Now there are four. The music industry's "Big Five" record labels officially became the "Big Four" on Thursday, August 5, as Sony Music Entertainment and Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) finalized a merger months in the making. The partners are the music divisions of Sony Corporation and German media conglomerate Bertelsmann AG, respectively.
Is there a future for high-resolution audio? Will the music industry survive as a packaged-goods business? The answer to both of these questions is "Yes, probably . . ." if the DualDisc follows test market indications and become next year's must-have entertainment format.
A move by RealNetworks to cut the umbilical cord between Apple's iPod and the company's iTunes Music Store has raised the ire of some execs in Cupertino. The computer pioneer is threatening legal and technical retaliation against its Seattle rival in the wake of a late July launch of a digital music technology called Harmony that enables the iPod to work with downloads from RealNetworks' music store.
Like most Americans, US audiophiles have little idea how difficult life can be for people in other countries. Imagine facing official censure for possessing some innocuous pop music, or taking 12 years to accumulate the complete works of one of your favorite rock groups. That was life in the old Soviet Union for Stereophile colleague Leonid Korostyshevski, who flew to Istanbul from Moscow on short notice, so we could spend a few days together prior to my embarking on a sailing trip in the eastern Mediterranean. The visit cemented a long-distance friendship established through numberless emails. It was also an in-depth education.
Audio retail revival: Electronics retailers throughout the US are ramping up their commitment to audio separates, according to a June 21 report by Joseph Palenchar in TWICE (This Week in Consumer Electronics). Palenchar describes the new emphasis on audio components as a response to declining margins on "home theater in a box" (HtiB) systems. Through April of this year, factory-to-dealer audio component sales rose 29.8% to $344.6 million, with April sales up 41.9%, hitting a four-year high of $86.9 million.
The US Senate has gotten serious about going after file sharers. On Friday, June 25, senators approved legislation that would allow the Justice Department to impose heavy civil penalties on people found to have shared and/or downloaded copyrighted material over the Internet.