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Us Against Them Mentality

Is It Really "Winner Take All"?
Article by Steven R. Rochlin

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Looking At You  There is definitely a stir going on within the audiophile community. This is not something new, yet is now coming to a feverish pitch as magazines, manufacturers, and the music community vie for what they consider is success. Please allow me to start is reverse as the music community's battle of allegedly illegal copyrighted music sharing on the Internet has reduced Napster to a blip on the map while KaZaA and other have taken control. In a sense it also shows haw fast an Internet entity can reap the rewards of millions of users one month, only to be reduced to a sidebar the next. It also shows how fast Internet users can adapt and change. We are not talking about only the extremely web-savvy user, but regular users who only want to find a way to achieve their goal. Success if you will.

 

Music Community

Today we have various companies offering copyrighted music online legally, albeit for a price, and these online resources are only now beginning to find a way at actually making a buck or two. While the winner is the lawful copyright holder, the loser may the public who might have no idea they are settling for lossy versions of their music. Lossy in that these music files they are paying for are less than "CD quality" sound, let alone come anywhere near as good as DVD-Audio or SACD. The good news concerning the battle of DVD-Audio versus SACD is that consumers are slowing learning that there is something better than CD's "perfect sound forever".

Finished watching the MTV Video Music Awards the other night and it was one of the most painful experiences of my life. Has the industry become so commercial that you need not have talent to succeed? Seems to be all about the ability to market someone and their stage show. Worse still, many of the performers followed the "lip sync express", thereby just mouthing to the soundtrack as it played and never actually sang their songs. i weep for the future and thank G-d for independent record labels. Goodness knows it is bad enough a vast majority of United States radio listeners are being controlled, per se, by Clear Channel Communications corporation. If you want to succeed by having your music played on the radio, odds are you had better be kissing Clear Channel Corporation's booty.

 

Manufacturers

Today i received e-mail with a press release from KEF concerning their lawsuit between them and Bowers & Wilkins (B&W). Will not go into details, yet it was obvious there is some dispute going on. Years ago Nelson Pass would allow a small DIY-type magazine publish some of his amplifier circuits that he did not use in a commercial product. Nelson was simply being generous in sharing one of his designs with the public. As time passed someone decided to take one of his designs and make a commercial unit and sell it to the public. This would be great provided Nelson gave his approval. Alas, it was done without Nelson's knowledge and it just shows the possible greed factor in mankind. Needles to say this amplifier left the marketplace with little fanfare, but the end result is that Nelson no longer provided his design genius to the DIY community.

While it may be hard to protect various designs legally, we have all seen repackaged/re-branded electronics. For instance, someone uses their great marking skill at achieving perceived prestige, then markets very inexpensive Chinese-made products at 5x the actual price. There is nothing wrong with this provided the Chinese company gives approval. As for the higher price, it is called capitalism and it is the consumer who dictates the success or failure of a company by voting with their dollars. Bose has great marketing... What we need are more educated consumers.

Naturally there are also copycats that will see a company's design, make a subtle change, then sell it as their own... usually at a lower price point. While the public may like this idea as it offers XX% of the performance at YY% lower cost, the copycat company probably saved money by not having to do and real research and development work. While the copycat design is technically different, is it honest to virtually copy a product and offer it at a lower price, as they have no real research or development costs?

 

Magazines

Ah, the big one! You may say there is a huge conflict of interest in offering my own comments, yet here they are anyway. Years ago there were quite a few less than positive comments about Internet-based magazines. Fully agree that, like print, there are some that may be a better fit for you than others. Naturally some writers and editors are also more educated within this industry than others. The downfall of the Internet was the extremely low initial investment whereas having a print magazine takes a much higher financial outlay. Add to that the ease of making a website versus sending the equivalent to a commercial printing company to have a magazine produced. Cost alone would at least be some buffer -- a filter -- in separating the proverbial wheat from the chaff.

While the public votes with their dollars, or clicks in the case of the Internet, audiophile print magazines have been on the downturn while Internet websites have come and gone. Naturally new ones pop up from time to time. While this may surprise you, have said this to many over the years. Are you sitting down?

 

Steven R. Rochlin, editor of Enjoy the Music.com™, says "Frankly, i prefer to read none of the current audiophiles magazines. i do not subscribe to any of them and if i had my way, would not read Enjoy the Music.com™. While it is a joy to write reviews and articles for Enjoy the Music.com™, editing other's articles is a job and at times as enjoyable as driving a Ferrari with race slick tires during an ice storm. It brings me joy to know there are many great magazines in the marketplace today, though it is simply my choice to find my own path."

 

Blasphemy you say? In my eyes it is the exact opposite. The main reason for not reading any other audiophile magazine, or doing my best not to, is to find my own path. This is also why i attend so many shows worldwide. It is great to see true artisans offering interesting products. Many people bask at owning the likes of the major audiophile brand names, yet it is guys like me who savor "discovering" companies such as Lehmann Audio, 47 Labs, etc. before the majors start seeing the trend and like any good marketing agent, catches the wave and rides it to the end... until another wave comes and rides that one until it is beaten like a dead horse. Usually these waves are also mutually financially prosperous so it is a win-win. But it is in my blood to never be a follower, or a "sheep to slaughter" if you will. Frankly, i miss the days of working for Heathkit and in keeping my soldering guns (yes plural) in the "on" mode. Naturally i prefer to be a lion...

 

Shows

Throwing this into the mix as there are four major shows in September. While the Milan Top Audio & Video show and CEDIA are a natural, the competition is really heating up on the other side of the pond. Specifically, a battle has been waged for supremacy in the United Kingdom as Hi-Fi News with their ABC rated total of 18,439 readers versus What Hi*Fi?'s over four-fold 75,159 (see table below) have contending shows.

 

Title Total Home Total Overseas Year: 2002 Percentage Change
Hi-Fi News 12,526 5,913 18,439 +0.1%
Hi-Fi Choice 8,791 4,056 12,847 -7.1%
What Hi-Fi? 65,463 9,696 75,159 +4.1%
         
Total Market 86,780 19,665 106,445 +1.9%

Source: ipc media - ABC Rated

 

This is a very important subject as without Hi-Fi News' show success, the magazine may not be a financially viable entity in the eyes of their parent company ipc media. There is indeed a battle being waged as both shows are held at the same time and almost literally next door to each other. The industry has experienced this before as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has The Home Entertainment Show (T.H.E. Show) being held in Las Vegas during the same days in January. The main different between the UK shows and the Las Vegas shows bare that the UK ones are mainly for consumers while the Las Vegas shows are only for the Industry itself. As audiophile publications, both print and Internet, struggle for "success" the "winner" is the consumer who has a choice... and therefore the ability to vote with their dollars.

 

And In The End...

It is the consumer who has a choice. This is also part of the reason why Enjoy the Music.com™ has strategic alliances with a good variety of publications. While no single publication is everything for everyone, audiophiles must admit we are a small niche in the audio marketplace. Albeit one that spends quite a bit of money. This is also why some manufacturers need to be careful with copycat products while the consumer should be educated about re-branded (and sold at much higher prices) products.

Audiophiles are very enthusiast about our love of music and in finding ways to further enhance that joy. It is a delicate balance to achieve a win-win situation, yet not everyone plays by the same "rules". The old Napster mentality is still prevalent within some while others believe in "playing by the rules." It is only you who can decide accordingly.

 

Please ask yourself this questions: Are you the one in front of the gun... or are you pulling the trigger? Please send me your comments by clicking here.

 

As always, in the end what really matters is that you...

 

Enjoy the Music (Pink Floyd "Us And Them" right now),

Steven R. Rochlin

 

"Us and them
And after all we're only ordinary men
Me and you
G-d only knows
It's not what we would choose to do

Forward he cried from the rear
And the front rank died
And the general sat
And the lines on the map
Moved from side to side

Black and blue
And who knows which is which and who is who
Up and down
And in the end it's only round 'n round

Haven't you heard it's a battle of words
The poster bearer cried
Listen son, said the man with the gun
There's room for you inside

"I mean, they're not gonna kill ya, so if you give 'em a quick short, sharp, shock, they won't do it again. Dig it? I mean he get off lightly, 'cause I would've given him a thrashing - I only hit him once! It was only a difference of opinion, but really... I mean good manners don't cost nothing do they, eh?"

Down and out
It can't be helped that there's a lot of it about
With, without
And who'll deny it's what the fighting's all about?

Out of the way
It's a busy day
I've got things on my mind
For the want of the price
Of tea and a slice
The old man died"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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