Music industry executives widely believe that "ring tones"—snippets of favorite tunes—and music downloadable to cell phones will be the next big trend, perhaps one that could help restore some luster to the industry's tarnished bottom line. "Music-related products for PCs and mobile phones are on pace to deliver as much as $500 million in combined revenue in the US for 2004, according to Nielsen SoundScan figures and analysts' projections," reported Brian Garrity in a mid-December issue of Billboard.
The future is still bright for satellite radio. On December 8, XM Satellite Radio Holdings, Inc. announced that it had signed a deal with Toyota Motor Corporation to begin factory-level installation of XM receivers in 2006. The most popular brand of automobile in the world, Toyota is the last large automaker to commit to either XM or its competitor, Sirius Satellite Radio.
Long-simmering disputes about peer-to-peer file sharing, or P2P, will finally come to a boil sometime next year. On Friday, December 10, the US Supreme Court agreed to examine whether online services Grokster Ltd. and StreamCast Networks, Inc. are liable for copyright infringement. Both services enable users to share music and other forms of copyrighted material, and both derive revenue from advertising.
With its new Walkman music player, Sony has broken with its tradition of promoting its own proprietary formats. The NW-HD3 will let users import and export tracks in the MP3 format, a concession to the format's near-universal popularity and an admission of the failed appeal of Atrac, Sony's own music-playing software. MP3 compatibility should give the player appeal to a wider audience than a Sony-only machine.
Concord and Fantasy: Berkeley, CA–based Fantasy Records has been sold to Concord Records of Beverly Hills in a deal valued at $83 million, according to a December 4 report from Billboard. The music enterprise of film producer Saul Zaentz and partners, Fantasy is well known for its huge catalog of works by jazz greats Count Basie, John Coltrane, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk, Joe Pass, Oscar Peterson, and Sarah Vaughan, as well as soul and blues stars the Dramatics, Isaac Hayes, Albert King, the Staple Singers, and Johnnie Taylor.
One of the most enduring obstacles confronting audio engineers has been how to generate powerful low bass without the need for large loudspeaker enclosures. It's been generally accepted that really effective low bass means moving large quantities of air, which in turn means large drivers in large cabinets. Large loudspeakers, unfortunately, don't meet the approval of many dcor-conscious homeowners. It's a longstanding problem for music lovers, home theater fans, and custom installers.
Tweeter's new look: Tweeter Home Entertainment Group is entering the first phase of a massive makeover—with redesigned stores and a new marketing approach emphasizing custom installation and media-server–based home-theater products. The company will de-emphasize individual components and pitch its services toward women, who make most decisions about home entertainment and home décor. The company's pitch will be "We can untangle your mind," a reference to the widespread frustration with semi-compatible and often incomprehensible technologies. Over the next 18 months, Tweeter will consolidate its various regional chains under a single brand name, with a prototype 14,500 sq. ft. store in the Las Vegas suburb of Summerlin, NV to be launched at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
Karmazin joins Sirius: The satellite radio service gained some serious traction in its recent acquisition of former Viacom, Inc. president Mel Karmazin. Just one month after signing "shock jock" Howard Stern to a multimillion-dollar contract, Sirius signed Karmazin to a five-year contract, bringing him in as its new chief executive officer. Joseph Clayton will relinquish the CEO title but remain chairman of the board. Karmazin departed Viacom in June and began discussions in earnest with Sirius after the satellite service landed Stern, in a move Karmazin described as "brilliant." Karmazin had previously dismissed the potential of satellite radio, but now believes it could be huge—larger, perhaps, than the growth he helped nurture at Infinity Broadcasting, which he took from a few stations to more than 200. Sirius stock rose more than 10% on the day Karmazin's contract was announced.
DualDisc has apparently stumbled hard right out of the gate. Earlier this year, test marketing of the DualDisc in Boston and Seattle indicated that music fans would eagerly accept the new format, one that combines standard Compact Disc audio content on one side with DVD (audio and video) on the other.