Artists' audit rights: The California Assembly is scheduled to vote Tuesday, June 15 on a revised bill that would give recording artists the right to audit companies to ensure proper royalty payments. The bill would also give them the right to hire auditors on a contingency fee basis, and to initiate group audits, a provision that could make audits a class action issue. The proposed legislation is the result of talks between the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), and several state legislators, in particular State Senator Kevin Murray (D-Culver City), a longtime advocate for accounting reform in the recording industry.
Circuit City turnaround: After a long slump, the Richmond, VA–based retail chain is finally on an upswing. The company reported a 7% increase in sales for the first fiscal quarter, ended May 31—a total of $2.1 billion. Same-store sales rose 6.4%. The total included $21.5 million in revenue from InterTan, a group of Canadian stores acquired by Circuit City on May 12. Circuit City's strongest product categories were flat-panel TVs, digital cameras, computer gear, and portable audio players.
RIAA lawsuits continue: Each month the recording industry launches a few hundred more lawsuits against suspected file-swappers, with such tedious regularity that we could simply re-run the previous month's news with a new figure inserted. This time around, the Recording Industry Association of America announced May 24 that it had filed suit against 493 more people believed to have illegally shared music over the Internet. Known only by their screen names and IP addresses, the unnamed defendants are subscribers with Internet service providers in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Texas. Unlike recent suits, none of the current crop involves college students or university networks. To date approximately 3000 people have been sued by the music industry; 486 have settled, paying damages that averaged $3000 each.
Most manufacturers who advertise in Stereophile hype an exquisite blend of old world craftsmanship and high technology. The gambit is particularly common in the business of selling loudspeakers, where ad copy pushes the sonic advantages of the latest ultra-stiff, indestructible, and nearly weightless cone materials such as Kevlar, carbon-fiber, anodized aluminum, or platinum-plated titanium.
The sales picture has improved for Tweeter Home Entertainment Group, but not the bottom line. The Canton, MA–based retailer reported a 4% increase in sales for the second quarter ended March 31, with comparable store results up 3%. The increase lifted Tweeter's total revenue to $189.3 million, but the company reported an operating loss of $4.6 million, almost twice the $2.5 million loss posted in the same period the previous year.
Sirius keeps climbing: If recent gains are any indication, Sirius Satellite Radio may reach its break-even number of subscribers. On May 11, the New York–based satellite radio service reported that it had achieved a subscribership of 400,000. The brand will get increased exposure this summer as Sirius receivers go on sale at Radio Shack and EchoStar "DISH Network" outlets. Sirius products from Audiovox, Clarion, Jenson, and Kenwood are already available at Wal-Mart stores and after-market car audio installers nationwide. Other manufacturers signing on with Sirius include Alpine, Blaupunkt, Crestron, Delphi, Eclipse, JVC, Niles, Sanyo, and US Electronics, all with products due this year. The 400,000-subscriber mark is an "important milestone for Sirius," according to CEO Joe Clayton, who said the company is on track to reach a target audience of one million subscribers by the end of 2004.
In one of his old comedy routines, Steve Martin imagines himself hauled into court for bank robbery. He seeks dismissal of the charges on the grounds of forgetfulness. "Your Honor," he pleads, "I forgot that bank robbery was a crime."
Nowhere is the inflationary cycle spinning faster than in concert ticket prices. The best tickets for performances by major pop and rock stars this summer will be priced in the low-to-mid hundreds. No, that's not a misprint, and it doesn't include "service charges" and other bogus fees tacked on by ticket agencies. Good seats for Eric Clapton's summer tour will be more than $250 each; similar seating at Simon and Garfunkel's "Old Friends" show at the Hollywood Bowl will go for $700, according to "Parsley, Sage and $350 Seats," a revealing look at skyrocketing ticket prices by Ethan Smith in the May 7 issue of The Wall Street Journal.