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Digital Music

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Digital Music Essay, Research Paper

Some cable television companies have been sending music across coaxial

cable for years. But until recently, these were sent in an analog format

using an FM frequency. Now companies are experimenting with sending CD-quality

music in digital format across the same coaxial cable.

In September 1991, International Cablecasting Technologies began selling

a premium cable service, called Digital

Music Express (DMX), to subscribers in 146 cable systems. DMX offered

30 channels of music programs, from classical to jazz to hard rock. DMX

had the backing of several big hitters, including cable operators Tele-Communications,

Inc. (TCI) and Viacom, and cable

equipment maker Scientific Atlanta.

DMX delivered the music channels using the space between existing cable

channels for its audio signals, thereby allowing cable companies to increase

their revenues without giving up any space on their systems.

After trialing the service in residences, DMX was ready to go into the

business sector in 1993, targeting hotels, restaurants, retailers, hospitals,

and professional offices. It offered several advantages to businesses,

including 24-hour music with no deejays or commercials and a specific

music style to match the business’s need (soothing music for an upscale

restaurant, fast-paced easy listening rock for a fast food restaurant).

A business could even choose a different music channel for different locations

in the business, for example, a hotel might choose different music selections

for the pool area, the bar, the restaurant, the lobby, and the elevator.

Competing with Muzak

In the commercial arena, DMX’s major competitors included Audio Engineering

Inc. (AEI) and Muzak. AEI

distributed its music through customized tapes and over five channels

on a satellite system. Muzak, which had been around since the 1930s, used

a subcarrier of the FM radio band. DMX, which charged a little more, felt

it could attract business away from these two companies with high-quality

digital sound and the variety offered by its highly customized 30 channels.

But at the same time Digital Cable Radio (DCR) was coming on strong.

Its supporters included cable operators General Instrument, Adelphia Cable

Communications, Comcast Cable Communications, Continental Cable Vision,

Cox Cable Communications, Times Mirror Cable Television, and Time Warner

Cable and music labels Warner

Music Group and Sony Software Corporation. In 1994, EMI

Music joined the partnership. DCR’s service, called Music Choice,

provided its subscribers with a digital tuner that allowed them to use

a telephone line, cable line, or direct broadcast satellite input to receive

its service.

In mid-1994, DCR officially changed its name to Music

Choice and, in late 1994, it announced that it would begin a new direct

broadcast satellite (DBS) radio service, the first company in the United

States to offer this option.

By mid-1994, digital audio broadcasting (DAB) was firmly established

and had the music industry concerned that it could eventually render records

and CDs obsolete, as well as complicate the copyright and royalties questions.

To prevent subscribers from simply recording new album releases, the various

DAB providers, like DMX and Music Choice, never played an entire album

at once and didn’t pre-announce whose music would be next.

Congress Amends Copyright Act

In October,1995, the Performance

Right in Sound Recordings bill passed Congress and was added as an

amendment to the U.S.

Copyright Act. In part, the bill granted copyright owners the right

to authorize the digital transmission of their works via digital audio

cable services, satellite music services, commercial online providers,

and other digital subscription services. The new law reduced the chances

of lost revenue to record labels and recording artists from digital audio

transmission subscription services.

Also in 1995, Progressive Networks

and Xing Technology introduced

software that can "stream" audio to a computer in small digital

data packets. Streaming audio allows the PC user to hear the audio instantly

as it’s delivered to the PC modem. The PC user can then access a radio

station’s World Wide Web site through the Internet and use the computer’s

sound card to listen to the radio station. It also permitted the entry

of a new type of digital audio service typified by start-up company AudioNet.

AudioNet has a network of 30 radio stations that broadcast over the Internet.

Although the number of users for Internet radio is small, the potential

is enough to have companies like AudioNet testing the waters.

With passage of the Telecommunications Act of

1996, the telephone companies and cable television companies were

given free rein to enter the other’s line of business. Three telephone

companies (Bell Atlantic, Nynex,

and Pacific Telesis) have formed a joint venture called TELE-TV, whose

stated purpose was to offer interactive video services, such as televised

concerts, and digital programming directly over telephone lines. TELE-

TV’s digital programming plans include providing digital music. It also

intends to directly sell music titles on television by using its interactive


The distribution of music in a digital format is one of the latest uses

of digital technology and is changing the whole concept of music listening.

Radio stations, audio tapes, and CDs are no longer the only source of

the latest music releases. Subscribers can now use their computers and

televisions, as well as their radios to receive music programs. Business

subscribers have more variety and more options for providing "canned"

music throughout their company. And, the music may be provided by their

local cable company, their local telephone company, or a satellite dish.


Atwood, Brett; "Music Choice Goes into Orbit with

DBS"; Billboard; October 22, 1994

Bernier, Paula; "Music Choice Jams with Digital Radio";

Telephony; May 2, 1994

Boehlert, Eric; "EMI Follows Sony, Warner into Digital

Cable Radio Deal"; Billboard; April 30, 1994

Holland, Bill; "Performance Right Bill on Way to

White House"; Billboard; October 28, 1995

Hunter, Nigel; "Riding a Superhighway Across All

Borders, International Publishers Must Think Globally"; Billboard;

May 7, 1994

Jeffrey, Don; "Keynoter Howard Stringer Eases Into

Brave New Digital World"; Billboard; March 30, 1996

Jones International Ltd.; "Jones Intercable sells

Jones Galactic Radio"; Jones Intercable Homepage (http://www.jic.com/);

August 13, 1996

Kane, Cheryl; "Area Cable Operators Pushing DMX Commercial

Music Venues"; South Florida Business Journal; October 15,


Newcomb, Peter; "The HBO of Radio"; Forbes;

March 30, 1992

Sullivan, R. Lee; "Radio Free Internet"; Forbes; April 22,


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