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Mp3 And The Music Industry Essay, Research Paper

Imagine a world where you did not go to the music store and buy a CD. You would have $15 extra in your pocket every time. Now you ask ‘why would I not go out and buy CD’s? I like to hear groups I like’. The answer is simple. There is something new out there in the world that makes it possible for you to never buy a CD again. There is only one catch: it’s illegal.

Illegal in the sense that you are committing copyright infringement every time you participate in this new format. Mp3 is this file format. Ever since CD drives were put into computers, people have recorded songs into their computers to listen to while they worked. The quality was decent to horrible, depending on the format. Then along comes this mp3 format. What makes this format special is the fact that it keeps the quality of the song from when it is recorded in. This near-CD quality is one of the reasons that this format is flourishing. The main reason though, is that this format also compresses the file size to a tenth of its original size. Consider this: a recorded song on a computer can run anywhere from 30-60 megabytes (or mb). Compare that to any regular computer file, regardless of its format or use (IE word processor, CD player, database) which runs from 10 kilobytes (1,000 kilobytes (kb) = 1 mb) to 1 or 2 mb. A mp3 file can compress this huge 30-60 mb file to a small and manageable 3 to 4 mb. What all this means is that you have now gone from a huge low quality music track to a small, high quality, and very manageable file with your favorite song on it. This is the appeal of mp3.

Mp3 was not supposed to be a big deal. It was originally developed as a file format that was able to compress files. David Weiss of Musician goes on to explain. “A standard

that was originally developed as a simple storage application, mp3, didn’t begin its electronic life suggesting that it would eventually put Billy Idol and the Beastie Boys on the same web page. Mp3 is short for MPEG-1, layer 3, and was developed by the Moving Picture Coding Experts Group (MPEG), an international consortium of companies and committees, between 1988 and 1992…mp3 was created with an eye toward saving precious space and time during downloads”. (Weiss, 40)

Mp3 is a current hot topic because of the copyright infringement laws out there. The core of the battle boils down to this: People have taken these mp3 songs and put them on the internet for anyone to download. They cannot be tracked and there are no fees charged. People who download these files can play them for free, as many times as they want. The near-CD quality of these files and the fact that they are free has made it where millions of files are downloaded and no money being generated to the record labels. The distribution of these files is the part that is illegal. The actual possession of the files and the format is okay. It is only alright to have the file if you have the CD or cassette yourself. The record labels are hard at work to try to stop this distribution network, but it seems that they are too late.

The recording industry is trying hard to end what it sees as a threat. The Recording Industry Association of America, or RIAA, has begun an offensive to shut down web sites that have mp3 files on them. They have sent cease-and-desist letters to operators and have taken legal action by filing lawsuits. Russ DeVault of the Atlanta Constitution writes “It [RIAA] also launched a national campaign designed to scare college students away from mp3 piracy and persuade universities to take a stronger stance against pupils who use their campus accounts to swap these files” (DeVault, E; 02). The RIAA has implemented this program that deals mostly with college students. Colleges across the country offer their own internet access.

The record industry has not only tried to go after web sites, but also after their own bands. The recording industry has also moved against some of its stars, including the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and Less Than Jake. They have all been forced by their labels to take down mp3 files posted without label permission. Tom Petty received 150,000 downloads in two days when he put a song from his forthcoming album on the Internet, and he did so without support from his label. Record companies have taken their own bands hostage by acting in this manner. It is true that most artists do not own their songs, but that technicality gets in the way when it comes to promotion and fan support. Labels argue that the artists do not want their songs pirated and copied, but their actions seem to contradict this.

There are many advantages to artists with using mp3. One example deals with the artist Tom Petty. Jon Pareles of the New York Times writes “Tom Perry made a new song available free on the MP3.com site during the three days it was available, it was downloaded 157,699 times. In return, Mr. Petty and his recording company have a marketing tool: E-mail addresses for fans, who can be reached when his next album is released.” (Pareles, E1, E7) Tom Petty made good use of a format that the industry claims is running rampant and must be stopped.

The RIAA has come together and put together what was called the ‘Madison Project’. The futuristic name was a collaboration of the five big labels and IBM. The task of the group is to try to create an audio format that will be equal or superior to mp3 and to embed some sort of copyright controls in order to stop piracy. There have been meetings that dealt with what to do next and artists were not present. It’s probably the only chance artists have had in 30 years to gain back some ground. But the RIAA is going to beat them to it if they don’t take some control. Artists need to keep stepping up and facing the big companies in order to stay ahead of the game and be on the same page as the industry. Advances have been made in this area especially in the new format on the horizon, naturally named mp4. Paul Tullis of Wired explains: “Of course, there’s already a new format called mp4, which, in one iteration, sabotages sound files opened without permission”. (Tullis, 63) With this new format the industry will have some sort of control and can gain some ground in the Internet audio market.

The laws do need to be updated to deal with mp3, or a new format must be created that will satisfy everyone. Right now the tactics the record industry is taking is wrong and two-faced towards the artists it depends on. They are going against the fans that buy their CD’s and make them rich. They must understand that the people must have some power and the illusion that they do will simply not suffice. If artists, mp3 users, and the industry can all work together, a way to make everyone happy can work, but only if priorities can be set straight and money is not the main issue. In this case money corrupts the industry and makes the users more rebellious. Overall, mp3 is winning the battle and will continue to if no change is made.

DeVault, Russ “Rockin’ The Desktop Music Industry Sings Blues Over Sites That Let

Folks At Home Record The Hot Hits” Atlanta Constitution February 19, 1999

Pareles, Jon “Musicians Want A Revolution Waged On The Internet” New York Times

Page FA 1, FA 7. March 8, 1999

Tullis, Paul “The Real Mp3 Player” Wired Page 63. April, 1999

Weiss, David “Mp3: The Real Deal” Musician Page 39-42. April, 1999

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