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The Joy of MP3

Music in the internet age.

by Dr. Spin
November 18, 2002

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The Joy of MP3_Dr. Spin-Music in the internet age. Another two weeks has rolled by, without any letters for me to answer. But fear not! I bring you an article full of relevance as I explain the joy of MP3!

People who have read my article about vinyl records may think I am a techno-phobe. This is far from the truth. Recently I’ve discovered the joy of downloading MP3 files. For those still stuck in the 20th century, MP3 files are music files that you play on your computer. You can “share” your MP3 files, meaning people can download your files, and you can download their files. Most files originate from a CD, or (as with Wilco) from the artist’s original website. This is why a lot of record companies don’t like MP3, Napster, and it’s many clones.

To get yourself started in the world of MP3, you of course need an MP3 player. There are many programs out there that play MP3s and some are even free; you just have to download them on to your computer. Once you’ve got your player, you can search the many sites devoted to MP3 and start building your online music collection.

I am by no means a high tech guy, and people who are may laugh at the simplicity of my explanation, but I got my degree in Rockology, not technology.

What are the advantages to MP3? Simply that you can build your music your way. In one sort of letters I received, many readers had questions and complaints about compilation albums/CDs that always leave off your favorite song. With MP3 (and a CD burner), you can create your own compilation that you finally always wanted.

Another cool thing about MP3 is that some sites also have music videos, you know the ones you wish they would play on MTV and VH1, but never do?

I hear record company executives already fuming. “What about our sales? What about the artists? Don’t we deserve the money we get through sales? Aren’t you stealing from the artists by getting their music for free?”

First, anyone who hasn’t bought a CD for one song isn’t going to buy that CD now, whether MP3 sharing exists or not. When Russ Ballard lent his song “Voices” to a Miami Vice episode, I thought it was the coolest ever. 18 years later, I still haven’t bought a Russ Ballard CD, nor do I ever intend to. Had I not heard the song recently on the radio, I probably would have forgotten it ever existed.

The point is Russ Ballard would never make a penny on me, no matter how much I liked his song. But thanks to MP3 sharing, Russ Ballard will still be appreciated by me and hundreds like me. If Russ suddenly said, “Take all those MP3 versions of my song off shareware,” his record sales would not increase one iota.

Also, rare local bands that never got the exposure they deserved, can suddenly be heard nationwide, heck worldwide, thanks to MP3. They sold all their rights years ago; they’ll never make another penny on their music. Only the fat cat record CEOs that own the rights will “lose” money. And the reason they lose money is because they don’t know how to market music.

And what about all those albums/CDs that are now out of print? MP3 may be the only way to get those albums (or maybe you can spend 10 times what the music’s worth, bidding for it on eBay ™).

99% of music buyers are still willing to spend $15.00 on a pre-packaged CD of music they like. But they aren’t willing to spend money on a CD they don’t like. Much like cassette tapes of two decades ago, MP3 doesn’t hurt the music industry as much as it helps it. Hearing much of Wilco’s latest CD through MP3 files has made me consider buying my own copy at the store. How can this be bad?

Ultimately, record executives don’t like MP3 sharing because the artists and the customers win. The artists win because people hear their music, and in many cases, pay for it (by paying a downloading fee). They get exposure they might not otherwise. The customers win because they get the music the way they like it, and don’t have to pay for crap they don’t want. The only “losers” are the record company executives, whose jobs become more and more obsolete.

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