SACD partisans Sony and Philips continue to release new disc players that also decode DVD-Video, but not DVD-Audio. And arch-DVD-A supporter Meridian, as well as companies such as McIntosh, are releasing DVD-A and DVD-V players that don't do SACD. But there are exceptions, notably Pioneer, who debuted the first widely available "universal" player, the DV-AX10 SACD/DVD-A/CD player, last year.
Last year in late October, Universal Music Group finally announced its first set of SACD titles and the high-rez format's supporters jumped for joy. Then, at the January 2003 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Universal stood on the podium next to Sony and announced several key SACD releases from the Police, Peter Gabriel, and others.
Real businesses are moving into territory explored by the upstarts. On August 2, Universal Music Group, the world's largest record label, announced that it will begin offering, on a trial basis, digital downloads of recordings from its massive catalog. The experiment is scheduled to begin this week, with an initial offering of about 60 songs from artists in several genres, including operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti, jazz guitarist George Benson, and pop band Blink 182.
Have the format wars begun in earnest? Only a few days after Warner Brothers announced the DVD-Audio release of Paul Simon's You're the One, Universal Music Group announced its plan to release titles in the Super Audio CD format.
Universal Music Group must be taking its name seriously these days. At a time when some proclaim the demise of the classical recording industry, the conglomerate's many subsidiaries —Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, Philips, and Archiv, along with ECM, which has only a marketing and distribution arrangement with UMG —are embracing new projects on multiple continents with determination and optimism.
One of the music industry's "big five" will soon begin offering its wares as digital downloads. Seagram, Ltd. chief executive Edgar Bronfman, speaking on Friday, March 3 at the Jupiter Consumer Online forum in New York, said his Universal Music Group will start selling music online this spring.
Universal Music Group (UMG) may go on the auction block to help bail out debt-ridden Vivendi Universal. On March 6, Vivendi announced a record loss of $25.4 billion (€23.3 billion) for the 2002 fiscal year. The biggest loss in French corporate history followed a staggering $14.9 billion (€13.6 billion) loss for 2001.
Yet another major music company has joined the digital downloading stampede, in the wake of the Secure Digital Music Initiative's (SDMI) recent progress toward formulating copyright standards. On July 19, Universal Music Group announced its intention to make its titles available for downloading to the coming generation of portable audio players. New devices from Diamond Multimedia, Toshiba, and Panasonic—all expected to hit the market by the winter holiday season—will play encrypted tunes from Universal and other big labels.
The dawning of the age of inexpensive universal DVD-Audio/SACD/CD players may finally be upon us. Cirrus Logic recently announced the introduction of their CS4392 integrated circuit chip, which the company describes as a high-performance Crystal digital/analog converter that "delivers unrivaled sound quality while providing manufacturers a cost-effective solution for next-generation DVD-based audio products including DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD (SACD) players."
The New York Times reported on July 2 that Universal Music Group notified Apple that it will not renew its annual contract to sell music through the iTunes Store, choosing instead to sell music to Apple "at will," meaning it could withdraw its wares with little notice. Executives of both companies declined to comment.
An improved digital-audio compression standard has been adopted by the Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) and the Universal Music Group for commercial music downloads. "Advanced Audio Coding" (AAC) is said to offer higher audio quality while occupying 30% less bandwidth and storage space than the popular MP3 format, according to an announcement from San Francisco–based Dolby Laboratories.
Chicago's Maxwell Street district is considered by many to be the birthplace of Chicago blues. But the old neighborhood is in danger of permanently losing some of its historic buildings, thanks to expansion plans by the University of Illinois at Chicago. The potential loss of the neighborhood has sparked protests by a coalition of blues musicians, including a hunger strike by 69-year-old APO Records artist Jimmie Lee Robinson.
It's been a roller coaster ride for satellite radio upstarts Sirius Radio and XM Radio this past week as both companies fortunes shifted yet again. In a classic billion-dollar consumer electronics gamble, Sirius and XM are betting that they can reach critical mass by selling enough specially equiped digital radio receivers through car manufacturers while simultaneously signing up enough subscribers to reach profitability.