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Mark Fleischmann

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 01, 2006 0 comments
To whet consumer interest in music downloads, and celebrate the release of the LG chocolate phone, Verizon has eliminated the monthly fee previously levied for its Vcast Music store. When the service made its debut last year, users had to pay a $15/month charge in addition to per-track charges. Now you can buy the hip chocolate phone and pay for songs by the track, period. The chocolate phone costs $150 and another $100 will buy you a 2GB mini-SD memory card to store music and photos. Music costs $1.99 per track, but you're allowed to download each one twice, once on the phone and once on your PC. The $1.99 may seem a little steep compared to iTunes, but Sprint Nextel charges an even stiffer $2.50 per track. Vcast downloads come in the Windows Media Player format, with DRM, of course. Bumping unfettered MP3 files from PC to phone was impossible when V Cast made its debut in January, but Verizon insisted that this was purely a software hurdle, and you're now free to load the phone with MP3s.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 31, 2006 0 comments
Live music broadcasts go all the way back to the golden age of radio—to the very first broadcast, in fact, when the first broadcaster played his fiddle. And concert halls are again becoming studios. Live Nation, the world's largest operator of concert venues, has already wired 36 major venues and festival sites and plans to bring the number up to 120 by year-end. The result, for viewers, will be sizzling live music delivered to your TV, PC, cellphone, FM or satellite radio—any program provider willing to do business with Live Nation, a new company spun off from Clear Channel. The project is already pretty busy, having broadcast 250 shows from 50 artists in 2005. Given that LN stages 29,000 events per year, there's plenty of room for growth. What I'm hoping is that LN will discover how dull stadium performances can be, visually and sonically, and concentrate instead on bringing home music from the sweaty little clubs, where the real excitement is. Like, say, the House of Blues, which LN recently acquired. Oh, and please, record in 5.1. (PS: Readers have the right to know that I am a Live Nation stockholder.)
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 28, 2006 4 comments
Behind the rack again? It worries me when you squat back there for half an hour and your face turns red.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 27, 2006 1 comments
Or "tattles," as The New York Times put it. In an effort to mend fences with frazzled advertisers, TiVo's new research division will sell data on its 4.4 million users and their ad-viewing habits or lack thereof. Ad skipping is a hot issue—ABC's ad-sales chief is actually trying to convince cable operators to "disable the fast-forward" on their DVRs! Half of TiVo use is time shifting and 70 percent of that group has a finger on the fast-forward button. But TiVo hopes data on specific commercials will help advertisers design better ones. The researchers will sample 20,000 TiVo users per night, reporting back what was watched and when. More specific details on viewer demographics won't be revealed due to TiVo's privacy policy though the company told the Times that may change by year-end. With the feds demanding logs from the major search engines, TiVo's data mining may be the least of our problems.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 26, 2006 2 comments
The weeks of carefully orchestrated of leaks and rumors surrounding Microsoft's iPod-like Zune have approached the viral intensity of an Apple product launch. Confirmation finally came in Billboard with the announcement of "a family of hardware and software products" by Chris Stephenson, general manager of marketing for MSN Entertainment Business. As rumored, the product will ape Apple by integrating a music player with software downloads. But it will also one-up the iPod by offering wi-fi for functions that will include downloading, purchasing, and exchanging songs with a limited number of other users. Not an original idea, but maybe a powerful one. Stephenson raised several other possibilities without confirming any of them: "The ability to connect the different devices is a key part of the strategy. Whether it's a portable media device, or a phone, or the Xbox or Media Center PC, the idea is you can access your entertainment from anywhere." The music industry, eager for "flexible" pricing, will be happy to release its foie-gras-engorged gut from the 99-cent corset imposed by Steve Jobs and iTunes. Not so pleased are the manufacturers and download services who have licensed Microsoft's PlaysForSure DRM. They are effectively frozen out of the new integrated Zune hardware/software environment. Prospects for Zune's survival? Send me one and I'll get back to you.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 25, 2006 2 comments
Stepping up its anti-obscenity campaign, the Federal Communications Commission is asking broadcasters for tapes of live sporting events. Government employees are going to sift through them just to make sure an athlete, coach, or spectator hasn't spoken the f-word or some other weapon of mass corruption. This does not sit well with broadcasters who have added on-field mics and in-car cameras to give viewers more of a you-are-there feeling. "It looks like they want to end live broadcast TV," one anonymous TV executive told The Hollywood Reporter. The latest federal obscenity law imposes fines of as much as $325,000 per violation, a tenfold increase from the former law. It remains unclear how this would affect President Bush, who signed the anti-pottymouth law and then went off to a summit full of world leaders and uttered the s-word into an open mic.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 24, 2006 0 comments
The well-tempered speakers.

Some speakers start communicating immediately. Ten seconds after I got these JBLs started, I was engrossed. Before I set them up, I'd just gotten halfway through the first disc of Vladimir Feltsman's hard-to-find four-disc set of Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier. Having just rearranged my reference system to better visual and sonic advantage, I was loath to pull it apart again, but duty called. The Cinema Sound speakers simply picked up where my reference speakers left off. They sounded neutral, substantial, and well able to keep up with both the recording's shifting dynamics and its liquid beauty.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 24, 2006 1 comments
Gracenote, the leading music metadata provider—for the iPod, no less—has cut a deal with music publishers to deliver lyrics in digital form. The company says possible applications include digital music retailers, mobile providers, search engines, music portals, and of course music players and servers. The prospect of seeing the words to a song scrolling down your MP3 player screen is an appealing and timely one. Once listeners could read lyrics in giant LP gatefolds or CD booklets. But even in the heyday of those formats, that wasn't always a given, and in the age of downloads, lyrics have been relegated to unauthorized websites (which may soon see a crackdown). So Gracenote's move is progress. But in a music industry where artists don't always get their fair share, how much can a songwriter expect to get paid if her lyrics are licensed as a new product? Emails on this subject to Gracenote and Gracenote's publicist went unanswered.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 21, 2006 0 comments
What's in a name? Logitech bills this iPod accessory as a set of "portable speakers," not a "system." That makes it smaller than such other iPod-compatible notables as the Bose SoundDock, Klipsch iGroove, and Apple's own Hi-Fi. It also signals a reduction in pricing, features, and expectations. The mm50 doesn't try to blow you away. It just provides an intravenous feed of music to keep you from going bonkers. In that respect it should not be underestimated.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 20, 2006 2 comments
Consumers are buying more DVDs this year—but are also buying fewer fresh movie titles. That's what the folks at NPD's VideoWatch are saying. Sales of new DVDs rose seven percent during the first quarter of 2006. However, only nine percent of consumers said they intended to buy DVDs of movies running in theaters during the first five months of 2006, down from 11 percent in the same period of 2005. Maybe Hollywood needs to make better films. Overall, says NPD, for the year ending in April 2006: "47 percent of all videos were rented, 30 percent were purchased from a store, 15 percent were from subscription services, eight percent from pay-per-view (PPV) or video-on-demand (VOD) services and one percent was downloaded directly from the Web."

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