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High-End Audio Industry News

6 / 29 / 00

  Move over Napster and Gnutella, here comes Freenet and it looks as though there is nothing the RIAA or anyone else can do to stop it. Unlike Napster, Freenet offers users total anonymity while there are also no form of centralized control or administration. Furthermore, Freenet makes removing a file from a system virtually impossible because information will be distributed throughout the Freenet network in such a way that it is difficult to determine where information is being stored. Freenet momentarily stores information on various users machines in such a way as to make it extremely difficult to determine what information is being stored on a particular machine (including by the owner of said machine). Freenet could spell easy anonymous distribution of copyrighted data and no way to remove or trace the data.

According to the Freenet website "Freenet is a peer-to-peer network designed to allow the distribution of information over the Internet in an efficient manner, without fear of censorship. Freenet is completely decentralized, meaning that there is no person, computer, or organisation in control of Freenet or essential to its operation. This means that Freenet cannot be attacked like centralized peer-to-peer systems such as Napster. Freenet also employs intelligent routing and caching meaning that it learns to route requests more efficiently, automatically mirrors popular data, makes network flooding almost impossible, and moves data to where it is in greatest demand. All of this makes it much more efficient and scalable than systems such as Gnutella. To become a part of Freenet all you need is a computer with an Internet connection and the capability to run a Freenet server."

 

6 / 28 / 00

HMV  With the green light for sites like MP3.com, K-Tel and many others to sell music online, brick and click retailer HMV.com will begin offering over 70,000 titles for downloads beginning this summer. Pricing is expected to be from .99 to $2.99 USD. The music will be delivered through secure download using the Liquid Audio format.

"HMV.com began offering a limited selection of for-sale and promotional music downloads last fall," said Peter Luckhurst, president of HMV North America. "When we offered David Bowie's album, ' ... hours,' as a download at HMV.com in October 1999, we became the number one site for music downloads in North America. Based on our success with this new digital format, we're offering consumers a complete catalog of music downloads as the first of many steps into commercial digital downloading at HMV.com."

 

Yet another associating sues Napster and MP3.com. The National Music Publishers Association( NMPA/HFA) general cousel, Peter L. Fletcher, was offering some not too friendly words to these online music companies during the organization's 83rd annual meeting. There are pending lawsuits with NMPA/HFA suing Napster and MP3.com for copyright infringement within federal courts located at New York and San Francisco.

''In the physical world when consumers trade CDs, they part with possession, and no new CDs are created,'' Fletcher said. ''Under the Napster system, new CDs are constantly being created, without any parting of possession.'' Fletcher also said ''Legislative history strongly supports that streaming constitutes a digital phonorecord delivery within the meaning of the Copyright Act, resulting in liability for mechanical royalties, whether or not there is also a performance right involved... In the absence of achieving any settlement, we intend to move for summary judgment on the publishers' claims and hope to have a decision by this fall.''

 

Meanwhile...


America Online (AOL) is looking to cash in on this downloading music online frenzy by signing an agreement with InterTrust Technologies, a digital-rights management company, to help with security in offering copyright-protected files online. AOL will soon acquire the Warner Music Group and will have easy access to a vast amount of songs to offer their subscribers.

 

6 / 27 / 00

  CNN will be featuring none other than Chad Kassem's own Blue Heaven Studios and Acoustic Sounds, Inc. On Friday, June 30 and Sunday, July 2, CNN-World Today "Across America with Larry Woods" will broadcast a story on Blue Heaven Studios, Chad Kassem, and what Analogue Productions is doing to keep the blues alive.

Date and Times: 
Friday, June 30, 2000, 5:50 P.M. PST, 7:50 P.M. CST, 8:50 P.M. EST
Length: 5 Minutes

Sunday, July 2, 2000, 6:40 A.M. PST, 8:40 A.M. CST, 9:40 A.M. EST
Length: 12-14 Minutes

Following the airing of these two shows, CNN Headline News will air a shorter version every half hour for a 24 hour time period.

 

Dark Side of the MoonMore TV news... Pink Floyd fans, who have for a long time been claiming how well Dark Side of the Moon synchronizes with the movie Wizard of Oz, will get a free ride on July 3 at 11 p.m. when Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will do all the hard sync work for you. When you perfectly align the album's music with the movie's video at the precise positions you get an amazing and curious joining of movie and music. What TCM will do is use the Second Audio Program (SAP) channel that usually used in America for broadcasting a movie's soundtrack in another language (Spanish, French, etc) for playing the album Dark Side of the Moon. Decide for yourself as the reported over 80 sync points where music and movie collide. All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be.

 

6 / 25 / 00

  While virtually all high-end audio companies seem to be dismissing the millions of dollars profit in giving mainstream consumers their MP3 fix, it has been reported that Kenwood engineers have developed a new technology that is claimed to make compressed digital music files, such as MP3 files, their "CD quality" sound by mathematically re-processes the data through a sound generator to regain the high frequency and harmonics lost through the MP3 process. As the music signal is compressed, it also usually causes a loss of some harmonics and high frequency data. Kenwood's new Supreme Drive recreates what it calculates is missing for a more natural sound. Kenwood is planning to adding this technology in their future products.

 

6 / 23 / 00

DVD-RAM  Over forty companies have joined together to support the DVD-RAM, re-writeable DVD, format. The new 4.7GB re-writable DVD drives will be offered from Hitachi, Toshiba and Panasonic while supporting hardware and software will come from Adaptec, ADS Technologies, Ricoh, IBM, Samsung, JVC, Maxell and others. The availability of black discs or enclosed in protective cartridges, the new 4.7GB DVD-RAM single-sided media can store up to two hours of high-quality video for a storage cost of only $.005/MB. In addition, the drives will provide transfer rates of up to 22Mbps. This makes them ideal for the demanding video delivery requirements and more than adequate for high-end audio recording and playback. Hitachi, Toshiba and Panasonic have each announced plans to ship 4.7GB drives in the third quarter of this year.

 

Statistics:

According to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) over 2 million DVD players have been sold from January to the end of May 2000. This is more than double the unit sales this time last year. 

 

6 / 22 / 00

  While the laws of copyright and trademark have their reign, there is a new domain where the lawless can thrive. A new venture by HavenCo has now established their own lawless internet provider by setting up shop on the worlds smallest sovereign territory. Built on an abandon military platform in the North Sea which was used during World War II as an anti-aircraft gun battery about six miles west of England, the five-story manmade structure now known as the Principality of Sealand is a haven for those looking to protect their data and keep it private while also having a home for their website where virtually no laws interfere with delivering data. According to a representative of Haven Co. there are only three rules: no child porn, no attacks on other sites and no spam.

 

And now some statistics:

Most visited website by students according to the Student Monitor:

Amazon.com  34%
MP3.com 25%
MTV 24%
Napster 23%
CDNow 12%
Columbia House 11%
BMG Entertainment 8%
VH1 6%
Sam Goody 5%

 

Who downloads Music/MP3 online during the past three months according to Plan, Inc.?

Male 66%
Used instant messaging on the same day 44.7%
Watched MTV in the past 7 days 41.2%
Internet Access from School 33%
Played games online the same day 25.9%

 

Napster had an average of 422,000 unique visitors during the week of June 9, 2000 while it has gained 78.5% more users than the previous three weeks averaged.

 

PC sales to countries outside the USA according to IDC:

China leads with 32.4% (1,374,000 units) while Korea consumed 24.6% (442,000 units). Australia swallows up 10.4%, India had 8.1%, and Taiwan enjoyed 6.3%. 

 

6 / 21 / 00

Ogg Vorbis  Move over MP3, Vorbis is here! To help further muddy up the free music and internet format wars comes a new digital music encode/decode method by programmers in Silicon Valley called Vorbis. On Tuesday they unveiled their beta version of encode/decode of the new .ogg compressed music file format. With a multitude of formats already available from large companies like Sony, Microsoft, Lucent, Dolby and RealNetworks, there seems to be a big "power play" to become the leading format of streaming media on the internet. ''The impetus is in part political,'' says Christopher Montgomery, the chief developer of Vorbis. ''The people who are trying to control the online distribution of music are now finally becoming friendly with the people who are trying to control the technology. Frankly, that's an alliance that I don't want to see happen.''

Currently, the popular formats are MP3, Windows Media Audio (Microsoft), ATRAC-3 (Sony) and AAC (Fraunhofer and others) that are available only through paid license agreement while Vorbis is releasing their format under the GNU Public License. This is a "copyleft'' agreement just like the popular Unix-like operating system Linux. This means the encode/decode system is free and will always be without digital-rights software. ''If we're locked into using somebody else's proprietary format, that makes it difficult for us to provide the broadest user experience,'' says Brian Zisk of iCast, which is funding the development of Vorbis. ''And if we can give away the player without having to pay millions of dollars in licensing fees, that makes our business more viable.'' With Vorbis, he says, ''You're not under anybody's thumb.''

Now comes the real question, how is the sound quality? They claim it equals MP3 in its Beta format and will be improved upon over time. ''The tests we've been doing are on a large collection of very jaded ears,'' Montgomery says. ''We don't have the best equipment -- the $6,000 headphones they have in formal ISO listening tests -- but we do have the best equipment that a reasonable person would buy." File size is also said to be equal to MP3. Support for Vorbis has come rapidly as a Winamp plug-in is being released with a Sonique plug-in coming shortly. Mac users who love Panic will also be supporting Vorbis soon. Of course the folks from Scour Exchange and Napster will support the new file format add ever more support for this new music file format. Vorbis has a website to support their cause at www.vorbis.com.

 

6 / 20 / 00

  According to the Consumer Electronic Association (CEA), show space for the upcoming annual Consumer Electronic Show held every January in Las Vegas is more than 90 percent sold out. The 2001 show is to o be held January 6-9, 2001. More than 110,000 industry professionals from 125 countries are expected to attend the 2001 show. Although retail buyers still flock to CES with 89 percent of the retail buying power of the industry at the show each year, CES also draws more than 20,000 non-retail corporate buyers, financial/market analysts, content providers and creators, broadband developers and government officials. "We've sold more than 1 million net square feet of exhibit space so far," said Karen Chupka, vice president of events and conferences for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the producer, sponsor and manager of CES. "We've experienced an outpouring of companies clamoring to get onto the show floor and demonstrate their technology to the huge international audience CES brings to Las Vegas each January."

More news of noteworthiness. The Home Entertainment Show (T.H.E. Show), an offshoot show featuring high-end audio manufactures, held during the same time as the CES, is also doing extremely well with more rooms currently pre-sold than last year. In fact major manufactures like Sony, Wilson Audio and others have spaces reserved at T.H.E. Show. As more and more high-end manufactures (and some press) dislike the Alexis Park, T.H.E. Show is gaining more momentum.

 

Apple QuicktimeAs first announced on the Enjoy the Music.com's Streaming Media East 2000 coverage including the appearance of none other than Steve Jobs, Apple has licensed their streaming digital audio and video over the Internet in the QuickTime format technology to RealNetworks, Inc. This means that RealNetwork's streaming media server and RealServer 8 will now support the delivery of Apple's QuickTime-based content to QuickTime players "We heartily welcome RealNetworks to the QuickTime Streaming Server community," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "Apple's open-source QuickTime Streaming Server has already been licensed by IBM, Sun, SGI, Akamai and many others, helping to provide great content to the more than 50 million QuickTime players that have been distributed worldwide." Rob Glaser, chairman and CEO of RealNetworks, Inc. said "RealServer is already the media delivery server of choice for tens of thousands of content providers worldwide. RealServer 8's support for Apple's QuickTime now provides content creators and infrastructure providers a unified way to deliver the widest array of content to the largest possible audience."

 

France's Vivendi, with its television unit Canal+, invested $33.7 billion for a takeover of Seagram. This means that Vivendi will find itself with the strongest music roster in the world with only Sony Music being a near competitor. Segram's Universal Music string of labels include Interscope, Geffen, Def Jam, Island, MCA, Hollywood and Universal Records proper. These includes such musicial artists as Eminem, Dr. Dre, U2, Jay-Z, DMX, Limp Bizkit, Sisqo, Sting, Sheryl Crow, Mary J. Blige, Beck, Enrique Iglesias, Eve, No Doubt, Juvenile and the Wallflowers to name a few.

This transaction values Seagram at around $77.35 per share and calls for Vivendi and Canal+ to assume nearly $7 billion in Seagram debt. "If the Bronfman family accepts Vivendi's offer, it is because they really believe that Vivendi is capable of creating a lot of value in the coming years -- and they are right to do so," said Vivendi chief Jean-Marie Messier.

As a comparison to AOL's pending acquisition of the Warner Music Group, Vivendi would be buying the market-share leader in record sales, with revenues close to $3.8 billion last year. This business deal, which also includes various web ventures, would reportedly create a company with revenues of $65 billion and a market capitalization of $100 billion. The deal is seen by many as a trans-Atlantic response to America Online's $125 billion takeover of traditional media group Time Warner. Shares of Seagram rose 1-5/8 to close at 63-1/16 on the New York Stock Exchange after this announcement.

 

6 / 19 / 00

Linn Pekin  The Linn Pekin is a completely new, high performance Digitally Synthesized AM/FM tuner. Linn claims the Pekin is capable of capturing signals cleanly including those faint signals due to its two RF signal input connections to aerial or cable feeds. Manual and automatic scan tuning, an accurate signal strength meter and adjustable mute/scan threshold controls deliver refined performance on strong and weak signals with pitch accurate reproduction. Linn Pekin controls also provide 80 individual station memory pre-sets. MSRP for the USA is $995.

 

6 / 16 / 00

Microsoft Media Player  Microsoft announces its achievement of one million secure Internet transactions using their Windows Media Rights Manager. Most of these secure transactions were of music media downloaded from the internet. Both Microsoft and Reciprocal have secured deals with major labels such as EMI Recorded Music, BMG Entertainment, Sony Music and Warner Music. This allows the public to buy music over the internet in Microsoft's Windows Media format. "As the industry's leading DRM clearing service to support multiple DRM technologies, this one million benchmark with Windows Media is an important milestone for the company and validation for the digital distribution industry and its market potential," said John Schwarz, president and CEO of Reciprocal. Will Poole, vice president of the Digital Media Division at Microsoft said "Digital rights management is the fundamental enabler for digital media e-commerce... Today's milestone punctuates how mature and widely adopted Windows Media Rights Manager is today, and how important Reciprocal is as an industry partner in offering the industry a proven infrastructure for handling massive DRM transactions."

 

EMI Recorded Music has chosen to further add to their authorized online music retailers by allowing Supertracks, Inc. to sell their music titles on the Internet. Using the Microsoft Media Technology, the Supertracks Music System will distribute EMI's selected music through BestBuy.com, CD Plus.com, HMV.com, Music World Ltd., Musicland sites, SamsCD.com, TWEC.com, Virgin JamCast and many others. "New media technologies, including digital downloads, are enabling us to create new ways for our artists to reach their fans," said Ken Berry, president and chief executive officer of EMI. "A key to the success of digital distribution will be the ability to offer consumers a simplified experience. Supertracks' distribution services fully support this challenge by creating a robust consumer environment and efficient download process, including the ability for retailers to combine physical and digital purchases in the same shopping cart." Charles Jennings, chief executive officer and co-founder of Supertracks said "Supertracks is committed to building a legitimate retail channel for digital music." Charles continued "With EMI and our retail partners, we are now taking a giant step toward creating a secure marketplace for downloaded music."

 

MP3.comBuilding on the success of their Classical Music Channel, MP3.com has now launched their new "The Children's Channel". Like the Classical Music Channel, for a monthly fee of only $9.99 children and parents alike can enjoy fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and songs in multiple languages with no limit on the number of times a selection can be accessed. This a subscription-type monthly fee so that all the content is available on demand for a single fee. "As a father, I am really excited that The Children's Channel will provide top-quality music and stories that can be enjoyed by families anywhere and anytime," remarked Michael Robertson, the company's chairman and chief executive officer. "And as a parent, I certainly appreciate the fact that you can give your kids unlimited access to a whole catalogue of music, for less than the price of one CD."

 

Revenues from the sale of home theater products continued their pattern of fantastic growth during the first quarter of 2000, surpassing $2 billion and representing a 20 percent increase over first quarter 1999, according to figures released by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

 

6 / 09 / 00

  Rip Off up to 7,000 songs! Lydstrøm's SongBank SL ($799.95) is soon to offer a machine that operates as not just a CD player, but also capable of "ripping" the songs onto its built-in hard drive. This allows the unit to be a type of JukeBox with the capability of playing 7,000 songs. "The SongBank was designed by an audiophile for audiophiles," said Lydstrøm co-founder Ashwin Kochiyil Philips. "But I believe it can turn anyone into any audiophile because it makes it so easy to enjoy music." The SongBank stores the ripped music in a higher bit-rate than MP3 and uses the storage space of about one-quarter of the disc's normal playback time. The initial capacity is for about 7,000 songs can be increased by attaching more hard drives through the included USB port. The SongBank is also equipped with a 56K modem and an Ethernet card for future internet downloading of music. You can arrange the songs in order of title, artist, album, mood or genre. Availability is said to be around June 2001.

 

mp3.commp3.com, the Warner Music Group and Bertelsmann Music Group kiss and makeup! It seems the legal arguments between mp3.com and major label Warner Music Group have decided to lay down their legal arms and have agreed to settle the damage claims over the company's past use copyright protected material. This gives MP3.com permission, for the first time, to stream music from those record groups' vast archives. Alas, no agreement has been reached with Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group or the EMI Music Group.

 

According to Pew Internet and American Life Project, approximately 14 percent of all Internet users 18 or older have downloaded pirated music. Of this group, 51 percent said they were 30 years or older. Meanwhile around 16 percent of Internet users said they had sampled songs via streaming or Web radio. In contrast to this, only 2 percent of Internet users said they had paid to download music. To make matters more interesting, 62 percent of Internet users have never listened to music online! With the youth prevailing, the report found that almost one in every four Internet users under 30 has copied music online. That figure rises to almost one in every three for college students under 30.

More surveys: a survey of 4,294 college students from ten New England institutions by Webnoize Research found that 57 percent of students use Napster on a weekly basis. Yet another study by the digital-rights management company Reciprocal found that record sales in stores near colleges dropped 4 percent in the past two years, though the study was criticized for omitting large record-selling chains like Wal-Mart as well as online retailers such as Amazon or CDNow.

 


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