J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
M U S I C M E D I A W A T C H
Commentary on the week's music technology news
Issue No. 27
Wednesday, July 24, 2002
++ FEATURE: Interview with Kevin Meyerson of Rainbow Partners, Part 2
++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS:
- Apple Announces Windows Versions of iPod
- Version 1.0 of Ogg Vorbis Released
- Gloomy Future for Web Radio?
++ FEATURE: Interview with Kevin Meyerson of Rainbow Partners, Part 2
As mentioned last week, several of our upcoming features will
introduce and report on companies active in music technology or
digital audio. In this continuation of last week's interview, Kevin
Meyerson, president of Rainbow Partners Inc., discusses some of the
digital audio technologies making their way into Japanese audio
devices, including waveform recognition, sound compression and
library management for embedded software.
MMW: Besides CDDB, what other digital audio technologies are you
bringing to Japan?
Meyerson: Well, one of our partners is a company called Octiv and
they have a really interesting technology which normalizes sound
levels -- it takes the dynamic levels and compresses them. This makes
those annoying TV commercials the same level as everything else. Also
with this technology, you can take a DVD and compress the dynamic
levels so that when the bombs go off in Saving Private Ryan, for
example, it doesn't wake up the kids next door. Actually, this can be
used in all kinds of applications. For teleconferences, it can make
the person sitting six feet way from the phone sound the same volume
as the person sitting right next to the phone. It's also very useful
to people who have large MP3 libraries, where the sources are very
different. You always see people on the train constantly adjusting the
volume on their MP3 player. Octiv's sound compression technology can
make them all sound the same volume.
MMW: So it only changes volume levels, but keeps everything else
Meyerson: There is some reduction in sound quality, but it doesn't
sound bad and if you ask people to compare, nine out of 10 will
actually say that the 'Octivized' one sounds better. It's wonderful
that the audio companies have given us CD players and cheap stereo
systems that can recreate the dynamic range of a concert hall, but
Octiv's whole solution is aimed at people who are listening to stuff
in a six-mat room or in their cars or on headphones, where having the
dynamic range of a concert hall is actually a hindrance. They're
looking at controlling the dynamic range and making it better for the
environment you're in.
MMW: What will Gracenote's acquisition of Cantametrix do for CDDB?
Meyerson: Cantametrix is very cool. Right now, Gracenote can recognize
an MP3 file 60 to 70 percent of the time based on text matching alone,
from the ID3 tags. Because 99 percent of the ripper/encoders in the
world use Gracenote to auto-title the files, all the information is
originally coming from Gracenote. Now the next thing we want to do is
get the recognition rate up to 99 percent, so that if text matching
doesn't work or if you've deleted all your tags or input them using a
secret code, we take the file and use Cantametrix's waveform
recognition technology on it.
Waveform recognition is wonderful and several people around the world
are doing it, but what's unique about Gracenote is that the waveform
recognition can be implemented into the Gracenote SDK. Then, if the
user okays the service, whenever he rips a CD, they take a sample of
it -- the waveform -- and upload it to the server, just like you do
for TOCs. So you can very quickly build a huge database of waveforms
which are the fingerprints of the music.
Then you have this incredible scalable model for building a massive
database of waveforms, which allows you to recognize stuff being
played on the radio as it's being played and be able to deliver
related content for it. And this is not just digital -- you now have
analog recognition of records, MDs, anything. How many people really
have the time to text-tag all of their MD tracks? This technology will
enable audio systems to auto-title MD tracks.
MMW: Is your business solely focused on licensing, or are you also
involved in development of your own?
Meyerson: We've developed our own technology, which we call PLM --
short for Play List Manager -- but it's actually a library manager for
the embedded environment. It lets you automatically search and sort
your library: Very basic functionality like you find in Winamp or
RealPlayer, but we developed it specifically for use in embedded
environments. No cross-platform tool existed to do that -- everyone
was rolling their own each time they made a device.
MMW: How do you keep a handle on so many different activities?
Meyerson: It sounds different, but it's all related. Up until now,
CDDB has been a PC-centric service. Now there are some really
interesting software developers in Japan, but the whole market for
digital music software is basically controlled by the US -- you know,
players like Real or Apple iTunes or Winamp or MusicMatch. These are
all US companies and they're the largest players in the world,
including Japan. We're not going to have that big of a market here
just selling to software guys. Since Japan has such a huge consumer
electronics market, we are focused on taking Gracenote and selling it
to consumer electronics manufacturers, saying let's eliminate the
'Track 1, Track 2' concept. Basically, "kill the track number" is the
message that we've taken to these companies.
Well, as we worked with these device manufacturers, we began to see
that they have some unique needs -- the embedded device world is
completely different from the PC world. So we're talking with all
these guys at different companies and finding that they all have
similar issues and when we find a solution to one company's problem,
we see that it often overlaps with the needs of other manufacturers as
Octiv is a good case. When we worked on the music server component of
the Pioneer Car Navi system and realized there was a problem with
sound levels, it became evident that Octiv could be used for that and
other things as well -- MP3 players, cable boxes, anything where you
have multiple sources that need to be leveled out.
So ultimately, we're trying to create a one-stop solution for the
consumer electronics companies. These guys work to midnight every
night and ride the packed train home. They don't want to have to deal
with five different licensing guys and five different agreements with
12 different price schedules. We try to create a single service
that fits their needs, and that requires a variety of technologies.
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++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS
(Long URLs may break across two lines, so copy to your browser.)
** Apple Announces Windows Versions of iPod
At MacWorld last week Apple announced that it would begin shipping a
version of the iPod for Windows PCs. The device will be available in
5GB, 10GB and 20GB models. Transferring music files will require a
FireWire card, and will be handled using MusicMatch.
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** Version 1.0 of Ogg Vorbis Released
The Xiph Foundation announced last week that version 1.0 of Ogg
Vorbis, an open-source audio format hoping to rival MPEG-4, was ready
for public release. In contrast to MPEG-4 users, companies who use
Ogg Vorbis are not required to pay any royalties.
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** Gloomy Future for Web Radio?
CNET News recently ran a report quoting several experts as saying that
the future of independent radio on the Internet is looking
increasingly bleak because a new royalty payment system may force many
of the small content providers out of the market.
"Even if the economy picks up and there are more advertising dollars
being spent," says one, "it will be difficult for Webcasters to
survive. Because of the low startup costs associated with these
Internet radio stations, there are a lot of them. All can't be
profitable; there are too many in the market. It's almost certain that
unless some emergency legislation goes through, most of the Webcasting
industry will go away."
SUBSCRIBERS: 855 as of July 24, 2002
Written by: Steve Myers (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Steve Myers heads the Theta Group at Layer-8 Technologies,
which specializes in the development of music-related
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