With the Music Industry Switching to Downloads, Is the World Ready for a $40 Music CD?

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New acoustic music label, Blue Coast Records, challenges the current trend and declares value is in the ears of the Discerning Listener.

Blue Coast Records and Burnside Distribution announced the debut of the critically acclaimed music disc, Blue Coast Collection, making it now available via brick and mortar and online music outlets for the price of $40 USD. While some have balked at the cost of the disc, the audiophile community has embraced it as some of the most realistic acoustic music recorded to date. Using a proprietary recording technique, Extended Sound Environment (E.S.E.), the newly founded San Francisco label creates audio that is holographic. The release is an SACD hybrid disc that has the stereo CD layer, a surround sound SACD layer and an SACD two-track layer on one disc.

Blue Coast Collection has been a well-regarded underground industry secret for the last year. High fidelity speaker companies have been using the E.S.E. recordings extensively to demonstrate the excellence of their products. NHT speakers won the "Ultimate Audio" Award at a Consumer Electronics Show using music from the Blue Coast Collection. Cookie Marenco, founder of Blue Coast Records, quips, "A company selling a $20,000 pair of speakers isn't going to play an mp3 to make a sale."

Last year, music lovers worldwide created word of mouth excitement at forums and chat rooms before the disc made an official debut. Audiophiles suggest if more recordings were as well recorded as the Blue Coast Collection, they would pay the higher price for the disc despite popular trends for downloads.

Fans from a popular USA audio forum said, "The CD is very expensive but I will probably go on record and say it is worth every penny and if all recordings were handled in this manner I would not have a problem paying this amount over and over."

"It is by far the best sounding recordings that I have ever heard…It is not cheap but well worth the price."

"One of the best sounding CDs I have ever heard! The music is hauntingly beautiful. I am definitely going to watch this label."

Though Marenco was a pioneer in the early development of audio downloads, she feels her first responsibility is the marriage of music and sound. "My biggest thrill is that the beauty and magic of the music translates to all languages. Total strangers become friends. It's a powerful sensation," says Marenco. Initially, E.S.E. was an experiment to create holographic surround sound. Marenco handpicked the musicians for the E.S.E sessions whose performances would become the Blue Coast Collection. With co-producer, Jean Claude Reynaud, son of French audiophile speaker manufacturer, Jean Marie Reynaud, the two producers challenged current trends by recording the musicians performing live without headphones and using no digital effects.

"The reproduction of the pure sound of the performances is what prompted us to create a record label. With no pressure of a budget or timeline, we decided our focus would be to capture the music to the best of our abilities," says Marenco. "How much more real can music sound?"

Last year's sale of the disc on the Blue Coast Records website resulted in thousands of SACDs being sold globally. A review from La Nouvelle Revue de Son (a top audiophile magazine from France) led to attention in international audio forums.

"…your Blue Coast Collection SACD … are the most natural sounding recordings I have ever heard! The vocals and acoustic instruments have so much warmth and air around them, it feels like a live performance." - Wrote an Australian fan on http://www.SA-CD.net

"…the quality of the recording led me to the discovery of another musical universe."- Said an aficionado from France via http://www.homecinema-fr.com

Marenco was hesitant to release the recording through traditional channels. "We had several offers from large record companies, but we felt they didn't understand the passion audiophiles have for their music. We had seen too many great acoustic recordings turn into 'has been' records left to die in a warehouse," said Marenco. "We felt strongly there would be an audience for our music and our commitment to quality."

Answering to the demand of high quality recordings in the E.S.E. technique, Marenco says a second disc is in the works, a solo piano recording. "We can't mention the name of the artist just yet, but the recording was made on an 1885 Steinway Piano. The recording has no alterations, and sounds as if your head is literally inside the piano." The second SACD is scheduled for release in summer 2008. Previews can be heard on the Blue Coast Records website.

Marenco admits there will be challenges ahead to keep the quality high. "One big issue will be whether Sony will continue manufacturing SACD discs. As much as we love SACD, we plan to release our titles on vinyl and make them available as high resolution audio downloads. Starting with great performances and incredible sound, recorded at the highest quality, allows us to experiment with new formats, and enables us to provide the highest standard imaginable in audio recording as the technology continues to evolve."

For more information and distribution requests, please visit http://www.bluecoastrecords.com.

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Cathryn Blum

Cookie Marenco

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