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105 Entertainment > Music  
The MP3 and Internet Audio Handbook



Downloadable music formats like MP3 and streaming audio on the Internet are revolutionizing the way music is distributed and consumed. With these technologies, consumers have more convenient access to a wider variety of music and more control over how they listen to it. Musicians have increased access to fans and more options for distributing their music. Independent record labels have a better way to promote and distribute music to a wider audience. And the major record labels have a serious threat to their dominance of the industry.

What Is MP3?

MP3  (technically, MPEG Audio Layer-III ) is a standard format for compressing digital audio . MP3 squeezes audio files to about one tenth of their original size, while maintaining close to CD quality. Songs in MP3 format can be downloaded from the Internet, created from prerecorded music, or recorded from scratch. They can be played on personal computers, Walkman-style portable players (like the Rio) or one of the new generation of dual-mode MP3/audio CD players.

What Is MPEG ?

MPEG  stands for Moving Picture Experts Group. The MPEG committee works under the direction of the International Standards Organization (ISO) and establishes standards for encoding audio and video in digital format, and for interactive graphics applications. MP3 is just a small part of the MPEG family of standards. Thanks to MPEG, we also have standards for technologies like DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) and DirecTV.

Why Are So Many People Excited About MP3?

The main benefit of MP3 is its high level of compression, which makes for smaller files and faster downloads. With MP3, you can store more than 12 hours of high-quality music on a single CD, versus the standard 74 minutes. With the matchbook-sized memory cards used by portable MP3 players, you can fit the equivalent of a dozen CDs in your wallet. (I verified this by putting some SmartMedia cards in my own wallet.)

MP3 compression allows you to use your computer as a digital jukebox that can hold thousands of CD-quality songs. You can quickly find and play any song with a click of a mouse and never have to worry about tapes wearing out or records getting scratched. Instead of spending hours making tapes or programming a CD changer, you can compile customized playlists in minutes.

Compression  also makes it practical to download music from the Internet, where you can access thousands of songs from artists all over the world. With MP3, you can download a four-minute song in less than 15 minutes (with a 33.6 kbps modem), compared to more than 3 hours for the same song in CD audio format. Now you can sample a wide variety of music from the comfort of your home and find some great music from independent artists you might not otherwise be exposed to.

MP3 opens up a whole new range of possibilities for musicians. If you are an independent or emerging artist, MP3 and the Internet give you a low cost way to promote your music worldwide and keep in touch with fans. You can sign with one of the new Internet record labels , retain the copyrights to your music, and keep a much larger share of the revenue.

Downloadable music and streaming audio are rapidly growing in popularity, but widespread acceptance has been limited by the fact that these are relatively new technologies, and there is a shortage of people who understand them. There's also a lot of hype and contradictory information about coming from many different sources. There's confusion about terminology, debates about sound quality, and concern about the ease with which unauthorized copies can be produced and distributed.

The goal of The MP3 and Internet Audio Handbook is to cut through all the hype and provide you with easy-to-understand information, practical advice and step-by-step instructions to help you begin using these technologies right away, without time-consuming trial and error.

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 Additional Info
 No. 380
 Posted on 9 June, 2006
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