Retail sales of recorded music in the United Kingdom sagged by an unprecedented 13% in the first three months of 2003, according to figures released May 14 by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). British music fans spent £216 million ($351 million) in the first quarter of this year, compared to £249 million ($404.6 million) in the same period a year ago. In unit sales, albums in the UK declined only 4.8% to 44 million, but prices dropped 9.4%. UK album sales totaled £200 million ($324.9 million); singles were off 42%, accounting for only £16.2 million ($26.3 million).
I was in a jam. John Atkinson was gently reminding me of rapidly approaching deadlines, and my longtime reference CD player, the Simaudio Moon Eclipse, had just been recalled for an upgrade. This wouldn't normally have been a problem, but I was also in the middle of relocating from New Mexico to California, and all of my backup gear was either in storage or on a moving truck somewhere.
With hindsight, one of the sideways steps taken by the High End in the early 1990s was the splitting of CD players into separate transports and processors. There were good reasons for this development, not the least of which was the flowering of creativity it engendered in high-end audio engineers. Having open access to the digital audio data also made possible effective digital equalizers and room-correction processors, but in the rush to increase a system's component count, it was overlooked for too long that keeping everything in one box offered certain advantages.
Overachievers tend to rankle people after a while. Musical Fidelity, a relatively small British company run by Antony Michaelson, has issued a stream of high-performance, high-value electronic products over the past few years, along with a limited-edition line of pricier designs based on the military-spec nuvistor vacuum tube. With few exceptions, Musical Fidelity products have garnered outstanding reviews worldwide, with consumer acceptance to match. Michaelson is also an accomplished clarinetist, recording and issuing classical-music CDs in his "spare" time.
The music industry repeatedly points to online file trading as the explanation for its declining market. But annual sales are still well ahead of 1998's figures and several analysts note that when you take into account the economic downturn, increased competition for entertainment dollars, high CD pricing, uninspiring new music, and consumer resistance to copy protection, those negative numbers should really be far worse.
Music sales in the US continue to decline, according to a May 8 report from the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM). Retails sales totaled $8.93 billion in 2002, down from the $10.46 billion reported for 2000. Most (87%) of the organization's members reported a drop in music sales last year—only 13% posted higher totals.
A ticket to Home Entertainment 2003—The Hi-Fi and Home Theater event, to be held June 5-8, 2003 at San Francisco's Westin–St. Francis Hotel will offer attendees a chance to hear over a dozen live musical performances from great artists performing contemporary jazz, blues, rock, and classical music.
For Listening #5, Art Dudley tackles audio moderation, Lowther Land, and the audio puritans spying on the nudists next door. AD also explains the statement, "Just because I have a job in the lunch line doesn't mean I have to keep serving the kid who shows off for his friends by spitting out his food."