Tag Archive for: music industry

Over 100 Million Served

Apple’s iTunes Music Store reached the 100 million song mark last week. This is a first for the online music industry. Apple delivered 100 million downloads only 15 months after launching the service in April 2003.

Apple launched a 100 million song promotion on July 1st. During the month of July, iTunes was responding to a rate of just over 2.5 million downloads each week. Apple had initially hoped to distribute 100 million songs within the first 12 months of the launch of the iTunes Music Store. In April 2004, on the first anniversary of the iTunes music store, Apple announced that more than 70 million songs had been downloaded including the 5 million free songs that that were given away as part of the Pepsi/iTunes promotion.

Funny thing though. The iTunes download bar is still missing the Canadian flag. Still. After 15 months.

There is hope. Canada will be added to the Apple system when the CRIA completes its ne­gotiations in the fall. Funny how an organization can take so long to introduce a business model for legal downloads when illegal downloads are decimating the Canadian recording industry.

Randy Bachman’s Collection

I confess. I am a gear addict. I collect all manner of musical instruments as well as the usual suspects that a person needs to equip a recording studio: microphones, outboard, recorders, cables, etc.

I have a nice collection of guitars and amplifiers. My collection pales in comparison to Randy Bachman’s guitar collection.

Randy Bachman, formerly of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, has a collection of roughly 450 guitars. 350 of those guitars are made by Gretsch. The signature guitar sound in the hit song Takin’ Care of Business was played on a Gretsch 6120.

Fred Gretsch believes that Randy Bachman has the largest collection of Gretsch guitars in the world. Bachman has over two dozen 6120s, two dozen White Falcons, as well as two White Penguins.

Although not as much of a household name as Gibson and Fender, Gretsch guitars find their way into many different recordings and even feature films. In the movie I, Robot, Will Smith’s character, Detective Spooner, has a Gretsch or two scattered about his apartment.


A Ticking Time Bomb

Very odd things happen in the pro audio world. Particularly to those folks who develop software for this market. In an unrelenting quest to ensure that nobody steals software, legitimate users have to endure complicated challenge and response authorizations, hardware dongles, and hard disk serializations. Heaven help you if you need to upgrade your computer.

In what must be an ironic twist of fate, Digidesign issued a set of free audio plug-ins to their user base. Only one small problem. The plug-ins have a time bomb. Someone found out about the time bomb on July 7th due to a date error on their computer and posted this finding on the Digidesign User Conference. The actual time bomb was set for July 17th. Digidesign apparently had no advance knowledge of this other than the poster’s notice.

The brand name of the plug-ins: Bomb Factory.

Digidesign bought the plug-ins from Erik Gavriluk. There was a lot of speculation that Erik, the former owner of Bomb Factory, had deliberately time bombed the plug-ins to get back at Digidesign. Apparently Erik had a number of issues with the company.

Looking at Erik’s 12,500 square foot recording studio I would hazard to say that he did pretty well with the Bomb Factory plug-ins as well as the sale of said plug-ins to Digidesign. I doubt that he had anything to do with this time bomb at all.

As far as resolving the time bomb? Digidesign issued a patch for download. The expiration date of the software has now been removed.

Remember the Force, Luke!

Stable.
Reliable.
Predictable.
Available.
Manageable.

I’m going to change all of these attributes of my studio environment. After many years of running Pro Tools on the Windows platform I am caving in and crossing over to the other side. Next week I will receive a dual processor 2.5GHz Apple G5 for the studio as well as another I/O for Pro Tools HD.

This will mean a big change.

I will run the two platforms in parallel while I am bringing up the Apple environment. That way I won’t be committing critical production work to the new platform until I have worked everything out. I may be in for a total surprise. Which is to say that everything just works. I’ve never had that happen before with major technology upgrades like this.

I bought a couple of books on Mac OS X and I have been playing with my daughter’s iBook so I doubt that I will have any major issues from a usability perspective. However, I do know the Windows environment exceptionally well so I will lose out on some of that familiarity.

Why the move to Apple?

In the pro audio community Apple still holds a dominant market position. For example, on the Digidesign User Conference, there are over 130,00 posts on the Pro Tools TDM system for the Mac and only 6,500 posts on the Pro Tools TDM system for Windows. Many of my favourite plugins are only available on the Mac. Most importantly? The G5 just looks like a cool machine.

I’ll let you know how the technology upheaval goes.

Digital Audio Makes You Sick

I came across the following item as I was surfing Lynne Fuston’s site:

Mark Levinson astonished Forum attendees with the revelation that the PCM recording system that is currently used for our CDs, DVDs, television, and cell phones has a negative effect on the body-and that, in addition to the extraordinary improvement in high fidelity, one bit technology has a very positive physical effect. With a demonstration utilizing kinesiology techniques to identify factors which block the body’s natural healing processes and show weaknesses through pressure point testing of muscle strength, Levinson put forth a compelling case.

In a “blind” test on several audience members selected at random, PCM elicited an across-the-board negative response, indicating high stress levels, while response to Super DVD was overwhelmingly positive. Geoffrey Fushi commented: “When Mark did his tests, a shock wave went through the audience. I hope that the recording industry will make a decision to drop PCM and transition to one bit technology-both for the amazing high fidelity and postive phyical effect, and the potential boom in sales as public enthusiasm gains momentum.”

Mark Levinson is an interesting character and a legend in the high-end audiophile community. I find it very odd though that PCM would have a negative impact on the body. I rarely listen to PCM when I play CDs, DVDs, etc. More often than not I prefer to listen to speakers. Last time I checked my speakers were not pushing air one bit at a time. But why let such matters interfere with a good story.

I took a look at one of Mark Levinson’s products, a $6,700 USD CD processor, called the No. 390s. This modestly priced CD processor uses the Analog Devices AD1853 DAC which offers the following attributes:

The AD1853 is the first audio DAC to support the 192 kHz Sample Rate now included in the DVD-Audio specification. The AD1853 is fully compatible with sample rate from 32 kHz up to and including 192 kHz. It also achieves 120 dB Dynamic Range and Signal-to-Noise Ratio without muting and 107 dB THD+N.

The AD1853 also features a superior Digital Filter with 115 dB stop-band-attenuation. The AD1853 uses Analog Devices’ exclusive Multibit Sigma-Delta Modulator with “Perfect Differential Linearity” for reduced idle tones. It also features Analog’s patented Data Directed Scrambling to minimize sensitivity to jitter. The AD1853 also includes a click-less on-chip volume control.

Well, this is bad! The Mark Levinson CD Processor uses a multibit sigma-delta modulator. What’s worse is Mark’s perspective on CD players, even those he tries to sell at $6,700 USD:

We have learned that no matter how much money is spent on CD players and CD-based systems, the results are never truly satisfying.

I’m glad I didn’t buy this CD player after all. Not only does it sound bad but it would have made me sick. My iPod works fine though because I always feel great when I listen to it. MP3 files stream one bit at a time.

Mastering Audio

I am doing final mixes for one project right now and I am also starting final mixes on another project in a few weeks time. Like many others in our field I am starting to lose the thread of all the changes that can occur to a project as it goes through its life. This is due, in part, to the volatile nature of the recording process today. Unlike 20 years ago, where it was very clear what constituted professional recording, we now have an amazing array of technologies, delivery formats and widely ranging engineering skills. So just what do you deliver your finals on these days? And how do you document your finals? In most cases the record companies still dictate these terms.

The P&E wing of the Recording Academy created the Delivery Recommendations for Master Recordings as a specification for transitional and archival storage of master recordings. You can find the full recommendation here. I had a few of my friends participate in the committee.

One item of interest is the need to ensure that each track should be “flattened” as a continuous Broadcast Wave File without processing or automation. In audio engineering we often slice discrete audio tracks into fragments. I have come across many projects where the original track is completely lost. All that is left is the edited and processed track. The original performance is gone forever!

Simply Staggering

I was catching up on the news at the Canadian Recording Industry Association site and I came across this staggering piece of information:

The Tragically Hip, one of Canada’s treasured cultural assets, was one of the hardest hit [by illegal downloads]. During a five-week stretch from 30 March to 7 May, there were more than half a million unauthorized attempts to download the new Tragically Hip single, “Vaccination Scar”. Overall, during this period, Universal Music reported 2.8 million attempts to illegally download The Tragically Hip’s recordings. During the same period fewer than 1,000 copies were purchased legally online.

The article goes on to quote several Canadian artists about their concern over the massive amount of downloading that is taking place on the Internet. Jann Arden makes a compelling argument in the same article:

Downloading music from the Internet is ironically the hope, and alarmingly the impending decay and destruction, of the music industry. Unless these downloads are monitored and artists are compensated for their work, there will be NO work to download. None of us, as writers and performers, can afford to keep making the music that has always, and will always, make the world a little easier to swallow in troubled times. We cannot play if we are not paid. Illegal downloads must be halted and those offenders punished in a court of law. This issue is very serious and should be given much more respect and attention than it has received in this country.

CRIA reports that the Canadian music industry has experienced retail sales losses of in excess of $465 million since 1999, as well as staff layoffs of 25 per cent and more in the industry over the past year. More than 45,000 individuals are directly or indirectly dependent upon the health of the recording industry in Canada, including those in songwriting, recording studios, manufacturing, retailing, broadcasting, music publishing, concert promotion, management and many other primary and support services.

Something to think about if you are tempted to illegally download music.

Line Arrays

A few months back The Prayer Palace, a large church in Toronto, refitted their audio system with a line array from Adamson. Here is some background on the installation:

An Adamson Yaxis Y10 line array was recently installed at the Prayer Palace Ministries in Toronto, Ontario. Designed as an audio system re-fit, the Yaxis system is comprised of 16 Adamson Y10 cabinets, with four SpekTrix enclosures used as a centre cluster.

The Prayer Palace is one of the largest houses of worship in North America, with an octagonal-shaped sanctuary encompassing approximately 38,000 square feet. It is the first church to use Adamson’s new SpekTrix, an ultra-compact, true 3-way line array, in a permanent audio system install.

“The Prayer Palace Ministries hold two regular Sunday masses in this space, which doubles as a sanctuary and a 4,500-seat auditorium capable of hosting a variety of other secular and ethnic events,” said Chris Mathany, Technical Services Director for Sound Plus Show Systems of Concord, Ontario, who completed the installation.

Although Concord is not too far from where I live I have not had a chance to visit this facility although I would like to learn more about what they have been doing with their sound system. There was an article on this installation in Professional Sound magazine. I would like to hear the sound system. I’ve attached a photo of part of the line array. Looks impressive.

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