REPOST: Apple Joins Smart-Speaker Race With Music-Focused ‘HomePod’

Just as the same way his company revolutionized portable music, Apple chief executive Tim Cook plans on reinventing home music. Their latest offering, the HomePod, is a Siri-powered music system that is like a hybrid of Google Home and the Mac Pro. More about this story on NPR:

Apple executive Phil Schiller introduces the HomePod speaker at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

 

And then there were three.

Apple has finally unveiled its answer to Amazon’s and Google’s smart speakers slash digital assistants — and it’s called HomePod.

This has been one major area in consumer electronics lacking Apple’s footprint. Amazon has heavily dominated the field with its home speaker called Echo, which uses the digital assistant Alexa. Google Home followed in October and Microsoft’s assistant, Cortana, is also finding a home in home speakers.

Both Amazon Echo and Google Home respond to voice commands to play songs, look up stuff online, check the weather, set a reminder or control Internet-connected home appliances.

Siri can do those things, too, but Apple’s pitch for Siri-powered HomePod is instead focused heavily on music — the company appears to bank on consumers paying for smart speakers that deliver high-quality audio sound as a sort of gateway into the world of smart home assistants.

“Just like we did with portable music, we want to reinvent home music,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the Worldwide Developers Conference, where HomePod was unveiled, becoming Apple’s first new device since the release of the Apple Watch in 2015.

 

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A look into the music streaming business model

The advent of the Internet produced plenty of digital wonders, but it also put many businesses at major risk—including the music industry. Gone are the days when enjoying music can only be done by purchasing a CD (physical or downloaded) of your favorite artist or listening to the radio whenever top hits are randomly played. Illegal downloads through file-sharing sites dramatically reduced sales and many record labels, artists, and songwriters lost huge potential income. But then, Spotify and Apple Music (and a few other similar services) came into the picture and ‘saved’ the industry by creating a new business model that may actually address issues on piracy as well as help the business return to its glorious form.

Image source: softonic.com

Music streaming is a relatively new form of accessing music services, which was previously dominated by radio playlists and album purchases. In this type of service, customers use the Internet to play songs based on their personal preference without the need to download the entire material. It is effectively music-on-demand, and can be played using computers or mobile devices. Of such type of business, Swedish company Spotify, seemed to have successfully built a strong following around it.

Image source: yologadget.com

The Spotify revenue model is based on advertising (free music streaming limited to 20 hours per month supported by advertisements) as well as paid monthly subscriptions (unlimited streaming to PC without ads or unlimited streaming to PC and mobile without ads with additional off-line listening on mobile phone). The company has signed deals with various music giants, including the Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and Sony Music Entertainment to fill up its library and attract more customers. Music owners earn based on their market share from total streams.

Image source: le-vpn.com

While many customers are still considered passive listeners and mainly access Spotify under its ads-supported service, sales of paid subscriptions are growing and may soon outpace the declining purchases of music, whether downloaded or on a CD. Physical sales went downhill to 14 percent while downloads also plummeted by a double-digit percentage. Streaming offers a reliable future because the cost of a year-long subscription—around $120—is much higher than what an average consumer would spend on CDs.

REPOST: The science of songs: how does music affect your body chemistry?

Music won’t be a multi-billion dollar business if it does not affect people to an overwhelming degree. In this article on The Guardian, composer and science lecturer John Powell explains how exactly music influences one’s behaviors in a scientific sense. Read on:

 

Research has revealed that music holds the keys to your body’s pharmacy. Photograph: Simon Frazer/SPL/Getty Images

Like many music lovers I’ve always had a fascination with the emotional power. How can a combination of sounds make all the hairs on your arms stand on end, or make you cry? I’ve always enjoyed reading newspaper and magazine articles about the psychological effects of music, but apart from the general conclusion that “music is magical”, they rarely provide any scientific answers.

But there are answers as to why music has such power over us. Since the middle of the 20th century, music psychologists have been carrying out a wide range of fascinating research into how our brains and bodies respond to music – but most of this has been relayed to us in formal scientific language, so I thought it would be a good idea to gather together the most interesting facts and theories from this large body of work and present them in plain language for the general reader.

I spent four years gathering information for my book, Why We Love Music, reading textbooks and papers packed full with phrases like “spectral structure and harmonic syntax” and “amplitudes of transglottal airflow”. Translated into conversational English, the science – I think – is of interest to everyone who loves music (and even those few of us who don’t). For example, experiments have demonstrated that music is extremely effective at curing insomnia; that shoppers spend more money in stores playing classical music; and that communal singing helps humans to bond with each other by releasing oxytocin into our system – the same chemical we experience during sex or breast-feeding.

My main problem in preparing the book was deciding which subjects to leave out. There are lots of interesting snippets I wish I could have included but they simply didn’t fit into any of the chapters, like how rock singers only appear to be singing louder when they reach the climax of their songs. What they are actually doing is putting more emotional stress into their voices, which we pay more attention to and so they sound louder than they are.

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Little giants: Most successful indie record labels

One of the things that Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, and Drake have in common is that they have all achieved mainstream success in the field of music. With the help of their record labels, they were able to reach new heights in terms of album sales and concert revenues. It is no exaggeration to say that one of the reasons for their success can be mainly attributed to their organizations. That doesn’t mean, however, that artists who are signed with indie labels cannot be just as successful. As a matter of fact, the rise of digital platforms has made it even more possible for them to reach unprecedented fame.

Трип (pronounced ‘trip’) is one such record label. Founded by Nina Kraviz, it is where technophiles come to flock together to get their fill of fast-paced beats and complicated sets of whistles. Bjarki, a music prodigy from Iceland, as well as Aphex Twin are also associated with трип.

Another big hitter in the indie scene is DDS. In 2015, they were able to capitalize on the success of Stephen O’Malley, Shinichi Atobe, and Micachu’s LPs. The following year, they were able to soar with the release of Demdike Stare’s music. They are not afraid to take chances and they definitely sound good while doing it.

 

Image source: thehub.com

 

As for Swing Ting, they can be located smack dab in the center of the United Kingdom’s party center, Manchester. At the forefront is Samrai and Platt who was able to create an entirely different being in the form of solid gold 12 inches and EPs. They mashed together R&B, jungle, and grime and was able to give birth to a beast.

As far hip-hop success is concerned, Macklemore earns all the marbles. Together with Ryan Lewis, the indie label has produced some of pop music’s most popular songs. Two of their singles, ‘Can’t Hold Us’ and ‘Thrift Shop’ reached the top of various charts, including the Billboard 100. On Youtube, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis has over 4 million subscribers and total video views of more than 2 billion. In addition, they have four Grammy awards to their name.

But the most successful of all, perhaps, is none other than XL Recordings, the indie music company behind such modern icons as Vampire Weekend, Radiohead, and of course, Adele. The label rarely produces more than six albums a year, but each release is almost always a major success.

 

Image source: stuff.co.nz

 

With music streaming, digital download, and online marketing easier than ever, independent music productions can soon be as established as their traditional and ‘bigger’ counterparts. For musicians, such set up is extremely advantageous, as they are given both higher creative freedom and better chances at earning lucratively.   There is still a long way before indie records can eventually dominate the industry, but the future seems optimistic as a whole. In some situations, indie companies are even part of investors’ portfolio. However, just like conventional music productions, indie artists are not spared from music piracy, which costs the US economy around 12.5 billion dollars in damage annually. Nonetheless, independent musicians should never get discouraged with such issues and continue producing quality music.

REPOST: Modern v vintage audio equipment (Stuff.co.nz)

There is a reason why many audio fans and sound equipment collectors prefer vintage models over their highly sophisticated modern counterparts. This article on Stuff.co.nz has some good explanation to it:

The Kenwood KR-6170 “Jumbo Jet” stereo receiver is considered a classic.

Why do so many audio fans seem to prefer a vintage receiver over new receivers with modern technology?

Are there actual reasons that older equipment can sound different or better?

When it comes to receivers and amplifiers, older can be better. The amplifier sections in new receivers often don’t have the power and electrical current capability of vintage models, especially going from a stereo receiver to a surround sound receiver as you did.

The manufacturers saved money by cutting quality in surround receivers’ amplifier sections, then used the savings to add new features such as extra channels for more speakers, Bluetooth, etc.

The power ratings in new gear are often inflated, as well.

In real-world use, an older amp may actually deliver more power to the speakers, despite newer models having higher advertised power rating.

In addition, many receivers digitally process everything, including the volume control. Some feel that this digital processing degrades the sound.

There is also the possibility that older amps’ power is not as “clean” as the newer models and has more distortion, but the mild distortion lends a pleasant quality to the music.

That is the reason lots of people prefer tube amplifiers or vintage speakers. Though the old equipment may not reproduce the music as accurately as modern gear, the listener may simply prefer the sound from the vintage equipment.

In general, though, if you choose carefully you can get better sound with modern equipment than with vintage.

You just have to be careful about what you buy and how you match components together. There is good stuff and bad stuff littering every price point.

You can get much more speaker for your dollar than you could years ago.

Most modern turntables will sound better too, but much of that is by virtue of their newness. Old turntables can have worn platter and tonearm bearings, which seriously degrade the sound.

However, it is in the realm of amplifiers and receivers that quality has taken the biggest hit.

For stereo, if your budget is under $750 a vintage amplifier or receiver could very well be the best choice if you have access to a clean example that works perfectly. The problem for the average consumer is knowing what brands are best and what to look for so you get a reliable unit.

The “golden age” for vintage audio was probably the 1980s and some great, affordable audiophile brands are Adcom, B&K, Harman/Kardon, NAD and Rotel.

Retirement Investment Updates: The 3 Places To Invest Money This 2016

Among the many surefire areas to invest money this (pretty much any given year) 2016 is the area of real estate also known as REIT. If you are looking forward to a good retirement income, this is the time to invest in real estate. The dividends are high and there is a huge chance that your money would even grow in the future to the point that people would actually bid for it. Putting your money in real estate is only quite risky during recessions and when the market totally hits rock bottom. But the good news is, this year is neither those two so you’re pretty much in good hands. Dare I say it, this year is looking good!

But just because 2016 is promising, it doesn’t mean you could just slack with your strategies. It is a must to take advantage of this great opportunity to expand what you have and make great decisions with your investment because the future would actually do well for you if you do the present right. As promised, this article 3 of the best places where you could put your money in this time of the year.

 

  1. Public Storage: also known as PSA in NYSE. Believe it or not, but this is quite an in demand market in the United States. According to a recent report done by The Motley Fool, about 2, 2000 storage facilities are available in this country and not a lot of people are actually seeing it as a lucrative business. These days, many keep on buying and are worrying where to place them. This is your chance to gain customers if you know what I mean.
  2. Realty Business: also known as O in NYSE. This is going to be in retail and for some, it does sound like it is a risky idea. But the truth is, it is not that bad at all. It is not exactly the typical retail everyone is assuming of. In fact, there are three categories that define what I’m talking about here: The non-discretionary retail are for items that people buy according to their Real Estate Investment Trustneeds and not their wants. Service business is pertaining to businesses that serve people in person. This means customers have to go to a physical store or shop to gain services from the said business. And low price points are stores where you could find really cheap products like The Dollar Store. I’ll go deep into these topics if you stick around but for now, I’ll give you a brief meaning of these three.
  3. Welltower: now known as HCN in NYSE but it was also known as Health Care REIT. This one involved healthcare equipment and properties. The demographic trends for this area are high, so it won’t be risky to your money in it.

 

These 3 areas would come in handy for those who don’t know where to put their retirement investment money just yet. Now that you have these facts, strike while the iron is hot! Check out LOM if you are interested in utilising mutual funds.

Our Values, Business Structure & Investment Plans For The Future

Phoenix Sound is a wholesaler of high quality, value-for-money sound equipment.   We aim to be the invaluable link between cutting edge technology producers and the retailers who service the man on the street.

The Power of Sound

At Phoenix Sound, we are passionate about what we do.  For us, it’s not just about speakers.  We treat the power of music and sound with the highest respect.  We are awed that music – high fidelity and coherent – actually pervades the universe.

Scientific studies have shown that the harmonic sound of a seven-tone scale is echoing out every day into the cosmos – produced by the planets spinning through space in their orbits.  Solar flares are also triggering acoustic waves that loop back and forth similar to the standing wave sound produced by a guitar string.

Seven-tone scale

Here on earth, we dance with joy, we are moved to tears, we fear, we love, we remember, we forget because of music and sound.

That’s the power of sound and it’s in our hands.

 

OUR VALUES

Wide market reach in all price ranges.  We want to support our retailers as they grow their business across all markets.  We cater to the whole market range from low-end to high-end since we want to be able to provide for our retailers’ needs as they evolve in their businesses.  Our retailers come from scattered geographic markets and have their own market niches.  Some shift from one market strategy to another.  We want to be there for them all the time regardless of change.

Excellence and quality.  We want our customers to keep coming back and spreading positive feedback about our products and services.  Since we are passionate about our business and our products, anything below par will not cut it. We are building goodwill in our business and so we give excellence and quality top priority and see it as a major ingredient for profitability.

Value for money. We believe in striking a perfect balance between product excellence and affordability.  With stiff competition and the fast pace of the sound industry, reasonable prices give us our competitive edge.

Nurturing long-term relationships with retailers.  Our retailers aren’t just one-time deals. We treat our retailers as our ears on the ground.  They have their fingers on the market pulse and we value their feedback.  We want to encourage the flow of information between them and us.  Together, we are a constantly evolving team always alert and responsive to market demand.

Keeping current with technology and market trends. We want to identify market opportunities at the onset.  We want to move the market and always be ahead.  By encouraging communication between supply-side and demand-side, we are able to gain access to critical information at the right time.

Maximizing business value.  To keep doing what we are doing and keep getting better at it, we need to maximize our business value.  We believe we are providing something of great value to the industry and we owe it to our customers and shareholders to maximize profitability.

Whilst we can’t possibly hope to keep up in terms of price with places like this, our goal is to focus more on quality.

Business growth and expansion.  Beyond organic business growth we are looking into acquiring small businesses that would allow us to expand our operations within the industry.

Our Strategy for Growth

Phoenix Sound believes that sustainable business development and expansion is not limited to organic growth.  We are willing to acquire small businesses and start-ups that show great potential in growing our existing business.

 

sustainable business development

Backward integration.  We are on the lookout for companies with brilliant ideas and great products.  These companies might just be in their research and development stage and will be in need of funding.   Our main concern would be innovativeness and market viability.  We would also consider and put a value on any existing developed technology.

Forward integration.  We would also love to get into talks with small retailers in markets or geographic locations that show promising growth prospects. These may include small online retailers who have a valuable online operating and accounting system linked to an established customer base.

Support services. Also on our list are small businesses involved in services that would support our operations.  These may include businesses with a well-established system and expertise in sales and marketing, billing and collections and customer relations, among other support areas.

Criteria for Acquisitions

In evaluating the attractiveness of a target business, we will be placing value on intangibles such as customer relationships, tradenames, developed technology and/or research and development advances.

In addition, we consider a number of attributes as fundamental to our analysis-  things such as the character of management, quality of existing manpower, customer base and market share.

Our due diligence team will then look into the target company’s financials, starting with a study of its existing accounting system in order to verify data integrity and accuracy.  Small business and start-ups usually have issues with internal control and checks and balances given the compact structures of their businesses. These will have to be taken into account.

We will consider financial details such as accounts receivables and their collectability, accounts payables, research and development costs and capital assets. Contingent liabilities, including tax issues would also be considered essential. We will look into financial ratios such as current ratio, quick ratio and return ratios among others. Necessary adjustments will then be made to find the proper valuation of a purchase.

Although we are willing to infuse equity to address liquidity concerns, this requires that we also look into the historical use of mutual funds and cash burn rates since these may also be indicative of management character and prudence.

In summary, we will consider a prospective small business acquisition by looking at the target entity in its totality.  It does not have to be operating at a current level of profitability per se.  But it must have a huge potential for growth and development.

How To Avoid Being Scammed When Investing

detecting investment scamsI know that the lure of investing and eventually gaining a lot of profit from it could sound really tempting and you won’t be able to resist it sometimes, especially when you are faced with a really good salesman like Jordan Belfort. That dude could sell anything and anyone he talks to would invest on whatever it is that he tells them to because he is very articulate with his sales pitch. A lot of people have fallen victims to guys like him in the world of stocks, trading and investing that the next thing they know is that they’re already broke because nothing happened to the money that they gave.

It is given that the world of stocks and even investing on anything could be risky. No one can really product the future and know when exactly will the stocks go up. But seriously, that is something that you should not worry much about. The dangerous part is that you encounter a scammer who would pretend who knows this business and is only there to take your money and not bring you returns. Here are some of the ways to avoid this kind of people and to know that you’re dealing with your investment with someone who is legit.

  1. Only trust brokers who work for a legit company. Make sure that you researched well on the company they are affiliated with. Don’t go with freelance brokers, especially when it is your first time to do it and you’re way too curious about the stock market.
  2. Don’t show them you’re too excited to invest because that could make them think it is your first time and it would easier for them to play a game on you.
  3. Do some background checks on your broker and the company they are working for. The agency that they are connected with should be at least established for years that a lot of people also trust them. There have been lots of schemes in this industry that it is making so hard for most to trust just anyone, so it’s best to only allow reliable and credible trustworthy people who would handle your investment right.
  4. It is okay to go for a referral, especially if the person referring you to a broker is someone you can trust your life with and someone who also hired the same broker they are referring to you.
  5. Don’t sign anything unless you have fully read and understood their terms and conditions.
  6. Check a broker’s track record and see if he or she has a good one when it comes to doing the job.

 

This is something that most investors have missed and disregarded before entrusting their hard earned money to someone who they know is a broker. There are lots of con artists out there, so it
is only wise to be prepared and knowledgeable as in the area of investing and finance. It would be hard for scammers to fool you when they know that you are not completely ignorant about this business.