience you get when you listen to music. The idea of listing to a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy does not work for me or any of the artists I work with.”

And listeners are appreciating the difference. For the past three months, Amazon has been analyzing the data on those who upgraded to Amazon Music HD, and they are listening to music 10 percent more with HD than they had been doing in the standard format. With the large amount of music being streamed, that 10 percent increase is “quite significant,” according to Stapleton.

As HD streaming catches on, Keys says she would like to release her catalog in HD. Lazar is ready to help. “All this music over the past decade where we have been delivering in not-the-best quality to the masses? I have been busy mixing them in HD and as soon as they can stream in high def, we got it. You will be able to experience all the albums you already love in HD.”

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