Blue Note and Panasonic Partner on In-Car Audio (Exclusive)

Don Was, President of Blue Note Records. Credit: Gabi Porter.

Blue Note Records has signed a licensing partnership with Panasonic to help develop and co-market a car audio system that would be tuned to the types of music featured in Blue Note's catalog, whose artists range from Norah Jones and Van Morrison to John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk. 

Don Was, the President of Blue Note and a Detroit native, is expected to announce the deal Thursday afternoon during a keynote speech at the Crain's Detroit Business Soundbiz Music Conference.

Neither company disclosed terms.

Panasonic's automotive infotainment business is the world's largest by revenue, capturing 12.1% of the $34.6 billion market for factory-installed entertainment systems in 2012, according to estimates released last month by IHS Inc. The segment covers systems that are built into the cars as original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, as opposed to being sold to consumers for cars they've already purchased.

Panasonic has done three other similar arrangements. Its first occurred a decade ago with music producer and recording engineer Eliot Schneier, who helped develop the Panasonic's ELS Surround Premium Audio System, currently installed in about a million Acura vehicles on the road today. Its second arrangement was with Fender, whose logo is on audio systems installed in several Volkswagen models, including the Beetle, Passat, Jetta and Tiguan. And in January Panasonic teamed up with Abbey Road Studios to create a line of custom car audio systems.

When Panasonic approached Blue Note two years ago, it invited Was in for a listen, they played "Nick of Time," which Was produced and played piano on. 

"First I thought, flattery will get you anywhere," Was told Billboard. "Then I started to listen. Sitting in there, I felt like I was right back in the room I'd recorded that piece. I remembered what it looked like, what it felt like. I was very impressed. If authenticity is a hallmark of the label, I was impressed by [Panasonic's] ability to recreate that authenticity."

The Japanese consumer electronics company has not yet identified which car manufacturer will sign up for either Blue Note or Abbey Road systems. Because automotive and consumer electronic development cycles are fairly lengthy, it might not be until 2015 or later that consumers can test drive cars featuring these systems.

Asked what type of car would suit a Blue Note fan, Was replied, "A blue one."