It's been 30 years since hordes of wild-eyed music lovers converged on White Lake, a small town just north of New York City, for an event that would soon become an icon for a generation. Could anyone back then have imagined that, three decades later, Woodstock would cost $150/ticket and evolve into a marketing opportunity and website?
The Internet is beginning to pose quite a dilemma for high-end audio manufacturers, especially ones with limited distribution in major markets such as the US. Do you risk alienating potential bricks-and-mortar dealers in an effort to gain widespread exposure by offering your products online? Or do you slowly build distribution through the traditional stores that for years have been high-end audio's haven?
The National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) has released its Annual Survey Results for the 1998 business year, indicating that gross dollar volume for all music products grew by 10%, to $9.69 billion, with the CD market (83.3%, or $8.1 billion) continuing to build on its dominance. The report reveals that DVD sales "literally exploded in 1998," up a staggering 400% to $259 million.
Earlier this month, DirecTV announced that it is investing $50 million in XM Satellite Radio in an effort to capitalize on direct satellite-to-receiver broadcasting technology, which is intended to provide listeners in the car and at home with up to 100 channels of music, news, and entertainment available in North America. Additional XM investors include General Motors, Clear Channel Communications, and a private investment group.
The MP3 audio format has been rapidly gaining a solid reputation in the last several months. Portable products such as Diamond Multimedia's Rio have hit the market, and websites (typified by MP3.com) have gained financial success. (See related story.) But one area that has so far lagged is MP3-based playback and recording equipment for using the files at home without moving a computer next to the stereo.
Danish audio-video manufacturer Bang & Olufsen has long been known for its unusual product designs. Eschewing the normal tendency of consumer electronics manufacturers to design their circuits and transports into stackable black boxes, the company's current home-audio line includes colorful vertical CD stacks with sliding clear-glass doors and brushed-aluminum cylindrical speakers.
In another milestone for digital broadcasting, Lucent Digital Radio announced last week that it has successfully tested its In-Band On-Channel (IBOC) Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) system, live and over the air, with National Public Radio (NPR) member station WBJB-FM of Lincroft, New Jersey. According to Lucent, the tests showed that there was no degradation of the host FM analog channel during the transmission of the digital FM signal over the same band.
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.
Providing another boost to the nascent DVD-Audio market, Zoran Corporation, a provider of integrated circuits (ICs) and software for digital video and audio applications, announced last week the availability of a new DVD decoder IC chip, the Vaddis IV. Zoran says the chip is optimized for fourth-generation DVD players and will include integrated DVD-Audio decoding. According to the company, the new Vaddis IV decoder enables the design of flexible and advanced---yet affordable---new DVD players.
In a tersely worded press release, Carver Corporation announced that on Wednesday, May 12, 1999 it filed a voluntary petition under Chapter 11 in United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Washington. The cause of the filing was "an accumulation of unpaid debt and resulting legal actions filed by creditors. These actions created the prospect of an inequitable distribution of payment to creditors and prevented the Company from being able to operate as a functioning business entity. In October of 1998, the Company ran out of working capital and laid off the remainder of its workforce. Subsequently, at the invitation of the Board of Directors, Robert W. Carver, the founder of the Company and former CEO, stepped in to take over."