Last week, Tweeter Home Entertainment Group announced that it has reached an agreement in principle to acquire United Audio Centers, located in the Chicago, Illinois area. United Audio describes itself as a seven-store specialty consumer electronics retailer with annual sales of approximately $48 million, and says it has been in business in the Chicago market for over 40 years. The companies expect to complete the transaction on or about April 1, 2000, and note that the agreement in principle to acquire United Audio is subject to various terms and conditions, as well as to regulatory approval.
Several news sources reported Saturday, January 22, that Time Warner is close to completing a merger with EMI Recorded Music. The combined company will be worth an estimated $20 billion, making it the world's second-largest music conglomerate, exceeded in size and scope only by Seagram Ltd.'s Universal Music. News of the deal came less than a week after the announcement of an impending merger between America Online, the world’s largest Internet service provider, with Time Warner, one of the world's largest media conglomerates.
It's been no secret that leading British speaker brand Mission was up for sale—the situation had been spelled out last fall in the Annual Report of parent company NXT plc. NXT is busy pioneering its new flat-panel speaker technology, and shareholder interests were clearly not being well served by "carrying" for any length of time a box-speaker brand whose recent financial reports had been mostly in the red.
Recognizing that high-end audio is anything but plug'n'play, Jonathan Scull examines the details of getting the best from alternating current in "Fines Tunes" #8. As Jonathan writes: "Bill Gates would have you believe we live in a plug'n'play world. Apple has proselytized same since day one. But I'm here to tell you it just isn't so for high-end audio."
On January 17, we reported a new service by MP3.com in which it would store, on its site, digital copies of tunes purchased by music lovers for them to access from any location. Beverly Hills attorney Ken Hertz, who sometimes consults with MP3.com, said he would be "surprised if the recording industry didn't sue," despite glowing statements from MP3.com chief Michael Robertson about all the benefits and new sales the recording industry would enjoy from his venture into uncharted waters.
This journal has seen a number of thoughtful ruminations on what it is that attracts us to music or to a given audio component, and how we should describe that attraction. The "Letters" pages have been filled by readers who have taken us to task for not adhering to rigorous scientific methods in the evaluation of components, those rigorous scientific methods usually being equated with double-blind listening. Other readers have praised the magazine for its stance that an educated listener in a familiar, relaxed environment will be more accurate in his or her assessment than an average of trained and untrained listeners in unfamiliar, stressful circumstances. Overall, sonic descriptions from diverse reviewers in different publications show a remarkable consensus of observation (not opinion).
After 53 years of publication, Audio magazine, owned and operated by Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, is closing its doors this week. Often rumored to be on the ropes, the magazine had recently attempted a new editorial direction and artistic facelift.
The buzz about digital audio downloads from the Internet would lead one to think that the only way we'll be buying music in the not-too-distant future is through the Web. But the reality this past holiday season looks quite different. Reuters is running stories saying that there was "No Santa for the Internet Music Industry," and record companies attempting to get online are having a tough time (see related item). MP3 for Dummies author Andy Rathbone states bluntly: "It [the digital music business] hasn't taken off as much as analysts expected," and EMI Records' Jay Alan Samit laments, "this year, over a billion songs were downloaded. None of our artists got paid."
At the moment, music fans who want to add to their collections by trolling the Internet are limited to bootlegs of dubious quality and legality, low-resolution shareware from innumerable unsigned bands, and teaser samples intended to help sell CDs by mail. Despite the subject's near-constant presence in the media, sales of downloadable music amounted to only about $1 million in 1999—as compared to total music sales of approximately $13 billion. The trickle of business is in large part due to reluctance by the music industry to open up its vaults because of a lack of copyright protection.