The Digital Divide
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The world's only full-time percussion soloist discusses her life and her music.
Hear that? It's the sound of the music industry changing forever.
Once upon a time, people bought recorded music on flat black circles of plastic, then it was 8-tracks, then cassettes, then compact discs. Today, music files called MP3s can be downloaded from the Internet.
MP3 is short for the computer file format MPEG, layer 3. Usually, CD files containing songs are large (an average 31/2-minute song may take 45 minutes to download). The files are compacted in MP3 form, so it takes less time to download (about four minutes), while still maintaining the sound quality of a CD. Files that can be downloaded off the Internet allow listeners to play the full length of popular songs right off their PCs.
Anyone can make a MP3
MP3s originate anywhere. With some simple software, anyone can make an MP3.
A software program called an MP3 encoder changes the CD file in to an MP3 file, said George Marino, a computer product specialist at Best Buy in Montrose, Ohio. The program can be downloaded anywhere. Once the file is on the computer, it can be put on the Internet.
With new technology, people can put song files on compact discs. Hardware like a CD burner can be hooked up to a computer and copy, or burn, files onto a blank CD. CD burners can also copy regular music CDs, so music fans can make a mix of their favorite songs.
There are two types of blank CDs, Marino said. CD-Rs are regular blank CDs that can hold stuff like music files. CD-RWs, on the other hand, can be rewritten, sort of like a cassette.
Senior Mike Jackson uses his burner regularly.
The burner came with a program that lets me copy computer files or music, he said. I buy blank CDs, copy a music CD on them, then resell the original to a used record store, like the Record Exchange.
(This is illegal, but more on that later... )
No more skipping CDs
And it's not all about CDs, there are now portable MP3 players. About the size of a deck of cards, some have 32 megabytes of memory to hold music files. The portable players have no moving parts, so the songs do not skip as they sometimes do on a regular CD player. Someday you might even have a MP3 player in your car.
After the recent merger of America Online and Time Warner, some theorize that the use of MP3s will become more popular and mainstream. Time Warner could increase its music subsidiaries sales by selling over the Internet. And artists realize they need to deal with the new technology. Alanis Morrisette and Tori Amos have already made deals with MP3.
Attorney Peter Dekom, in an interview with Wired News, espouses this theory. He has represented some of Hollywoods leading artists.
This merger is all about Warner Brothers throwing up its hands and recognizing that it has to change the way it sells music, he said.
Some MP3s are illegal
While the new wave of MP3 music may be convenient, it is not without controversy. Some uses of MP3s are illegal. Copyright laws are violated if the music file is copied onto a CD and sold.
Some agencies, like the Recording Industry Association of America, advocate new legislation to ban MP3 files on the Internet. On their Web site, it states: The RIAA is channeling most of its anti-piracy resources to Internet piracy, while still guarding against evolving forms of CD piracy. Our goal is unchanged: to protect the efforts of everyone involved in copyrighted sound recordings.
The RIAA says that MP3s promote music piracy and the artist loses profits when the MP3 is put on a CD. It is easy for someone to make CDs of an artists album and sell them for a cheaper price. In 1998, illegal recordings totaled about $4.5 billion.
Music piracy is definitely growing, Marino said. MP3s are all over the Internet. Nowadays, people can scan a CD cover, stamp it on a CD-R, and mass sell it for a better price.
The Grateful Dead: riding the wave
Not all artists, though, are against it. The Grateful Dead have encouraged their fans to trade tapes of their concerts in the past. Now, the Grateful Dead have announced that they will allow free downloads in MP3 format, as long the file is not used for commercial gain
Yet, even with the laws in place and the new legislation being passed, people today are still taking advantage of the technology available. Steven (name has been changed) uses his burner not just for music but movies, too.
I burn CDs and sell them to my friends, he said. I dont care if the artist loses money. They make enough already without me buying their CDs.
Hear that noise? It's the sound of big business, the law, musicians, and everyone else scrambling to figure out how to deal with the new technology of MP3s.
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