January 23, 2005

Slashdot on Sony Schizophrenia [3:11 pm]

The Slashdot story, Father of PlayStation Admits Sony Mistakes (a repeat of Sony Admits MP3 Error), cites this AP Wire report: Update 2: Sony Video Chief Admits Strategic Mistakes [pdf]

Ken Kutaragi, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., said he and other Sony employees have been frustrated for years with management’s reluctance to introduce products like Apple Computer Inc.’s iPod, mainly because the Tokyo company had music and movie units that were worried about content rights.

Now, Sony’s divisions are finally beginning to work together and share a common agenda, Kutaragi said at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Tokyo.

[...] High-ranking Sony officials have rarely publicly said their proprietary views were a mistake. Kutaragi, who has long been viewed as a candidate to lead Sony, was unusually direct in acknowledging Sony had made an error and blaming proprietary concerns from its entertainment division.

Later: Sony’s quarterly report discussed here - Tax Credits Give Sony Profit, Masking Troubled Quarter

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Webcasting As Avenue To National Radio Audience [12:21 pm]

Easy Listening

Why is a Southern California public radio station promoting events on the other side of the country? Because while new media and old media are supposed to be enemies, KCRW.com is trying to make them allies, by building an online listener base — and in the process trying to create what amounts to a national brand. For the past few years, KCRW.com has broadcast three “streams,” including a 24-hour music option.

[...] KCRW has long had a certain tastemaker status, centered on the weekday show “Morning Becomes Eclectic,” which lives up to its name by giving time to artists across a swath of genres, from Eleni Mandell, the Los Angeles singer-songwriter, to club favorites like the Scissor Sisters and indie-rock bands like Franz Ferdinand.

[...] [Station DJ Nic] Harcourt has been a particular champion of raising KCRW’s profile. The station has sponsored and held more and more music events in Los Angeles, and in the last year or so, has done the same in San Francisco and New York. The idea is that as commercial radio has become increasingly timid, canned and predictable, there is an opportunity for a station like KCRW to leverage its tastemaker status. And while satellite radio is providing one alternative, it’s built on the idea of restricting your tastes one genre at a time. So stations like KCRW (along with Philadelphia’s WXPN and its syndicated ”World Cafe” show, and a few others, like WFUV in the Bronx) are now crucial to idiosyncratic bands like Brazilian Girls, the smaller record labels that promote them and the music consumers who want to be surprised.

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Ummm - It’s Snowing [10:51 am]

A lot - for quite a while now. And it’s really cold (16°F, if my thermometer is to be believed), so it’s not the kind of weather one goes for a walk in the snow - not a Robert Frost sort of snow.

But I had to take this picture of one of my wife’s garden ornaments. Somewhow, it just sort of sums up this storm.

Certainly, once the wind stops blowing enough to make shoveling something less that purely Sysiphean, I expect I’ll be feeling what he’s feeling now!

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Fallows on Governments, Innovation and Technology Policies [9:58 am]

Bush Didn’t Invent the Internet, but Is He Good for Tech?

There is a long historical background to the administration’s choices, plus a variety of recent shifts and circumstances. The history stretches to the early days of the republic, and the idea that government-sponsored research in science and technology could bolster private business growth. Progress in farming, led by the land-grant universities, demonstrated this concept in the 19th century. Sputnik-era science, culminating in the work that led to the Internet, did the same in the 20th century.

[...] An environment in which the exchange of information is timely and inexpensive, rather than slow and costly, can foster the growth of many industries.

[...] During President Bill Clinton’s first term, the Office of Management and Budget issued a bold new document on balancing these interests. Although it reeked of “bridge to the 21st century”-style futurism, it had actually been prepared and approved by the previous Bush administration and was released under President Clinton virtually unchanged. The document was called O.M.B. Circular A-130 [current revision], and its crucial argument was that the government should distribute information as quickly, as broadly and as cheaply as possible - technically, “at no more than the cost of dissemination” - and that it should do so via the most modern channels available. Of course, that meant the Internet.

[...] When the George W. Bush administration arrived, it faced a choice. Should it dump the A-130 policy like other detritus of the Clinton era, sparing more companies disruption like Mead’s? Or should it push ahead, because of the assumed benefit of free information to the economy?

In general, and perhaps surprisingly, it kept pushing. Compromises were struck and adjustments were made - and information with any conceivable link to the “war on terror” was locked up tight. [...] But for the most part, the federal government acted in the spirit intended by George H. W. Bush and put into effect by Mr. Clinton.

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Alternative Business Models: Music Commissions [9:50 am]

Music Fit for a King, Written for a Dentist

Patronage of music by individuals may seem like a throwback to the days when noblemen maintained court orchestras with composers to write for them. Today, a few private donors have made names for themselves commissioning new music (notably Betty Freeman, who since the 1960’s has supported the likes of John Adams, Steve Reich, Morton Feldman and John Cage), but most of the big patrons of contemporary music are linked with institutions, giving money to symphony orchestras, operas and new concert halls.

As it turns out, anyone can commission a piece of music. Like the Hoeschlers, Maurice and Lillian Barbash were inspired to celebrate their 40th anniversary with music: they asked Yo-Yo Ma which composer he would like to write a cello concerto for him. He chose Leon Kirchner, and the piece went on to win a Grammy.

[...] Of course, there’s a major difference between buying a painting by Modigliani and commissioning a piece for Midori. You can’t hang a piece for Midori on your wall. You don’t own the rights. It isn’t “yours.”

“At the end of the day, you have a few fun evenings and a CD,” Ms. Gould said. “When you collect paintings you have something that goes up in value. You can actually make money. What I do in music is strictly altruistic.”

Much of the time, you don’t even get a CD. The musicians’ union is notoriously strict about licensing recordings; musicians have to be properly paid for their performances, which means the cost of a professional-quality recording is often as much again as the cost of commissioning and performing a work in the first place.

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