Dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, the music industry may finally be settling into an uneasy acceptance that its market and business model have changed. Only two months after the successful launch of Apple's iTunes Music Store, Billboard magazine announced that it would begin accounting for downloads in its weekly music rankings.
The science of recording music is, to apply a metaphor from a very different context, akin to "breaking a butterfly on a wheel" (footnote 1). The art of recording is to make it appear as though that pinned insect could still take wing. I have been devoted to both the science and the art of recording music since 1965, when I was given a Grundig ¼" open-reel tape recorder as a birthday present. You could even say that my evolving interest in audio and my current position at the helm of Stereophile date back to my finding out how different a Shure SM57 dynamic cardioid microphone sounded from a Reslo Ribbon, even in mono, even at 3¾ips, when captured on that Grundig.
Last October, US Senate Commerce Committee chairman and former presidential hopeful John McCain hosted NBC's long-running comedy show Saturday Night Live. In a spoof of the political talk show Hardball, McCain did a devastating impression of US Attorney General John Ashcroft, a fellow Republican. Speaking of homeland security, the faux Ashcroft intoned, "This country won't be safe until every American is in jail."
Apple announced last week that music fans have downloaded over five million songs from its iTunes Music Store since its launch two months ago. In addition, the company reports that over 46% of the songs have been purchased as albums, and over 80% of the over 200,000 songs available on the online store have been purchased at least once.
There may be a digital network in your audio future. To help you run it, 17 consumer electronics and computer companies, including Fujitsu, Gateway, HP, Intel, IBM, Kenwood, Panasonic, Microsoft, NEC, Nokia, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, and Thomson recently announced the formation of the Digital Home Working Group (DHWG).
Starting in 1984, Anthony H. Cordesman and Martin Colloms filed several reports on the Magnepan Magneplanar MGIIIA loudspeaker. Cordesman wrote, "In a world which seemed doomed to finding out just how small and dull it could make acoustic-suspension boxes, the Magnepans reminded me that speakers could produce a large open soundstage, real dynamics, and musical life."
The numbers are up for Sirius Satellite Radio. On June 23, the New York–based digital broadcaster announced that it had exceeded 100,000 subscribers for its 100-channel music/news/entertainment service. Sirius offers 60 channels of commercial-free music and 40 channels of news, sports, talk shows, comedy, and other programming.
The record biz is in a world of hurt and doesn't mind broadcasting the news far and wide. But while the source of its woes will be debated in business schools for years to come, studies are starting to emerge that document the demographics of music buyers and their changing behaviors.