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.
Last week, Florida consumer-electronics retailer Sound Advice announced that it has reached an agreement in principle to acquire Scottsdale, Arizona–based Showcase Home Entertainment, LLC, a privately held "upscale" retailer of consumer electronics and custom design services. Sound Advice, founded in 1974, currently operates 24 Sound Advice stores and four specialty stores under the Bang & Olufsen name throughout Florida.
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.
Longtime audiophiles no doubt remember Hafler for their early amp and preamp kits, which offered excellent value for the money. The company soon dropped the kits, but continued production with a complete line of popular amps and preamps throughout the '80s and early '90s, only to hit hard times as the audio recession kicked in.
For the millions of fans who search the Internet for their favorite music, one thing always required is the name of the artist or song sought. But what if you don't know exactly what you want to hear, and would rather search for the kind of music that suits your mood?
The recent struggle between the RIAA and Napster may seem like a distant battle rumbling off in some foreign realm, far removed from most audiophiles: about once a week we get e-mails asking why a high-end audio website should even cover such stuff.
It's bad enough for stores competing with each other for consumer loyalty—imagine how retailers must feel when the largest consumer-electronics company in the world decides to compete with you as well. This grim reality came true for dealers around the world last week, when Sony Electronics outlined its plans for SonyStyle.com, which the company describes as "an information-rich e-commerce website." The site is scheduled to be launched this fall.