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Weekly AUDIO NEWS for December 4, 2002

Major Musicians Being Dropped by Major Labels - The major labels are hurting. EMI shares are down 38% and the French group that owns Universal - the world’s largest recorded music company - has it up for sale. One of the ways these labels are cutting back costs is to simply drop some of their major artists who are not top sellers. So these newly orphaned artists are having to find new ways to be heard. Many have started their own labels - this has become a common thing in the jazz recording world. But even the best performed/recorded/packaged independent CDs often cannot find appropriate distribution channels to stores. Some classical performers have joined with the low-priced/big selling Naxos label, which pays only a flat $1000 fee and no royalties, but has helped make many unknowns into major artists.

Orchestras have begun putting out their own recordings after they are dropped by a major label. The London Symphony with LSO Live and the San Francisco Symphony with their Mahler SACD series are two of these. The latter’s releases are now distributed by London-based Avie, a clearing house for musicians having difficult getting their discs out to the public. The invention of a pair of former executives at Virgin Classics and BMG, Avie currently also has recordings by Trevor Pinnock and tenor Jose Cura. The pioneering LP-boxed-set-of-everything label Vox now offers to press on demand custom CDs made up of any of the over 5000 masters in its vaults. Meanwhile the major labels continue to blame downloading and public disloyalty for their problems.

FireWire Uber Alles - Many of the difficulties in setting up a home entertainment system are going to be simplified with the widespread use of Apple’s FireWire - officially IEEE1394 - which is now an international standard. It was first introduced on Mac computers as a more flexible way to hook up peripherals. FireWire is a complete networking system able to handle just about any sort of digital data and control signals between components. And it doesn’t have to have a computer involved. Regular FireWire can pass signals up to 400 megabits per second, but now there is a powerful new version - GigaWire - that can go as high as 1,200 Mb/s. Therefore it can accommodate even 192K sampling rate - the best that DVD-Audio offers. As an open and international standard FireWire allows a variety of audio, video and computer equipment to talk to one another, never mind the manufacturer of the particular item. The FireWire digital matrix interface specs also include both SACD and DVD-A. This is poised to change the audio cable situation greatly, moving toward digital wiring between everything in the system - similar to a version of the computer cable hookup that Meridian components have featured for some years.

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