For the 109th convention of the Audio Engineering Society, the main floor of the L.A. Convention Center was transformed into a bazaar of new tools for audio professionals—but the panel discussions upstairs were where the real action took place. On Friday, September 22—just an hour before researchers Dr. Stanley Lipshitz and John Vanderkooy of Ontario's University of Waterloo presented a paper offering a mathematical proof for the "imperfectability" of one-bit delta-sigma recording systems—Sony Corporation issued a clarification of the technical standards for its Direct Stream Digital technology, the basis of the Super Audio Compact Disc. DSD, it now appears, is a one-bit technique as it applies to consumer playback systems, but uses a multi-bit PCM quantizer [presumably within a delta-sigma converter negative-feedback loop; see an article on this subject in the forthcoming November issue of Stereophile—Ed.] at the recording and mastering ends of the business. (The Lipshitz/Vanderkooy paper is available as AES preprint #5188.)
In December, after months of conducting listening tests with audio professionals in the US, the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) choose a watermarking technology from Verance Corporation for DVD-Audio copyright protection. Test results had indicated that Verance's system was the least detectable of the contenders under consideration.
Amid news that its watermark technology for DVD-Audio may have been compromised, Verance nonetheless announced last week the launch of its "ConfirMedia" watermarking service. The company says that ConfirMedia will monitor and report the airplay of encoded commercials, music, and programs broadcast by television, cable and radio stations in the 100 top US markets and on the national feeds of major broadcast and cable television networks in the US.
This may come as no surprise to Stereophile's website audience, but a report released last week finds that the heaviest users of the World Wide Web are also avid consumers of traditional media, listening to CDs and radio and watching television as they point their browsers to e-commerce, informational, and recreational sites.
When I submitted my Records 2 Die 4 selections this past winter, it seemed inevitable that I include a web radio station. Not only had I enjoyed listening to www.techwebsound.com more than anything else last year, but it had exposed me to more new music and led to more music purchases than any other source—by a wide margin.
A long-running dispute between the music industry and small webcasters may have come to an amicable conclusion. Over the weekend of October 5-6, representatives from both sides agreed on a system of royalties to be paid to record labels and artists based on a percentage of webcaster revenue or expenses, rather than on a per song basis. Last summer, Librarian of Congress James Billington decreed that all webcasters should pay a royalty rate of 0.07¢ per song per 1000 listeners. Many small webcasters, including many college radio stations, chose to go offline rather than face fees they couldn't afford.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) may spend the rest of its associated life in litigation—as either as the initiator or the recipient of actions intended to determine who can use its products, under which circumstances they can do so, and how much they should pay, assuming they are allowed to use them.
The US Copyright Office is being pulled in opposite directions over a recent decree establishing royalty rates for music played by webcasters. On one side are radio stations and Internet-only music sites, which claim that the rates are too high. On the other side is the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which claims that the rates are too low. Both sides have filed separate appeals in US federal court.
On December 14, the music industry and small webcasters concluded their long and often-acrimonious negotiations on royalties. The two parties—the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) "SoundExchange," a royalty-collecting body, and the Voice of Webcasters (VOW)—filed an agreement with the US Copyright Office in Washington that details generalities agreed to under the Small Webcaster Settlement Act (SWSA), signed December 4.
The WebNoize three-day conference took place last week in Los Angeles, mixing record-company executives with Internet geeks, all trying to find profitable ways to distribute music online. Tom Roli, publisher of the Webnoize website, set the tone for the event, stating that "the industry is facing great change and uncertainty due to emerging technologies, shifting global markets, and media revolutions."
Our corporate IT department has informed us that they will be performing some server and network upgrades in the production data center today (June 22). Starting at 3:00PM Eastern (12:00PM Pacific) this website will be offline for several hours. Our apologies for any inconvenience.
Over the last several weeks, one newspaper after another has made note of Nielsen Soundscan's 2006 point-of-purchase data, which showed classical record sales up 22.5%, making it the "fastest growing" category for the year. Hip-hop was down (-20.7%), R&B was down (-18.4%), alternative was down (-9.2%), jazz was down (-8.3%)—soundtracks were up (+19%), but everybody dismissed that, attributing it to the dominance of a single title, High School Musical.
It is with regret that I announce that Wes Phillips has resigned from Stereophile in order to take a position, beginning January 1, 1999, with PR company J.B. Stanton Communications, Inc. Wes and his wife, Joan, will be relocating to Connecticut. I wonder how Wes's unreconstructed Virginia ancestors will take to his becoming a Yankee!