A Billboard story this weekend discussed the rise of flash memory drives and bracelets as a medium for album releases. I knew that Willie Nelson had experimented with selling USB bracelets of live recordings, but artists like the Mars Volta and Ringo Starr are also offering new albums on USB. So far, because they're more expensive to produce than a CD, most artists are selling them as niche products for the biggest fans--for example, the Mars Volta is offering a monthly download to fans who pay $30 for the USB version of their last album, The Bedlam in Goliath, … Read more
Ian Rogers, Yahoo's VP of Video and Media Applications, didn't get much chance to speak on the five-person panel I saw at Billboard Live. However, he gave a very interesting presentation at Aspen Live, a conference for music industry types sponsored by talent agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA), and he's paraphrased the talk in its entirety--complete with slides--on his blog.
Most of his arguments ring true to me: scarcity has been replaced by abundance, and spending incremental dollars on improving quality (while difficult and highly subjective) will provide much better returns in the long tail era … Read more
This post isn't about digital audio, but rather about a topic that pertains to the entire consumer technology industry. When I got to CES, I realized that I'd brought the wrong USB connector for my digital camera, a Kodak EasyShare DX4530. (Guilty: I didn't read the CNET review, but I've liked it better than the 6.8 rating might suggest. Although I'm not a fan of the integrated EasyShare software, which tries to hide the file system and in the process makes it really hard to use anything but EasyShare!) It's about four years … Read more
Neuros is a device manufacturer with a simple focus: it creates devices that let you record video from almost any source into a digital format (MPEG-4) that can then be played on almost any device. The trick: its devices connect to your video output sources (VCR, DVD player, etc.) using standard analog RCA cables, avoiding digital copy-protection technologies like HDCP or CSS. I'm not a lawyer, but it seems like this method skirts the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions: the devices don't bypass these digital copy protection schemes, they simply take the signal after the device has decoded it, … Read more
There's a war going on among music critics of a certain age. A few months ago, San Francisco Chronicle critic Joel Selvin mourned the loss of concern for sound quality in the MP3 era. Since then, writers for the Wall Street Journal and New York Times have thrown down the gauntlet for the other side, arguing not only that MP3s and other forms of compressed digital music are sufficient, but that audiophiles are delusional--especially older audiophiles, whose hearing has probably decayed to the point where they couldn't even hear all the things that MP3s take out. Slate columnist … Read more
A rather sprawling article in Billboard today suggests that the MP3 format, which has been around since the 1990s, is finally reaching a tipping point among major labels, supplanting DRM-protected formats that the labels have favored.
The article focuses mostly on a planned Pepsi promotion that will offer MP3 downloads via the Amazon MP3 store. However, two other points stuck out to me as spelling imminent doom for DRM in music.
First, Sony is reportedly considering offering its catalog as MP3s, joining EMI and Universal Music Group. That would make Warner Music the last holdout among the Big Four. I'… Read more
It's the law of entropy: as your digital music collection increases, you're bound to run into mislabeled songs, duplicate tracks in multiple file formats, and other problems. Apple's iTunes does a fine job of displaying song data and letting you edit it--as long as the song's in a format that iTunes supports (if you try to import a WMA file, for instance, iTunes will ask if you want to convert it first). Microsoft's Windows Media Player has an advanced tag editor, but it's buried a few menu options down, and it only lists songs … Read more
Correction: this story has been corrected to remove the implication that iTunes sells audio files in formats other than AAC. iTunes did begin selling DRM-free songs earlier this year, but those files are still in the AAC format. Other stores are selling DRM-less MP3s, but not iTunes.
In 1998, the European Commission began investigating Microsoft on grounds that it was illegally using its desktop operating system (OS) monopoly to squeeze into new markets. At some point along the way, RealNetworks complained that Microsoft was repeating its kill-Netscape tactic by bundling the Windows Media player into Windows. In 2004, the EC agreed, … Read more
Sony's years-long effort to promote its Atrac audio encoding format appears to be coming to an end.
Sony's known for creating proprietary formats rather than adopting formats developed elsewhere. Many other companies--Microsoft in particular--do the same thing, but Sony sometimes seems to cling to its technologies long past the date where it makes business sense. Sony invented Atrac for its MiniDisc, but as MP3 players became popular, Sony tried to push the format into the new world of discless players. Those first Sony portable players didn't support MP3. This helped a down-on-its-luck company with no consumer electronics … Read more
The Register has an excellent article today on the compact disc, which was first pressed for commercial release 25 years ago. If you've ever been curious about terms like Red Book or 44.1, or wondered why CDs can hold 74 minutes of music, it's worth a read.
I have little to add. Except: Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms was not only the first CD that was recorded all digitally, but it was also one of the first in which the CD had different, longer versions of some of the LP album tracks. I specifically bought the CD … Read more