The rumors were flying all week, and this time they proved to be true: CDNow Inc. and N2K Inc. jointly announced the signing of a definitive merger agreement on October 23. Both companies are well-positioned in the online music retail business, but face ever-increasing threats from new online rivals such as Tower Records and Virgin, as well as the ominous presence of Amazon.com who recently jumped into the online music business.
We've all been hearing about digital television (DTV) for several months now, but a similar revolution is facing the radio industry around the world. As we reported last week, several companies and organizations have been piecing together systems to gradually replace the AM or FM stations you currently listen to (you do listen to the radio, don't you?) with digital equivalents over the next few years.
In a story last week, we covered the efforts of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to prevent portable MP3 players from entering the market without copy-protection measures in place. On August 16, a federal court entered a temporary restraining order (TRO) to enjoin the distribution and sale of Diamond Multimedia's Rio PMP300 portable MP3 recording device.
Hilary Rosen, president and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), must feel like Sisyphus playing an endless game of "Whack-A-Mole." Her job recently has been to patrol the digital world for music copyright violators, especially those pesky pirate MP3 websites on the Internet. It seems that each time they find and eradicate a horde of copyright violators, hundreds more pop up faster than you can say "information wants to be free."
Running close on the heels of the 105th AES Convention in San Francisco, the DVD Forum held its conference two days later in the posh Hyatt Regency near the SF Airport. Attended by a variety of computer and consumer-electronics industry folk who manufacture and sell DVD discs and hardware, more than half of day one was devoted to the emerging DVD-Audio format. Although the presentations became highly technical at times, the sheer variety of possible formats and applications for DVD-Audio became apparent. Whether this is a blessing or a fatal flaw, all agreed that the consumer will ultimately determine DVD-Audio's fate in the next 2 to 5 years.
Cats vs. dogs, Wile E. Coyote vs. Roadrunner, Spy vs. Spy, Analog vs. Digital. It seems that some battles will never end, and so it is with flux vs. bits in the professional recording industry. The Audio Engineering Society (AES) conventions dazzle showgoers with the latest audio recording and processing gear, mostly digital, and this year's show is no exception. The big buzz heard 'round the hall were higher sampling and quantization rates for future music formats such as DVD-Audio. But off-site, at the nearby ANA hotel (great choice of venue---just add LOG) in downtown San Francisco, key industry heavyweights were holding a meeting to discuss the future of analog recording technologies.
Drum roll, please: As promised, the DVD-Audio 1.0 specification has been finalized by the DVD-Audio Working Group 4 of the DVD Forum, and will shortly be presented to the Steering Committee for final approval. A multitude of delays both technical and political popped up over the last two years, stalling the evolving specification until just recently. (It was orginally intended to be released months ago.) Still to be settled, however, is how DVD-Audio 1.0 will co-exist with Sony's and Philips' promise to promote their rival technology, Super Audio CD (SACD), as an independent and competing format.
In a recent bake-off, online retailer CDnow was named top music banana by the New York consulting firm eMarketer. Although placing further down the list based on price alone, CDnow gained the highest overall score in an averaging of the rankings of six criteria. Rated on a scale of 1 to 5, these were: Selection, Price, Service, Usability, Presentation, and Features.
Recordable CD machines are nothing new these days, especially those aimed at the PC market. Those machines that find their way into Desktop PCs can end up doing everything from backing up corporate financial data to mastering CD-ROM titles. Many are used for recording music CDs as well, and so a new CD-Recorder from Smart and Friendly has a couple of features thrown in just to excite the audio folk.