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Weekly AUDIO NEWS for February 12, 2003

Surround To Save the Music Business? - A panel sponsored by Surround Pro magazine at last month’s Consumer Electronic Show was titled Can Surround Save the Music Business? Some choice quotes: David Kawakami, director of SACD projects at Sony, sees multichannel as a feature that will get customers to come back to the music stores. “We are starting to see the sales numbers needed for the format to be viable.” He referred to the 22 Rolling Stones hybrid SACDs from ABKCO Records - priced like a standard CD with similar labeling, letting the record companies “break out of the high resolution audio bins” at the stores. Robin Hurley of Warner Bros. DVD-Audio Development said surround is a major factor in the appeal of DVD-A and reported that 400 DVD-A discs are now available. (SACD: Over 1000) Paul Bishow of Universal Music Group observed that surround adds “a new kind of emotional connection to music.” He stressed the importance of educating both retailers and consumers about the new formats. Both Bishow and David Delgrosso of DTS also discussed the difficulties in finding non-EQ’d master tapes for stereo hi-res reissues or the original multitrack masters for 5.1 remixes. For example, a planned 5.1 reissue of Steely Dan’s classic “Aja” album had to be replaced by a reissue of their “Gaucho” album because the master tapes of the former couldn’t be found.

Broadcast Flag FCC Deadline Extended - The deadline for making comments to the FCC about Hollywood’s proposed Broadcast Flag scheme was originally December 6 but has been extended to February 18. The small group of movie studios and major record labels want clearance to insert purpose-built technology into streaming stations and electronic devices, ostensibly to prevent piracy of copyrighted music and films. Their goal is to control what consumers view or play in their own homes, cars etc. - gaining at the same time confidential information about users and their viewing/listening habits. The Consumer Electronics Association and consumer digital rights organizations are fighting the proposal.

Cable’s Power in Music Biz - A much-needed alternative marketing channel to radio and CDs is exploding. Cable subscription services such as DMX Music and Music Choice have announced an agreement with the music industry to license new music for cable use. This is a positive sign in an industry currently plagued by some broadcasters and production companies who are demanding composers/songwriters surrender their writer’s performance royalties as part of their contract.

Composer Lou Harrison Dies - Maverick composer Lou Harrison died suddenly February 2 at age 85. With John Cage he presented the first all percussion concerts, made many of his own unique instruments, was one of the first U.S. composers to blend Western musical forms with Eastern, and was especially fond of the Indonesian gamelan. He premiered Charles Ives’ Symphony No. 3, worked with Virgil Thompson as a critic for the New York Herald Tribune, and founded the Cabrillo Music Festival in Santa Cruz, California. His widely varied and accessible works are available on many different CDs.

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