Despite the almost daily news reports that some music company has found a way to make people pay for music over the Internet, the fact is that very few people have done so. Most people who are getting their music on the Net are getting it free and like it that way---regardless of the quality. A survey released June 9 and funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts---a long-term supporter of National Public Radio---appears to validate this common observation.
This probably won't seem like rocket science to most audiophiles, but it should be taken to heart by everyone in the highly competitive world of consumer electronics. A new study reveals that for consumers, customer support is nearly as important as the product itself. According to the results of the "Customer Support Issues" study, released last week by eBrain Market Research in cooperation with the Consumer Electronics Association, rebate offers, warranties and availability of support resources are the key customer support issues for consumers.
One battle in the copyright war is over. MP3.com announced Friday, June 9, that it has reached a settlement with BMG Entertainment and Warner Music Group, two of the music industry’s "Big Five" that had sued the online music company for copyright infringement. Although MP3.com will have to pay some serious damages---possibly as much as $100 million once the other litigants resolve their cases---it gained a licensing agreement with the two major labels that could be worth far more in long-term business. "It's a heck of a price to pay to get the keys to the kingdom," analyst Phil Leigh told the Wall Street Journal, "But now they have the crown jewels."
Remember FM radio's effect on college campuses years ago? Free music, usually without commercials (college stations are largely non-profit), and very flexible playlists made or broke new bands. Fast-forward to 2000. Students now spend most of their time downloading MP3 files for free over the Internet for playback on their computers. As before, new artists often benefit from this phenomena, but record companies are increasingly seeing the students as pirates rather than consumers.
With multichannel DVD-Audio just around the corner, the surround-sound debate among audiophiles is starting anew. But how far have we come with surround sound in 30 years? J. Gordon Holt wrote "Bye Bye, Quadrifi?" back in 1971, in which he explored the same dilemmas faced by today's audiophile.
The trend of computers redefining the price/performance ratio for digital audio shows no signs of slowing down. A new PCI-slot soundcard has been released by Digital Connection that could help change preconceived notions about the level of sound quality achievable from a computer. The $295 DC Pro 24/96 enables a brand-new function for the PC, playback of DTS 5.1 music CDs, as well as support for 24-bit/96kHz playback and recording, currently available only on high-end soundcards such as the CardDeluxe from Digital Audio Labs and the RME DigiPro/8.
Waiting for the Holy Grail of DVD-Audio? Even with players still distant on the horizon, one can now begin building a DVD-Audio music library with discs compatible with current DVD-Video players. At least that's the strategy offered at the recent High End 2000 show in Frankfurt, Germany this past week.
The Napster saga continues: Last week the Silicon Valley–based firm, which has been very successful with its MP3 file-sharing software, reinstated approximately 30,000 music fans who had signed online affidavits attesting that they had been mistakenly accused of appropriating songs by rock group Metallica. Those reinstated were slightly less than 10% of the 317,000 Napster users who had been booted from the system on May 3 as a result of legal attacks by Metallica.