According to a report just released by the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM), Digital distribution—particularly streaming technology—will seriously disrupt the music industry, but has the potential to "benefit all segments of the business if companies can leverage their traditional strengths and create compelling consumer value propositions."
It is often observed that audiophiles are an aging, dying breed, and that the obvious antidote is to bring younger 'philes into the fold. To that end, BuzzNet 2000 has been created as a "touring educational festival of new music listening technologies" by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). The program launches this fall with two dates on the west coast: California State University at Long Beach and the University of California at Davis.
The dawning of the age of inexpensive universal DVD-Audio/SACD/CD players may finally be upon us. Cirrus Logic recently announced the introduction of their CS4392 integrated circuit chip, which the company describes as a high-performance Crystal digital/analog converter that "delivers unrivaled sound quality while providing manufacturers a cost-effective solution for next-generation DVD-based audio products including DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD (SACD) players."
We reported last year about the new direction that Bang & Olufsen America has taken in distributing its products: the company has recently opened a series of branded BOA stores around the US. The strategy seems to have paid off. The company reports increased sales of more than 60% in the first quarter of its current fiscal year, and claims that individual shops reported an average sales increase of 20%.
With new audio formats such as SACD and DVD-Audio hitting the market, audiophiles will soon have more choices than ever for playing back music. But along with all of these options comes the hard part: choosing which path to take and hoping not to be dead-ended, as Beta video owners were years back. For consumers, the promised universal audio players (expected to play DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, CD, and SACD) will reduce the risk significantly.
Spotting another online niche, Hifi.com announced the debut of CustomHifi.com last week. The new site is aimed at custom installers. HiFi.com claims that CustomHifi.com is the first "comprehensive national, Internet-centric marketplace to offer custom electronic design and installation professionals access to leading audio/video products, information, and installation support."
Last week, BMG Entertainment, the music and entertainment division of Bertelsmann AG, revealed that it will join several other major labels (see previous stories EMI and Universal) by bringing its own digital downloads to the Internet this September. The company says that it will start with approximately 50 songs and 50 complete albums, to be made available via several retail Web outlets at prices ranging from $1.98 to $3.49 per song and from $9.98 to $16.98 per album.
In an effort to move their businesses into cyberspace, record labels and audio content distributors are still experimenting with their online formulas. Key to the new economic models for selling music over the Net is this question: Would you rather pay a monthly subscription fee to download music, or pay for music track by track? According to market researcher Gartner Group, sites that plan to sell music via the subscription model should seriously reconsider.
E-wisdom holds that one of the big advantages about retailing on the Internet is that, once a comany is online, the entire world of consumers is only a few mouse clicks away. This concept holds up much better in theory than in practice. Language barriers, shipping costs, and import/export red tape (such as agreements controlling which countries a retailer can even sell a product line to) have all made the reality less than ideal for e-merchants.
Want to do some audiophile shopping and do some good for others? The Cable Company, along with several manufacturers and audiophile publications, have set up a program by which they offer to donate up to 10% of August purchases to CARE and the International Rescue Committee, these contributions to be used to assist the worldwide disaster-relief efforts of those humanitarian organizations.