The age of digital music downloads has begun in earnest. On July 20, EMI Recorded Music announced that it has signed a deal with Digital On-Demand and its subsidiary, RedDotNet Inc., to make the EMI catalog available for downloading to kiosks in music stores. The kiosks will be equipped with CD "burners" where customers can copy EMI recordings not in stock in the stores. They will also be able to print out the original cover art and liner notes. Discs can be copied at high speed in 5 to 15 minutes using RedDotNet's technology, the announcement noted.
According to a report released last week by Cahners In-Stat Group, a high-tech market research firm, the market for personal digital music players using audio compression technologies will experience a tremendous increase in growth through the next several years. Nearly $800 million in player sales are expected in 2003, spurred largely by widespread Internet access. The report also states that products in this segment will initially focus on downloading technologies like MP3, and over the next 12 months consumers should expect to see more features integrated into the players such as FM tuners, increased storage capacity, and security systems like Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI).
John Atkinson's and my collective response was "Good grief!" on hearing that the UK's Haymarket Magazines had purchased Gramophone Publications. Minds boggled at the very idea of the venerable old lady of classical-music criticism getting into bed with the much younger, altogether brasher, and unashamedly populist What Hi-Fi?, market leader among UK hi-fi mags. As Haymarket enigmatically put it, "With its emphasis on in-depth reviewing, Gramophone itself has great synergy with other titles in the Haymarket portfolio, such as What Hi-Fi? magazine."
Winter had just touched down in Santa Fe two days before the recording sessions were to begin, leading Wes Phillips to wonder if the damp air would wreak havoc with tuning. But he needn't have worried, writing that violinist Ida Levin "played with such intense concentration that sometimes she seemed about to levitate off the floor as she chased a melodic line into the ether." In Duet: And Two to Carry Your Soul Away, Ida Levin and John Atkinson join Wes Phillips in chronicling the recording from both musical and technical perspectives.
After months of wrangling, the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) has announced its first set of standards for portable digital music devices. Manufacturers can now incorporate these standards into the designs of new products. Many industry observers believe that portables will be the next big wave in consumer audio, expected to hit the market by the winter holiday season.
Internet music retailer CDnow has formed a partnership with Sony Corporation and Time Warner to build a music and video retailing behemoth. The July 13 announcement came in the wake of online bookseller Amazon.com's recent move into the music market. With the backing of corporate giants Sony and Time Warner, CDnow could be able to mount a challenge to the growing presence of Amazon, which is also expanding into toy sales and consumer electronics.
Last week, satellite-to-car radio broadcaster CD Radio announced an agreement with mobile electronics manufacturer Alpine Electronics for the design and development of satellite radio receivers. Under the terms of the agreement, Alpine says it will design and develop three-band (AM/FM/CD Radio) audio receivers for installation by car manufacturers. The company also plans to design and develop satellite radio receivers for sale directly to consumers in the electronics aftermarket.
Last week, Philips Semiconductors announced the CD10 chipset, which the company describes as the world's first two-chip solution to deliver CD-RW (compact disc, re-writeable) compatibility for CD audio players. According to Philips, one chip provides a data amplifier and laser supply circuit, while the other is the digital servo, decoder, and DAC. As a result, Philips claims that the new chipset allows designers to build audio players that can read all forms of CDs without an increase in component count.
One would think that the Internet was growing crowded with online music retailers such as CDnow/N2K, Amazon.com, EveryCD, and Tower Records, just to name a few, all hustling CDs. But the lure of gold in them e-commerce hills is hard to resist. Last week, barnesandnoble.com jumped into the fray and announced the launch of its own Music Store, featuring what the company describes as the first "online classical music superstore." Notably late to market with its online bookselling franchise, barnesandnoble.com hopes to gain ground against arch-rival Amazon.com by expanding beyond books and better focusing on niche markets.
Last week, the Secure Digital Music Initiative announced that it would allow free MP3 downloads to co-exist with new encrypted forms of digital music transmission. Despite this, widespread concern in corporate legal departments about copyright-violation liability has prompted software developers to come up with blocking techniques to prevent pirated music from entering company "Intranets."