Until the end of January, the Federal Communications Commission had opposed the proliferation of low-power FM radio stations. "Microradio," as it is sometimes called, has been an ongoing problem for the agency since inexpensive broadcasting gear became widely available several years ago. Primarily an urban phenomenon, microradio consists of individuals and small groups with a hodgepodge of equipment, who wedge themselves into unoccupied slots in the crowded FM band.
In January, National Public Radio launched an ambitious series chronicling the history of the 20th century in sound. Lost & Found Sound began with the first half of a two-part piece on the father of audio technology, entitled "The Rise and Fall of Thomas Alva Edison." Part two, which examines Edison's competition, will be broadcast this week.
High-end audio legend Mark Levinson has departed Cello Film and Music Systems, the company he founded 15 years ago, and has formed a new business, Red Rose Music. The new company will break all performance barriers with both affordable and cost-no-object audio equipment, Levinson stated last week, and is already registered as a new business with the state of New York.
The axeman cometh, and cometh again. Seagram Company's Universal Music Group, now the world's largest music conglomerate after last year's $10+ billion acquisition of PolyGram NV, is decimating its ranks. The company has closed the doors of several formerly independent record labels, fired hundreds of employees, and plans to unload thousands more in the next few months. Employees and artists alike will soon find themselves without labels.
MP3, the popular and controversial Internet music format, took a big step toward legitimacy last week. Z Company, which operates San Diego-based MP3.com, announced that it had attracted $11 million in venture capital from idealab! and Sequoia Capital. Z Company will change its name to MP3.com Inc. to reflect the company's core business interests, said president Michael Robertson.
Imagine that you are a Canadian with a mid-sized accounting business. You have tons of data to keep track of, and have found the recordable CD to be an excellent form of storage: convenient, reliable, and cheap---until New Year's Day, when the cost of blank discs suddenly doubled. You may not have the slightest interest in music, but one of your basic costs of doing business has just skyrocketed because someone, somewhere, has allegedly made an illegal copy of a commercial music CD.
What a year. Stereophile.com ran hundreds of stories in 1998, covering events big and small in the intersecting realms of business, publishing, technology, and music---with some irresistible oddities thrown in here and there as journalistic spice. It's overwhelming to look back over Stereophile's first full year of online publishing and see exactly how much has happened. We've gone far, and sometimes wide, to bring you the news from an audiophile perspective.
Really Big Hi-Fi came to live with me for a couple of months this past spring in the form of a pair of Tannoy Churchill loudspeakers. They were trucked directly to San Rafael, California from Kitchener, Ontario, in flight cases so bulky they could double as coffins for NFL offensive linemen. Once ensconced chez moi, the Tannoy dreadnoughts provoked bewilderment, alarm, curiosity, envy, admiration, awe, and amazement in all who heard and saw them.
Internet traffic doubles every 100 days, according to some statistics. This growth has been accompanied by an increase in the amount of online shopping---a phenomenon that has had a significant impact on retailers. Independent bookstores, for example, have been squeezed not only by the expansion of large-scale operations like Barnes & Noble, but also by the popularity of Internet discounters like Amazon.com and Borders.com. Online sales of recorded music by both record clubs and start-up resellers have put a dent in the bottom lines of many mass-market music stores---although not a huge one yet. The trend will certainly continue.