Napster Takes the Beta Route
Unable to keep a good thing down, Napster is back up and running — this time in beta form. The embattled peer-to-peer file-sharing music outfit has been back in court to discuss the finer points of the court-ordered restrictions. However, in an attempt to show the music industry that it will not go quietly into the night, 20,000 volunteers are beginning to access some 110,000 tracks available on the new Napster service. The catch: The available music is from indie labels because Napster has yet to strike deals with the Big 5. To make sure that things go swimmingly, Napster has chosen its security system and billing software package from Counterpoint Systems and Portal Software, respectively. Unlike other services that launched in late December, the beta version allows the downloaded music to be burned to CD or transferred to a portable player. And all this can be yours, too, for $5 or $10 a month for 50 downloads.
Power to the Prince Fans
Prince and the New Power Generation are using the Web to make music more accessible to fans through the NPG Music Club (www.npgmusicclub.com). Since launching in February 2001, the monthly subscription-based online service has been offering members exclusive tracks and other fan club-style perks: free NPG songs, music videos, and the Make Your Own Mix “multimedia experience,” which lets fans build their own mixes of NPG tracks. Prince recently offered club members the first listen of his latest album The Rainbow Children.
THE WORLD IS FLAT
Whether you love it or hate it, you can't deny that Apple's new iMac incorporates a revolutionary design. Unveiled at last month's Macworld Expo in San Francisco (where it quickly earned nicknames ranging from “The Lamp” to “iTit”), the new computer is packed with powerful digital media features, with a new body based around a flat-panel monitor that “hovers” over a dome base.
“The CRT display is now officially dead,” says Apple CEO Steve Jobs of the iMac's 15-inch, 1024×768 LCD flat screen, designed to be twice as bright and three times as sharp as CRT displays, with zero flicker. The adjustable screen swivels on a sleek chrome neck above a super-compact (10.5-inch!), hemispherical base that houses the fastest Mac yet, with an 800MHz PowerPC G4 processor, Apple's SuperDrive for playing and burning CDs and DVDs, up to 1 gigabyte of RAM and up to a 60GB hard drive. Touted as a “digital media hub,” it's also bundled with Apple's iMovie 2 video-editing software, iTunes 2 digital music-management software and iDVD 2, for burning custom DVDs. Two FireWire and five USB ports are built in. See the iMac in action at www.apple.com/imac.
THE LATEST LIQUID
Hot news from Liquid Audio: Liquid Player Six software supports Microsoft's Windows XP and has a new interface with download manager. Users can stream, download, purchase and play back music, and rip and burn CDs from a single application. Support for MP3, Liquid, Windows Media, .WAV and audio CDs, along with a new built-in music Web page, gives users immediate access to a wide variety of music downloads. Free downloads are available at www.liquidaudio.com; an extended Liquid Player Plus Six ($19.95) lets users burn CDs up to four times faster.
“The Internet says to the industry that you folks are yesterday's news, you're following outdated models, your business strategies don't work anymore and your profit motive is showing rather vulgarly.”
— Representative John Conyers Jr. (D) of Michigan, at the Future of Music Policy Summit 2002, held January 7-8, in Washington, D.C.
Read Code, Write Code, Use Code
If you're ready for the virtual studio, check out Studio-in-a-Box from EM Books/ArtistPro (2001, $34.95). Veteran producer and audio journalist Erik Hawkins tells you how to get your desktop studio up and running, from choosing a computer and peripherals to optimizing and troubleshooting your system. The book provides a comprehensive — and frank — rundown of popular products on the market, from sequencers and plug-ins to audio and MIDI interfaces and controllers; including features, compatibility issues, and pros and cons.
Soup Up Your Mac
Got iMac envy? Want your blue G3 or G4 to fit in with your funky studio motif? Or does your dull, gray living room need an accent? Check out Appleskinz, wildly colorful panels that attach to the outside of the side panels for a custom look. Dozens of “skins” are available, from flames and skulls to faux wood finishes, to “personal skins” that display your own photos. For even more customization, paint your own design on a clear skin — or have Appleskinz apply your logo. Check outwww.appleskinz.com.
WEB RADIO, NO COMPUTER
It's old news that Web radio lets you tune in to everything from London shows to soccer news from South America to your old college radio station. But now you can do it in style, with Philips' FW-i1000 Internet Radio Mini Shelf System. Using the free iM Tuning Service from iM Networks, the FW-i1000 lets listeners plug in directly to a broadband connection and tune into iM's “Best of Planet” Internet radio, broadband-optimized programming or any MP3 Internet audio stream. Radio stations can be sorted by genre, region or language; although the FW-i1000 doesn't require a computer, it can play custom MP3 playlists on locally networked PCs. And it's all housed in a slick, brushed-metal component system that would look great in a living room. Street price is less than $500; visit www.philips.com or www.imnetworks.com.
In Search of… The DAW
So you're looking to buy an audio workstation and you're ready to shop around. Where do you start? You might want to check out www.dawguide.com, the new online home of The DAW Buyers Guide. An independent online guide to digital audio workstations, disk-based multitracks and disk-based recorders, the guide lists product summaries for nearly 300 random-access recording and editing products designed for prosumer/professional audio applications. Users can search by criteria such as primary application, system type, host platform, sample rate and cost range. For first-timers, a glossary of audio terms helps demystify features. The guide is compiled by Sypha, UK-based audio consultants and researchers. Other Sypha guides include The NLE Buyers Guide, The Internet for Broadcasters, Tapeless Technology in Radio Applications — The User's Point of View and The Nonlinear Video Buyers Guide.