The internet has been a boon to music lovers, who now can research almost any piece of music or artist, or shop for obscure discs and memorabilia from a plethora of sources. In an interesting twist on the additional material idea, Sony Music has been making supplemental content for selected CD releases available on a special website.
Canton, MA-based Tweeter Home Entertainment Group (NASDAQ: TWTR) has gone public. Last Thursday, July 16, the East Coast audio and video retailer launched an initial public stock offering of 2.71 million shares at an offering price of $17/share.
The Three Tenors may have reached a global audience of 2 billion people during their performance prior to the final game of the World Cup, but they had only 80,000 fans on hand in Paris's Champs de Mars park, acording to estimates by Paris police. That number was only 10% of the anticipated 800,000, most of whom stayed away because of unseasonably cold and windy weather.
The High End has reached a new low, one characterized by "existential angst." That's how Lawrence M. Fisher of the New York Times describes the industry's ongoing malaise. In a well-researched and well-written piece that appeared last Thursday, July 9, Fisher cites "demographic and economic issues beyond its control and technological trends that threaten its very relevance." He mentions the economic crisis in Asia---destination for a large proportion of American high-end audio products---as a major contributing factor to the stagnation in which much of the industry is mired.
Rumors began surfacing last month that McCormack Audio might be on the ropes. Long known for their value-oriented high-end products such as amps and preamps, the company had been struggling for the last couple of years (for reasons not connected with the quality of its products). But a savior has appeared that looks to put the company on a sure footing.
The audio business has been claiming its share of victims lately, with few companies able to reanimate once economic problems set in. Working hard to break this cycle, Carver Corp. became one of the first manufacturers to switch from a dealer-based operation to both dealers and internet sales.
E-mail spam just got a lot noisier thanks to AT&T's a2b music and BMG Entertainment. (See previous stories 1, 2.) Last week, they announced that BMG will deliver the first "mass communication" of a2b MAIL to the consumer databases of each of its websites, www.bugjuice.com (alternative and rock music), www.peeps.com (urban music), and www.twangthis.com (country music).
The Recording Industry of America's ongoing pursuit of music pirates bore fruit last week on Tuesday, July 7, when the organization collected $750,000 in settlements from three companies that had produced and marketed CD compilations of hit records. The RIAA also received $20,000 in restitution from Lloyd Schiffres, owner of Top Hat Productions, a disc-jockey supply house. Schiffres, who has been arrested three times, handed over 31 sets of his For DJs Only compilations.
June, 1998---"It's time to stop wasting the talents of brilliant American musicians because of their gender." And with that, an anonymous donor has given one million dollars to establish The National Women Conductors Initiative.
In a move that acknowledges the increasing convergence of consumer electronics and computer technology, Sony Electronics has reorganized its US sales and marketing structure, and will emphasize digital performance in its new line of products. Foremost among these developments is Sony's recent announcement that its new line of audio and video products will prominently feature its VAIO personal computers. The notebook computers have editing features for video and motion-picture technology, and are quite popular in Japan, where around 100,000 have been sold.
The Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association's recently released U.S. Consumer Electronics Industry Today indicates a healthy glow on the cheeks of specialty audio. US exports of component audio products amounted to $2.12 billion in 1997, an increase of 12% over the previous year's total of $1.89 billion. 1997's total represents a 25% increase over 1995, when almost $1.7 billion in separate audio products went out of the country. The figures are compiled by CEMA from US Department of Commerce figures.
A key benefit of working with Stereophile is enjoying the expertise of fellow audio nerds. After the HI-FI Show just held in Los Angeles, Jonathan Scull and Kathleen Benveniste spent a week riding up the California Coast and paid us each a visit.
For the last few months, random postings kept appearing on internet newsgroups and in my e-mail box: "Anybody know what happened to Counterpoint?" At last count there were 10,000 Counterpoint preamps, power amps, and loudspeakers fanned out across the planet, some dating back to 1977, when the company launched its first product: the SA-1 tube preamp, designed by Ed Semanko.