In late February, many California music fans discovered in their mail a one-page form letter from the state's attorney general, Bill Lockyer, announcing that he was "pleased to enclose payment for your claim in the settlement of the Compact Disc Minimum Advertised Price Antitrust Litigation." Attached to the bottom of the form letter was a tear-off check made out to the aggrieved music fan from "CD MAP Antitrust Litigation" in Faribault, MN.
A "victory for consumers" may be a windfall for class-action attorneys and 41 states participating in a price-fixing case against the music industry. Some schools and public libraries may also benefit.
More than a million CD recorders have been sold in the last 21 months, making the category one of the most rapidly developing segments in the history of the consumer electronics industry. The news was delivered by Philips executives at the end of August at the IFA trade and consumer exhibition in Berlin, Germany.
CD audio recorders are becoming affordable and more available. Philips' CDR880 (reviewed by Wes Phillips in the current issue of Stereophile) will be in dealers' showrooms soon at a suggested retail price of $649. Pioneer will also have an inexpensive recorder on the market---the PD-R555RW, which will reportedly sell for $599. These two---and others that will no doubt follow---are welcome relief from the four-figure machines that have dominated the recordable audio CD niche.
People love to make their own compilation recordings. That fact helped make the cassette deck the most successful audio format of all time, and it is driving sales of CD recorders, a product category new to most consumers. As predicted last summer, CD recorders have become one of the hottest niches in consumer audio, exceeding MiniDisc machines in total sales dollars. Sales are brisk despite the fact that CD recorders are among the priciest components on the market, ranging from $500 to $600. MiniDisc recorders for home use are priced at about $250 and up.
Electronics dealers may have a great autumn if they load up on dual-well CD recorders and DVD carousel changers, two of the hottest audio fashion items. Major manufacturers like Kenwood, Onkyo, Denon,, and Harman/Kardon have all announced plans to deliver recorders and DVD changers by October, in time for the holiday season.
Unit sales of CD players rebounded in 1998, rising 4% to $336 million, according to statistics from the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association. All segments of the CD hardware market---single-play, carousel changers, and mega-disc changers---improved over the big slump of 1997, when unit sales fell 60% and dollar sales fell 40%. Through November 1998, single-disc player sales were up 33% in units and 24% in dollar volume. Carousel changers, component-CD's largest segment, rose 15% in units and 7.5% in dollars during the first three quarters of 1998.
On June 7, CDnow, the world's top online music retailer, announced that it had acquired superSonicBOOM, an Internet custom-compilation disc business. The acquisition gives CDnow the ability to offer its customers custom discs as well as catalog product, said Jason Olim, CDnow President and CEO.
Last year, Internet commerce schemes were the darlings of venture capitalists and small investors alike. For months, it seemed that almost any business plan, no matter how half-baked, could attract millions of dollars with the simple mention of "online retail sales"—otherwise known as "e-commerce" or "e-tailing."
The numbers are up for CDnow. The world's largest online music retailer reported April 30 that its first-quarter sales increased 288% over the same period in 1997. The company took in $10 million in revenue through the period ending March 31, an increase of 26.4% over the previous quarter, in which revenue totaled $7.9 million.