As promised earlier in January, Warner Music Group has announced a major restructuring that it hopes will put it in better shape to compete in the "challenging business environment of today's music industry." The move comes after the recent closing of WMG's $2.6 billion acquisition by Edgar Bronfman, Jr. and a group of investors.
Both HD downloads and vinyl have held their ground, and new equipment continues to pour forth at an astounding rate. But in the overall scheme of things, has this past year been a plus or minus in the audiophile ledger?
There appears to be nothing more important to the music business today than controlling the distribution and use of digital content on the web and in the home. Proprietary schemes to prevent or control the use of audio files have become hot commodities and valuable assets for many companies. Liquid Audio recently announced that the US Patent Office has awarded the company a patent (#6,219,634) for its watermark technique used for distributing secure digital music files.
Record labels have found that CDs with built-in restriction technologies have not worked in all CD players, have been incompatible with some computers, and have engendered considerable backlash from irate consumers. But why should that stop them?
As digitally recorded music moves through the recording and production chain, it can be handed off to a variety of studios, musicians, producers, record label executives, and mastering engineers. Sometimes this is done with a recordable CD or DVD, sometimes with a portable hard disk, and sometimes via a high-bandwidth Internet connection. Somewhere along the way, a good percentage of those files (some estimate up to 80%) get copied in an unauthorized manner and quickly end up on the Internet or on the street as pirated CDs before any official discs are released.
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.