Monday, May 23, 2005

EMI Profits Nosedive

Subsequent to Coldplay frontman Chris Martin's statement last week that EMI’s shareholders were the 'greatest evil of this modern world', the company is expected to release a profit statement showing a marked decrease in earnings. The expected number is a decrease of 13%, which EMI is blaming on delays in albums from Coldplay and Gorillaz as well as a slump in album sales from other bands on the roster. EMI's response to the 'shareholder' remark was the issuance of a statement saying: "We don't expect or want our rock stars to be stockbrokers”.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Biting the Hand That Feeds

A news story came out this morning saying that Coldplay frontman Chris Martin (Mr. Gwyneth Paltrow) hates the fact that his band sells so many records that EMI’s stock price reacted to the release of their new album. In the Reuters article, Martin is quoted as saying, “I think shareholders are the great evil of this modern world. Deadlines mean nothing to us. We'll sink the whole company (EMI) if we have to". Martin was also “uncomfortable” with all of the publicity surrounding the release of the band’s new album, stating, “All these cameras make us feel like we're on 'The Apprentice’”. Poor, poor millionaire rock star married to a hot Hollywood actress and living in a mansion.

Monday, May 16, 2005

If Anyone Needs Me I’ll be in St. Louis

St. Louis is the latest US city to host a Cabo Wabo Cantina. For those of you not in the know – the Cabo Wabo Cantinas are owned and run by Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar (until I hear news to the contrary I’ll continue to write that he’s still in the band). The first Cabo Wabo was opened in 1990 at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and a second one followed last year at Lake Tahoe, Nevada. The latest Cantina is expected to open in the spring of 2007. In addition to the very successful cantinas, Hagar also develops, manufactures, and distributes his award winning brand of tequila, also called Cabo Wabo.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Gervais and Merchant Host Show on London’s XFM

Ricky Gervais (David Brent on the original UK mockumentary The Office) and Stephen Merchant (Ricky and Stephen were the writers and producers of that show) have announced a new Saturday afternoon show on XFM (104.9 Xfm if you live in the UK or to listen live on the internet). Their six week stint will start Saturday May 28th, and run from 1pm to 3pm (UK time). This will be their second series of shows for XFM, and the first series is archived for download on the station’s website. The comedic pair are said to be working on a new sitcom called, “The Extras”, co starring Kate Winslet, Ben Stiller and Jude Law. In an interview about the new series, Gervais said, “I play a grumpy and sarcastic character who hates being around actors and showbiz types, preferring to lie on my couch at home watching TV. It’s a stretch but I think I can pull it off.”

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Jimmy Page Rocks The NY Stock Exchange

Anyone who watches say, more than twelve hours of MSNBC a day, was yesterday treated about once per hour, to a clip of Jimmy Page playing, “Whole Lotta Love” onstage at the New York Stock Exchange. The Jimmy love didn’t help the stock however as the pps dropped 60 cents, from the opening of $17.00 to about $16.40 by the closing bell.

Bill Gates Doesn’t Like The iPod

Bill Gates was quoted in a German newspaper saying that in his opinion the iPod craze won’t survive in the long run. In his view the cell phone will supplant the iPod as the portable music player of choice in the longer term. In an interview Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Mr. Gates was quoted as saying: "As good as Apple may be, I don't believe the success of the iPod is sustainable in the long run. If you were to ask me which mobile device will take top place for listening to music, I'd bet on the mobile phone for sure.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

New Yahoo! Music Service Sends Competitor Shares Plummeting

Yahoo! today announced plans to enter the online downloadable music business – and at a price that will undercut all of their competitors. Yahoo’s music service will cost $6.99 per month compared to $14.95 for Napster and $12 per month for RealNetworks' Rhapsody. Yahoo’s service will feature over one million songs to choose from and the monthly fee will let subscribers download as many songs as they want. The songs from Yahoo! will play on the Windows Media Player application or any MP3 type portable player.

Upon release of this news, RealNetworks share price dropped 21% and Napster went down 32%. Yahoo! shares on the other hand rose 14 cents. Of course all of these companies are trying to take on Apple’s iPod dominance – which I personally don’t get – iPods only play songs that have been either downloaded through iTunes or have been converted through the iTunes program. You can’t change the batteries on them yourself; you have to pay Apple a hundred bucks to do it for you. Through the Yahoo! Napster and RealNetworks song rental model, however, your portable music player has to be synchronized to the website once per month to ensure that your subscription fees have been paid. And if you want to burn those songs to a disc then an extra fee applies.

I may be a technological philistine, but I think I’ll continue to buy my music in a shop. One day I might even make the move from vinyl and eight track cassettes to some of those newfangled CD things.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Warner Music IPO Tomorrow

On Wednesday May 11th Warner Music Group launches their IPO (under the symbol WMG) with a pps below the initially suggested range of $22 to $24. Insiders are throwing around a $19 share price and there has also been talk of a reduction in the previously announced 32.6 million share deal size, to 27.2 million shares. Warner Music, who is $2.5 billion in debt, hopes to raise $517 million from the IPO.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Educated, Well Off Men Like Satellite Radio

A survey by the Media Audit shows that the audience for satellite radio is made up mostly of men. The surveying company seemed surprised however at the low number of respondents who said that they actually listened to satellite radio. In a press release for the report, Bob Jordan, president of International Demographics, Inc. said, “We were surprised at how little market penetration has been achieved by satellite radio.” International Demographics Inc. is the 34-year-old market research firm which produces The Media Audit. The report showed that the market demographic which makes up satellite radio listeners are affluent and educated with 73% of listeners earning more than $50,000, and 55% had at least one college degree. The age demographic is also different to what the surveyors first assumed – 76% are over the age of 35.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Great News For Tenacious D Fans Worldwide!

News hot off the presses from the mighty ‘D’ website: “05.05.05 Yes the rumors are true....Tenacious D has begun recording new music for their upcoming film PICK OF DESTINY. John King is the producer behind the board and don’t be surprised if there are a few special guests on the album as well. We will keep you posted on some studio reports and perhaps some pictures from the studio as well. Stay tuned!”

In a Billboard interview, 'D' guitarist Kyle Gass expounded on the album's creation: "Gass says the D may try to recruit some of the stars that played on the duo's self-titled 2002 Epic debut for the upcoming sessions. "We'll try to beg Dave Grohl to come back," he says. "Best drummer ever. We liked all the old players. But let's face it. Everyone is dying to play with us, so we can just get on the phone. I'd love to go in and play all the instruments, but I just don't know how.""

EMI Signs Up For Legal Music Sharing With Napster Founder

Musical giant EMI (EMIPY.PK) announced plans today of a deal with legal peer to peer company Snocap. The Snocap Company was founded by the original Napster, Shawn Fanning, and features a digital fingerprint copyright solution to ensure that downloaded songs are used under appropriate restrictions. According to Snocap’s website, the company provides, “the complete range of music that is currently available on peer-to-peer services to the paid digital music marketplace. The company is committed to dramatically improving the consumer’s digital music experience and growing the overall market for music sales.”

In a Businessweek article, David Munns, chairman and chief executive of EMI Music North America, commented, “This sends a signal to music industry critics who claim we are technophobic".

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

News Flash: Regular Radio Listeners Don’t Like Commercials

A new study out from Arbitron (an international media and marketing research firm) and Edison Media Research states that 47% of listeners would listen to “A lot more” radio if there were fewer commercials on-air. The study also reveals that 80% of Americans think that the presence of commercials is a fair price to pay for free radio. In a press release, Bill Rose, senior vice president, of Marketing for U.S. Media Services with Arbitron stated that, “"The overwhelming majority of radio listeners continue to value the time- honored trade of free radio programming in return for listening to commercial messages. This study reveals that consumers are beginning to notice stations with few spot breaks."

The study continued to show that the majority of listeners (69% at work and 49% at home) do not turn the channel immediately when an advert comes on. Only one third of listeners in cars said that they turn the channel when an ad comes on. Interestingly, the study also looked at quantity versus quality, and found that younger listeners were more annoyed by the quantity of commercials while older listeners were also more likely to factor in the “annoyance factor” of just plain stupid advertising.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Rise of Podcasting

I see a trend happening here, (man, is my finger on the pulse of the industry...) and if you’ve been following my last few blogs you’ll see it too. The rise of Podcasting (or at least the rise of Podcasting within traditional radio programming)! Let’s hope it doesn’t turn into this generation’s CB radio, (am I dating myself here…?). Today’s Podcasting news is that Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. (SIRI) will be launching a daily four hour Podcast show starting on May 13th on Sirius channel 148, a talk-radio station that does carry commercials, unlike Sirius' other all-music channels. The show will feature MTV personality Adam Curry. In a written statement Sirius said that their show will, "feature highlights and insights from the world of Podcasting and showcase new talent and artists from around the world, including new music". One more nail in the Clear Channel coffin? (See my last blog for the Clear Channel rant.) The Podcasts will be selected from submissions to the website, a company run by Curry. is aimed at "promoting Podcasting to listeners, Podcast producers and advertisers wishing to reach Podcast audiences". A subscription to Sirius (and XM Satellite Radio) costs $12.95 per month. The radio industry has recently been suffering from sluggish revenues due to decreasing advertising dollars. Clear Channel is also rumored to be jumping on the Podcasting bandwagon, but in the other direction – making Podcasts of their radio shows available online. Where do I sign up?

Friday, April 29, 2005

Clear Channel Announces IPO

Today, the Clear Channel Communications radio conglomerate announced plans to spin off their entertainment division as well as 10% of their outdoor advertising business through an IPO. Clear Channel, despite their previous iron grip monopoly of the concert and radio industries, got on the nerves of certain artistic and consumer sectors (let’s call them ‘people of discerning musical taste', shall we?) by inflating concert ticket prices and dictating radio station airplay lists right into the territory of true homogeneity. Of course the ‘American Idol and Britney Spears loving’ pure vanilla crowd weren’t bothered by the shift – you never go broke pandering to the masses – but the name Clear Channel has grown synonymous with mass manufacturing and marketing of watered down musical entertainment.

Be that as it may, Clear Channel is offering a special one time $3 dividend to current shareholders as well as a 50% increase in its annual dividend. At market close on Thursday Clear Channel shares were trading at $32 per share (the company’s 52 week high is $43.44 and during 2000 the pps was closer to $80). The stock dropped 25% in the last year due to a ‘radio advertising slump’, and profits for the first quarter were down 59%. The company also just came off of one of the weakest years in terms of concert attendance revenues, and has begun to revert branding of live music presentations back to local promoters. The popularity of subscription based digital radio services such as XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio, as well as the amazing growth of the iPod and downloadable music solutions can probably take credit for a lot of the company’s decrease in revenues.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

File Sharing = Prison Time

"So what are you in for?"
"File sharing..."

A new law (The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act) has just been put into effect stating that file swappers who share even a single pre-release (copies of films that have yet to be released theatrically) copy of a movie can be imprisoned for up to three years. The law was signed yesterday by President Bush after copies of “Star Wars: Episode Two”, “The Hulk”, and Tomb Raider” were shared online before their release to theatres.

Further to yesterday’s Podcasting blog – a new search engine has been unveiled, the first to cater specifically to Podcasting, called Podscope. The engine works by way of an audio and video ‘spider’ which crawls each Podcast using a ‘Speech to Text’ algorithm. Therefore when you search Podscope it trawls through its collection of transcribed texts and then allows you to play the entire broadcast, just the section which mentions your search terms, or to visit the site itself.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Infinity Podcasting and XM Radio Numbers

News just hit the wire that Infinity Broadcasting will be incorporating the Podcasting craze as a lynchpin of their new media strategy. The programs will be made up entirely of listener Podcasts and will launch on May 16th at San Francisco’s Talk KYCY-Am, and will be streamed online at Good news for those of us who are tired of the Clear Channel monopoly on what passes for musical taste and culture.
Podcasting is now officially the new fashion ‘black’ with thousands of new shows on just about any topic under the sun being published every day by regular people with internet access.
In other news, XM Satellite Radio (Nasdaq: XMSR) announced over 541,000 new subscribers (a 68% increase over last quarter’s additions) along with their first quarter 2005 financial results. The company’s revenues were a 140% increase over those of the fourth quarter 2004. Despite the increase however, the company’s first quarter 2005 revenue results still show a net loss of $119.9 million. The company’s new subscriber forecasts beat analysts' financial estimates, but shares were still down 2.7 percent during morning trading. XM said that they remain on track to reach 5.5 million subscribers by year-end.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Online Music Set For (More) Explosive Growth

According to In-Stat, a research firm in Scottsdale, Ariz., the worldwide online music market is expected to grow 134 percent in 2005, reaching $1 billion for the first time. The report states that, “more than 200 sites offering digital downloads are now available. While Peer-2-Peer (P2P) and piracy issues have not entirely disappeared, consumers are showing heightened awareness and interest in legitimate online music services.” recently reported that RealNetworks (RNWK) now has more than one million subscribers to its subscription music services. And how many teenagers and people on busses and trains do you see without an iPod?
You do the math.

Monday, April 25, 2005

SLS International News + Steve Vai Update

News just arrived that SLS International (OTCBB: SITI) – manufacturers of loudspeakers using new Planar Ribbon technology – announced that their RLA/2s speakers will be the speaker of choice at the next Naples Winter Wine Festival, to be held in Naples, Florida. SLS also recently announced record breaking first quarter revenues – up 62% over fourth quarter 2004 figures. For those of you not yet familiar with SLS’s merchandise, you can read up on how impressed I was with their HTA Surround Sound System here. They’re definitely worth a spin round the musical block.

For those of you wondering how my rock star stalking went this past weekend – the Steve Vai (ex guitarist for Frank Zappa, David Lee Roth, Whitesnake) show in Seattle was very impressive. As you can see from the photos below, I was fortunate enough to meet Steve. We chatted for a while, he signed every bit of paper I threw at him, and then as if I wasn’t happy enough about the whole ordeal, he let me play "Evo", his personal Ibanez Jem guitar. Yes I was in musician heaven. Afterwards during the show I had to wonder to myself if Steve’s amazing band was indeed human… If you get a chance, definitely catch the Vai band if they come to a town near you, I highly recommend it, if extreme musicianship is your bag.

My thanks to Steve Vai for humoring an old die hard fan for so long!
Brian meets Steve Vai
Brian playing Steve's Ibanez Jem, "Evo"

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Virtual Guitar Customization

Will wonders never cease? The originators of the world’s first digital modeling guitar, Line 6 have just released their Variax Workbench customizing software. In conjunction with a Variax guitar or bass it is now possible to design your dream axe on your computer and then to download it into your instrument. Musicians can choose between wood types, pickups, pickup positioning, body and neck type, volume and tone knob tweaking, and all through a USB connection between your computer and instrument. Wow. It all sounds very intriguing, but speaking as someone who loves the smell of sawdust and nitrocellulose lacquer, I won’t be putting away my jigsaw and router just yet. But I can imagine that as a tool for testing out different combinations of components before putting saw to wood, this tool will be invaluable. Click here for the full details.

The blogging on this column will be taking a short break as I’m off to Seattle on Friday for the Steve Vai show – armed with backstage tickets. Let the rock star stalking begin!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Music Products Sales in U.S. Hit Record $7.3 Billion in 2004

Good news for the music instrument manufacturing industry. NAMM (the International Music Products Association) recently released the results of a national survey revealing a record-setting level of musical instrument and product sales in 2004. Last year's sales were an increase of 5.2% over 2003. I would blame the prevalence of cheap home recording software for PCs and Macs (Cubase, Cakewalk, Nuendo, Pro Tools) for encouraging more people to start playing an instrument, and then to record their own number one hit singles as MP3s for use in their PODCasts and to trade on P2P networks (assuming that the RIAA doesn't shut them down first). The peripherals (audio interfaces, microphone preamps, USB controllers) market should also be seeing an upsurge in interest as the technology becomes more mainstream and therefore cheaper.

To read the full report click here: