All information in these pages is copyright (c) 1995 by Roger Nichols.
All rights reserved. Permission for personal reference only, and may not
be reproduced by any method without written permission.
CDs While You Wait
by Roger Nichols
As you can see, I have written my little fingers to the bone this month,
so this won't take long. I got an Alesis BRC to test out this month along
with a beta unit of the Alesis AI-1 digital interface box with built in
sample rate conversion. After reviewing the Tascam DA-88 and doing all of
the transfers analog, I decided to see what the actual difference was between
using a sample rate converter or just going analog. The results were surprising
and you will get to see them next time. Until then, don't be afraid to make
your transfers analog. And from me, a guy who has to wash his own mouth
out with soap every time he uses the "A" word, that is a pretty
My latest pet peeve is over the recent Blockbuster/IBM joint announcement
dealing with distributing and selling CDs. The way it would work is like
this. You walk into the record store and enter a booth where you can listen
to any cut on any CD that you are interested in purchasing. When you have
decided which one gets your hard earned money, you push the button and insert
your credit card. The CD is recorded for you on the spot. It would take
about six minutes to crank out your CD while a color laser printer churns
out the CD booklet. If there is some special packaging associated with the
particular CD, then you would get a temporary booklet and the real one would
be mailed to you. Bingo Gringo.
Finally, no matter how esoteric the CD you are looking for is, you can be
guaranteed of walking out of the store with it. Blockbuster says that based
on surveys they have conducted, as much as 40% of the people who go to the
store to buy a particular CD can't find what they are looking for. This
would change all of that.
For the person who wants to expand their musical horizons, imagine being
able to listen to the CD before you buy it. Let's say you read about this
new world music movement to combine Celtic Harp music with Pygmy chanting.
When you get to the music store you discover that there are seven different
CDs of this stuff. It would be nice if you could listen first.
You know, that is the way it used to be back in the 60s. In California it
was Walich's Music City at Sunset and Vine in Hollywood. You would get the
records out of the rack and go into this little phone booth size listening
room. You could play records 'till your brain felt like a stale tortilla,
and then go up to the counter and tell them which ones you wanted. They
sales staff would hand you a new sealed copy and you were on your way.
Warner Bros. Records and Sony Music said that they would not support Blockbuster
in such an endeavor. They have their CD plants and their distribution companies
An interesting side aspect of this new system would be that since all of
the product is delivered by computer, then all of the accounting and payment
could be done the same way. When you pay for your CD, the record company's
account gets credited instantly, and so could the artist and songwriter
royalty accounts. I guess that may cut down on the funny accounting practices
that seem to crop up from time to time.
It seems that the record companies should be all for this new technology.
Their CD plants could start gearing up for blank CDs. There is another profit
center that will need to be addressed. It seems that if those 40% of the
customers now left with a CD, record company profits would increase. Blockbuster
says that without the shipping and handling charges that average about $3
per CD, the prices of CDs should come down. And what about the reduced inventory
that would be required by each store, and the reduced cost of handling all
of the returns? It seems like all there is good news for the consumer.
The format doesn't have to be limited to CD, either. It seems to me that
you could just as easily get the MiniDisk, DAT, Cassette or DCC (choke,
sorry) version instead if that is what you wanted. The record companies
wouldn't have to complain about stocking so many different formats.
Guess what? If the big record companies try to fight this new technology
they are in for a surprise. It seems that a few years ago the record companies
tried to stop DAT by requiring SCMS copy protection. The agreement between
the RIAA and all of the equipment manufacturers was that in exchange for
the copy code hardware that each customer would be allowed to make a single
copy of the purchased CD for his/or her own use. It didn't say anything
about having to take physical delivery of the CD before you copy it, did
it? There is nothing wrong with the premise that you could walk in to the
record store, pay for the CD of your choice, and then allow the store, as
your agent, to make the copy for you. Follow me? If you pay the record company
for your copy of the music, you can put it on whatever format you want.
Remember what happened to video rental stores in the early 70s? The movie
studios tried to put them all out of business. Now these same movie studios
are proud to announce that video sales and rentals contribute to as much
as 50% of the total income produced by a movie. There are tons of movies
that are produced only for video release.
The same thing is going to happen because of the Blockbuster/IBM idea. Record
companies will make more money from their old catalogs. A re-release will
only need to sell a few hundred copies to make it worth while to re-master
it. Small record companies will have more of a chance against the big guns
than they have in the past. Nobody will have to get out the crystal ball
and try to decide how many CDs to press up and distribute. New record companies
will start up in project studios. The consumer sitting in the listening
booth at the record store will stand an equal chance of hearing your CD
that you made in your basement for $300, or the new Michael Jackson Megabuck
Think about it. There already are homes with CD recorders. Coupled with
some of the new digital audio by satellite companies, soon you will be able
to order the CD after seeing the video and have it sent right to your home,
just like pay-per-view movies.
Well, that is all I have to say this month. Let me know what you think.
Even better, let your favorite record company know what you think. Let your
favorite record store know what you think. Let the 7-11 owner know what
you think (if you can find an interpreter). Soon one of these new CD listening
booths may be right next to the cash machine in every convenience store.
I just hope they don't put the CD recorder near the Slurpie machine.