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Friday, April 24, 2009

Record Pressing Plant Videos

Believe it or not, vinyl record sales continue to grow every year as an appetite grows for the format in just about all musical genres and all demographics of music buyers. Most artists really want to release their wares on vinyl too, but are prohibited by the costs and limited (but growing) market.

That being said, a record is something tangible that you can hold in your hand, which you can't do with a download. And because you can touch it, it's easy to understand exactly what it is, as pointed out in one of the following videos. And as reported yesterday, vinyl sales were up a whopping 222% on Record Store Day last Saturday.

The first video takes a look at how a vinyl record is made, and the second one looks at the last pressing plant in Detroit. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Prince's Purple iPod Package Is Selling..........A Little

Prince's $2100 Opus One purple iPod and book collection has sold about 1/3rd of the 950 over the weekend. I guess that's OK, considering the price, but it's not like there was a run on these things.

But according to the British company that's actually doing the sales and marketing, Kraken Opus, they couldn't be happier.

I’m ecstatic about that,” founder and CEO Karl Fowler said. “Without being overly confident or too arrogant about it, we always knew that we would get to a sellout position within a few months.” To sell at this rate, however, was unexpected, he said.

It's pretty audacious to price any musical item at such a high price during these economic times, but the Purple One seems to be oblivious to the market at the moment. Even though it's obviously the brainchild of Fowler, all this paints Prince in a pretty bad light. Instead of being a brilliant example of Music 3.0 marketing like Trent Reznor, Josh Freese or Radiohead, it just feels like someone so full of himself that he feels that everything he puts out is worth the extra cost.

I'm sure Prince and Fowler will sell these packages out, but he sure isn't helping Prince endear himself to his fan base with this one.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Brief Visit To NAB 2009

I made the long drive out into the desert yesterday to the land of fantasy - Las Vegas - for a quick look around at the National Association of Broadcasters NAB 2009 exhibition.

In truth, I was there more for meetings than to take a deep look at every new offering from the wide variety of audio, video, radio, television and satellite manufacturers on hand, but I did get to see most of the show at least briefly.

More than any other year, there seemed to be an air of quiet evolution in the new products, perhaps because of stifled R&D budgets, so there wasn't much that caught my eye. But as always, I have some general observations about the experience in general.

1) Las Vegas seems on the upswing from when I was last there in January. On the way into town there were a few billboards that were empty, but these were pretty far out of town and not in optimal locations. In January at CES, even many of the brand new electronic billboards were dark.

2) The traffic was back and it was pretty akin to the good times in Vegas. There was a long wait to get to the convention center and a long wait to get out of town at rush hour. In January, traffic was as minimal as you can get. That being said, parking was pretty easy and the main lot in front of the convention center never filled.

3) This year the NAB show itself contracted by 25 to 30%, in my estimation. There were just a few empty booths, but the show floor space was artificially walled in so it seemed more compact. Many exhibitors also downsized their booths, getting by with a 10' x 10' where 20' x 20' or more was the norm before the downturn in the economy. Even Panasonic, with arguably the best position on the show floor, reduced it's size by about 20% and their booth was pretty sparse as compared to other years.

4) That went for attendees too - I'd say down by 30% or so. The show was not crowded but it was busy. Every booth had someone in it, but no lines waiting to speak with a factory rep. This turned out to be a good thing for business though. As one factory sales guy put it, "We're having a great show. Everyone that's here is a buyer!" Indeed, I heard a few stories of big sales in the audio hall ($100k plus) off the show floor on the first day, which doesn't normally happen.

5) The party and swag biz was way off. Swag first - there was none except for cloth carry bags. At least they're good for the environment. Big lavish parties seemed to be a thing of the past according to all reports. There was only 1 event all week (the Sports Video Group) at the plush Studio 54 and I was told that was booked on a deep discount. Canon backed out of a big party there at the last minute, but other than that - nada. It used to be that there were so many great over-the-top parties that you couldn't decide which one to attend.

6) Forget the free magazines this year. There were only a handful (maybe 6 or 8) at the free book racks at the entry to the show. Other years it was more like 50 or 60. What does that tell you about the print business?

7) This year IPTV was a given. In previous years it was a flag that every manufacturer was flying, but this year it was just assumed that if you did anything near that space, your company was involved in it.

8) The coolest product that I saw was ioDrive by Fusion iO, a solid state drive that connects directly to your system buss, bypassing the bottleneck of the normal PCI I/O architecture. As a demonstration of how fast it was, 16 servers were accessing a single drive, which output 64 MPEG-2 files of DVDs to 16 screens all at the same time. That's 1024 DVD streams ALL AT ONCE! Wow!!

Fusion iO ioDrive

Video wall driven by ioDrive - 16 screens with 64 DVD streams each (and they all looked good too).

9) Another cool product wasn't ground breaking at all but it was very practical. PC Prompter turned an iPhone or iTouch into a teleprompter with their software and hardware mount. For such a small display it was very usable. The PC Prompter guys told me that most field reporters that are only a one man or two man team use these all over the world and I can see why.

10) An finally, the audio guy in me picked up on these new Genelec tiny computer monitors (model 6010A). We're not talking your $49 Fry's model here, we're talking seriously high quality in a package that easily fits beside your monitor or laptop without getting in the way. For those of you who don't already know, Genelec is one of the top manufacturers of powered monitors in the audio business, catering to pro audio, TV post, home theater and hi-end consumer. Now there's a desktop model too.

Genelec 6010A Computer Monitors

The volume control (that round thing next to the mouse) for the 6010A's.

I wish I had more products to report but as I said, most of my day was filled with meetings rather than roaming the floor.

11) Finally, after speaking with journalists, exhibitors, attendees and industry sages, the general feeling was that there's a lot of shaking out about to take place in this market. A lot of old-line, bloated companies will not make it despite being perennial market leaders and general 800lb. gorillas. The companies that are lean, virtual, and provide both great products and services will be the winners, but we knew that already, didn't we?

My general feelings after gauging the temperature of the show? The economy's heading in the right direction but it's going to be a slow road getting there. There'll be lots of dead companies along road on the way. Be careful out there!

Video Games Down Too

It seems that even video games have been hit by the recession even though the industry has been thought of as recession proof. Sales were down 17% last month from the previous March.

Despite the fall in sales, industry executives show little worry since December is always the biggest for games, and games have now become a go-to gift. That being said, it appears the Easter sales are something to be counted as well, since 8% of industry sales in March were thought to be for Easter gifts.

Even though the industry is now huge (about $50 billion), it's reliance on blockbuster games is beginning to worry some in the industry. Many games now have the budgets of a big studio feature film, and, just like in the film business, if a big-budget game tanks it could take the developer down with it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sony Starts It's Own Touring Division Down Under

Sony Music Entertainment's Australian affiliate quietly launched a new touring division called Day 1 Entertainment intended to support the upcoming Simon and Garfunkel tour down under.

This is a particularly interesting step that seems to support the "360 deal" idea where a record label would be the sole supplier for everything that an act would ever need, from management to booking to tour support and merchandise.

For a label to warrant a piece of the action of all the revenue streams that an artist receives, it has to provide value in return. Day 1 Entertainment is a way to get into the business away from the media of the US in case of any problems. The fact that they'd begin with such a high-profile act is dubious, but if they should fall on their face we're a lot less likely to hear about it.

I doubt that a high profile act like S&G are paying a premium for this service, but you can bet that any newly signed act to Sony will if the business is a success.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Online Radio Begins It's Takeover

The Infinite Dial report from Edison Research was released last week outlining the listening habits of Americans, and there are some pretty interesting facts that were revealed.

Highlights of the study include:
  • Online radio listenership grew by nearly a third last year as listeners discover specialized niches and new ways to listen
  • 69 million Americans listened to online radio last month alone
  • As a pushback to consultant driven broadcast radio, variety and control were given as the top reasons for the increase in online listening
  • Thanks to in-office listening, 35-54 year olds dominate online radio listening numbers (so that's what they do when they should be working.)
  • Online video saw viewership jump by a third to 69 million
  • 40% of Americans over the age of 12 own an iPod or MP3 player
  • MP3 player ownership among 12 to 17 year olds is 71%!
  • Just 25% of consumers say they've purchased music online, but the number jumps to 41% among online radio listeners
  • 1/3rd of Americans have a social networking profile
  • 2/3rds of 12 to 24 year olds have profiles
  • 40% of people with profiles visit them daily
  • HD-Radio is barely making a dent in the consciousness of the listening public. (This isn't too surprising. The technology was way to long coming to market.)
So it seems that radio listenership is up, but not necessarily for broadcast radio. Listeners are finally revolting against the tightly controlled playlists foisted upon us by Madison avenue, consultants and focus groups. How long will it take before terrestrial radio begins to take notice?


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