If you find yourself spending more time in a car seat than in your audio system's sweet spot each day, the trend pairing high-end audio companies with car manufacturers may offer a little relief. Lexus made a big splash last year by incorporating Mark Levinson technology into its latest cars, joining collaborations between Dynaudio and Volvo among others.
The music industry and the file-sharing community have been waiting nervously for the impending Supreme Court decision in MGM vs Grokster, which is expected any day. At stake is not only peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing, but the development of future forms of music distribution.
It wasn't too long ago that rock band Pearl Jam set their lawyers after the dozens of independent websites pre-releasing pirated versions of the band's album Yield, hoping to curtail its availability on the Internet. How times change. On June 4, any consumer with access to the Internet and a RealNetworks G2 player will have the opportunity to visit the world's "ultimate listening posts" when the Red Hot Chili Peppers' new album, Californication, and Def Leppard's Euphoria, will be available in their entireties for streaming on the Web---four days prior to their official June 8 release.
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.
Joe Abrams has an impressive audio resume. "I've been on the manufacturer's side of the desk since 1979," he says. That's when he started as national sales manager for Monster Cable. A few years later found Abrams as director of sales at Sumiko, and then in 1987 he started as VP of sales at Threshold. In 1991 Abrams joined cable start-up Tara Labs and quickly helped them establish a dealer network before moving on to MIT.
This is the first year that the high-end audio exhibits are clustered in the Venetian Hotel and Casino. Emphasis on the casino part - to get to the majority of hotel room exhibits, we must negotiate about a quarter mile of hallway and casino to get from the shuttle stop to the elevators. The rooms themselves are nicely appointed, but several exhibitors are already complaining about the acoustics and the challenge of finding ways to make the two level suites music friendly. And on a personal note, the press room is back the quarter mile through the casino near the shuttle stop. End of gripe.
The latest figures for the music industry remain grim: Online sales of recorded music have dropped 20% through the first half of 2002 compared with the same period last year, losing ground faster than the overall US music market, which lost 7% during the same period, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). And the trend is accelerating. The latest numbers show online sales down 25% in the third quarter over last year.
Napster has been taking its share of hits this past week from the music industry and the RIAA as a result of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling last Monday that will likely pave the way for shutting down the file-sharing service. In its findings, the Court states that "Napster users who upload file names to the search index for others to copy violate plaintiffs' distribution rights. Napster users who download files containing copyrighted music violate plaintiffs' reproduction rights."
Times are obviously tough for personal computer manufacturers, who, in the quest for new sources of revenue, are increasingly dipping their toes into consumer electronics waters. The latest firm to join IBM, Intel, and Compaq (see previous) in the rushing stream is Hewlett-Packard which announced last week the expansion of the company's drive into the living room. HP says that its new initiative is intended to "blend interactive product innovations with easy-to-use services and offer consumers new ways to enjoy digital music, streaming video, and Internet information in the living room."
CD prices have been a sore spot for many music lovers. Our own online polls indicate that Stereophile readers think CDs cost too much (most think they should be under $10), while Stereophile editor John Atkinson has pointed out that for smaller labels, the economics of CD production only work when the prices are kept higher.