Industry Roundup

Tweeter's new look: Tweeter Home Entertainment Group is entering the first phase of a massive makeover—with redesigned stores and a new marketing approach emphasizing custom installation and media-server–based home-theater products. The company will de-emphasize individual components and pitch its services toward women, who make most decisions about home entertainment and home décor. The company's pitch will be "We can untangle your mind," a reference to the widespread frustration with semi-compatible and often incomprehensible technologies. Over the next 18 months, Tweeter will consolidate its various regional chains under a single brand name, with a prototype 14,500 sq. ft. store in the Las Vegas suburb of Summerlin, NV to be launched at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Radio: Hundreds of millions of analog radio receivers will need to be replaced as digital broadcasting becomes the dominant format, according to a mid-November report from Oyster Bay, NY–based ABI Research. Researcher Frank Viquez says, "2004 has been the year that digital radio really started to mature, as broadcasters and equipment vendors witness consumers warming up to the new technology." Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued 258 new permits for FM radio broadcasting, part of the agency's first open FM auction. Some 110 bidders spent a total of $147.4 million for the permits for new stations, most of them in small communities in the western US. New permit owners have three years to complete construction of their stations and begin FM broadcasting, according to a November 25 report from Reuters news service.

Music biz vs pirates: The music industry is pushing the US and European governments for tougher anti-piracy action against Russia, China, Mexico, and Brazil, the top locations for commercial piracy. With many duplication plants in continuous operation, the four countries together account for illegal trade worth $4.5 billion a year, according to a November 24 report from The Financial Times. "We have no power but to investigate and bring the pirate trade to the attention of government authorities. Governments could do much more," stated Jay Berman, CEO of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). "US trade policy has been the single most important element in getting countries to address piracy issues," he said. The IFPI estimates that as many as 90% of the CDs sold in China are pirated. Figures for the other three countries vary from 50% to 65%.

Numbers up in UK: Despite piracy, CD sales are up in the UK, driven primarily by the popularity of British acts such as Dido, Will Young, and Katie Melua, according to statistics posted November 27 by The Hollywood Reporter. The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) reported that album sales reached a record 237 million units in the fiscal year ended September 30, with retailers pulling in £1.2 billion ($2.3 billion) in revenue, a 2.7% gain over the previous year.

We don't need no compensation: The London schoolkids who sang on Pink Floyd's The Wall back in 1979 will finally get paid, according to a November 26 report from Reuters. The album was a long-running monster hit on both sides of the Atlantic, as was "Another Brick in the Wall," its featured single. The then-shocking refrain "We don't need no education" provoked outrage among educators everywhere.

The rebellious schoolkids' anthem was secretly recorded using 23 students from the Islington Green School. The school received £1000 and a platinum record for the students' performance, but the kids themselves were never paid. The school's headmistress subsequently prohibited them from public appearances, making the collection of royalties difficult. Many of the former students who sang on the album haven't been contacted, but the first claims have been filed on their behalf, according to royalties expert Peter Rowan. Each of them could receive £200 or more once all the claims are processed, Rowan said.