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
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.
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May 7, 1994
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August 13, 1996
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