But as the two satellite radio providers carefully ponder their mobile strategies and chew over business plans, a small group of technically savvy devotees are taking matters into their own hands.
Grassroots software and Web developers have found ways to tap into XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq:XMSR – news) and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.’s (Nasdaq:SIRI – news) Web sites to stream music channels on to Windows-powered smartphones and other devices.
Most have given their work away for free to other fans since late last year — running into conflict with the wireless business strategies of the satellite radio providers.
Both orchestras are part of a new initiative by the Universal Music Group built on its Deutsche Grammophon and Decca labels. Christopher Roberts, president for classics and jazz for Universal Music Group International, says that DG Concerts and Decca Concerts will, between them, ultimately service about 10 orchestras in the United States and abroad. Negotiations are under way with orchestras in London, Paris and three German cities. The current intention is for each orchestra to offer, on average, four concerts a season for digital downloading, and one of the four would also be released on CD.
The project reflects a seismic shift in the way music is being discovered, distributed and heard. In 2005, Nielsen SoundScan reports, sales of digital tracks for downloading to computers or portable music players soared to 353 million units in the United States, up 150 percent from 2004. Downloads of digital albums increased 194 percent, to 16 million. Although classical labels arrived late to the party, they, too, are experiencing growth in this area. While sales of classical CD’s in the United States decreased by 15 percent last year, SoundScan reports, digital downloads of classical albums grew by 94 percent. More significant, several labels are finding that the classical share of the download music business is about 7 percent, more than twice the share in physical retail outlets.
For the classical music industry, weary of alarmist talk about the graying of its audience, the demographics are promising.
Why education remains critical: Op-Ed Contributor: Searching for Dummies
Many students seem to lack the skills to structure their searches so they can find useful information quickly. In 2002, graduate students at Tel Aviv University were asked to find on the Web, with no time limit, a picture of the Mona Lisa; the complete text of either “Robinson Crusoe” or “David Copperfield”; and a recipe for apple pie accompanied by a photograph. Only 15 percent succeeded at all three assignments.
Today, Google may have expedited such tasks, but the malaise remains. In the February newsletter of the American Historical Association, the reference librarian Lynn D. Lampert notes the prevalence of “ill-conceived (or often nonexistent) student research practices.” As another university librarian, Pamela Martin, observed, “Google’s simplicity and impressive search prowess trick students into thinking they are good all-around searchers, and when they fail in library searches, they are ashamed as well as confused.”
Higher education is fighting back. Librarians are teaching “information literacy” and establishing alternative Web indexes. Graduate students, in the front lines as teaching assistants, are starting to discuss joining Wikipedia rather than fighting it, as many instructors still, quixotically, do.
Just three short years ago — an eternity when you consider the explosive growth of the online juggernaut — regular Internet users already spent 25½ hours a month sitting at the computer, the Nielsen/NetRatings study says. By now that has shot up to 30½ hours — fully an hour a day. (It’s a wonder that people still also have time to watch the vast quantity of television they do. When do they wash the floor? Practice piano? Do laundry?)
Why so much time at the PC? Surely because, as Nielsen/NetRatings’ figures also show, broadband use has exploded, to 68 percent of Web users today from 33 percent three years ago.
At Rite-Solutions, the architecture of participation is both businesslike and playful. Fifty-five stocks are listed on the company’s internal market, which is called Mutual Fun. Each stock comes with a detailed description — called an expect-us, as opposed to a prospectus — and begins trading at a price of $10. Every employee gets $10,000 in “opinion money” to allocate among the offerings, and employees signal their enthusiasm by investing in a stock and, better yet, volunteering to work on the project. Volunteers share in the proceeds, in the form of real money, if the stock becomes a product or delivers savings.
Mr. Marino, 57, president of Rite-Solutions, says the market, which began in January 2005, has already paid big dividends. One of the earliest stocks (ticker symbol: VIEW) was a proposal to apply three-dimensional visualization technology, akin to video games, to help sailors and domestic-security personnel practice making decisions in emergency situations. Initially, Mr. Marino was unenthusiastic about the idea — “I’m not a joystick jockey” — but support among employees was overwhelming. Today, that product line, called Rite-View, accounts for 30 percent of total sales.
“Would this have happened if it were just up to the guys at the top?” Mr. Marino asked. “Absolutely not. But we could not ignore the fact that so many people were rallying around the idea. This system removes the terrible burden of us always having to be right.”
But many of the videos on “Web Junk” come from viewers — creative people using affordable digital video cameras and desktop software to shoot and edit and post their own clever shorts. “Saturday Night Live’s” rap sketch “Lazy Sunday,” perhaps the most widely seen viral video of late, has already inspired numerous parodies, including “Lazy Monday” (featuring two 11-year-old Chicago boys lip-synching to the original), “Lazy Muncie” (where the honor of the Midwest is defended) and “Lazy Saturday” (the West Coast answer to “Lazy Sunday”), which was featured on Episode 4 of “Web Junk 20.”
It’s an updated version of the long-running series “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” but with a twist: “The distinction,” said Mr. Graden, “would be that I would call ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ accidentally created, and these are often purposely created by people to express their own sense of comedy and commentary.”
[…] And the more new shows there are, the more opportunities for the nation’s grass-roots filmmakers to have their material seen. “The technology has opened up in a massive way so that everyone in some way or another is potentially the next great viral auteur,” said Andrew Cohen, Bravo’s vice president of production and programming. “I think that’s great. I just don’t want anyone to hurt themselves lighting themselves on fire or jumping off a building.”