It's a brave new audio world: Coinciding with last week's release of Medeski, Martin & Wood's latest work, The Dropper, to retailers' shelves as a polycarbonate-and-aluminum CD, Liquid Audio announced that the title was simultaneously being made available as a full-album digital download. Liquid reports that this is the first time a Blue Note title has been released in a digital format at the same time as its physical release.
The Recording Industry Association of America has recently been getting press ink by the bucketful for its defense of the music business against the perils of the Internet. But the Future of Music Coalition is urging the US Copyright Office to be wary of efforts by the RIAA to establish itself as the sole and exclusive collection agent for digital performance royalties for sound recordings. Instead, the Coalition has proposed that an independent body would be a more appropriate vehicle to collect and distribute these and other monies, including Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 royalties.
The online music world has been hit by one jolt after another as the record labels go after anyone they can slap with the "music pirate" label. In response, the e-sharks smell blood and are circling. Internet music-distribution company EMusic sent out a press release recently making the assertion that "now that Napster and MP3.com are both on shaky legal ground, many downloadable-music fans are going to be looking for compelling, 'legitimate' alternatives."
It may still be a trickle, but at least a little music relief has reached the parched throats of audiophiles awaiting the arrival of DVD-Audio discs. Last week saw the announcement that Aaron Neville's latest CD release will also hit stores as a multichannel DVD-A on Immergent Records on October 24. This week sees the announcement that another recording legend, Willie Nelson, will soon take the plunge.
It's easy for us audiophiles to feel neglected. Consider that this year witnesses the debuts of not one, but two new audio formats that should answer the prayers of just about every frustrated audiophile out there: SACD and DVD-Audio. Both approaches represent the state of the art of recording and reproducing music, and finally fulfill for serious listeners the promise that CD teased us with more than 15 years ago.
The most common complaint about record companies: CD prices are too high. In fact, many blame Napster's runaway success on the insistence of "greedy labels" on pricing discs at $15 or higher. Apparently BMG Direct, a division of BMG Entertainment, has put two and two together and found it equals $9.99.
Following on the heels of its announcement last week of the first commercially available DVD-Audio disc (Swingin' for the Fences, by Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band), Silverline Records says that Aaron Neville will become the first major artist to release an album in the format. Silverline expects that, on October 24, Neville's solo album Devotion will be released on DVD-A. The disc will also include audio tracks compatible with standard DVD players.
Warner Music Group may have just announced its first DVD-Audio titles (see related story), but an upstart independent label is claiming the first DVD-A discs actually available for sale. In an attempt to establish itself as the leader in the new DVD-Audio format, 5.1 Entertainment Group's Silverline Records says it has begun shipping the first commercially available 24-bit/96kHz DVD-Audio disc, Swingin' for the Fences, by Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band.
According to a report just released by the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM), Digital distribution—particularly streaming technology—will seriously disrupt the music industry, but has the potential to "benefit all segments of the business if companies can leverage their traditional strengths and create compelling consumer value propositions."
It is often observed that audiophiles are an aging, dying breed, and that the obvious antidote is to bring younger 'philes into the fold. To that end, BuzzNet 2000 has been created as a "touring educational festival of new music listening technologies" by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). The program launches this fall with two dates on the west coast: California State University at Long Beach and the University of California at Davis.