It’s only been about three years since a little known extension of an audio
compression technique-MPEG-2 Audio Layer-3 or MP3-opened the door to being
able to send large volumes of CD-quality music over the Internet by pack the
equivalent of several commercial compact disks onto the equivalent of one CD
platter (Lange 01). It also initiated the veritable floor of pirating
activity by an underground community students and hackers. Hundreds of MP3
Internet sites sprung up overnight. At these sites, everything in music from
Mozart to Marilyn Manson is being reproduced (Lange 01). Of course, it’s
illegal, but it’s free, which has a huge appeal.
Two men summarize the battle that is still raging over this new technology.
On one side there’s Val Azzoli, co-CEO of the Atlantic Group, which has
numerous popular artists signed to their label; and on the other is the CEO
of the website MP3.com, which gives away digitized songs by new artists that
no one has heard of yet (Mardesich 96). While this may not sound like much
of a threat, what lies at the heart of this conflict is the concern of
recording industry that this new technology may chance the balance of power
and if allows the shipment of music directly to the consumer (Mardesich 96).
The five giant corporations that contr ol 80% of the global music
industry-worth roughly $60 billion a year-have taken notice (Wood; D’arcy
42). The following discussion will explore more fully why the record
companies, despite their obvious power, are scared.
Pros and Cons
It is the impressive 12:1 compression ratio of the MP3 that has made it so
popular. While 60 or so Mbytes are needed to store a typical song, once it
is converted to MP3 format it becomes a single 5 Mbyte file (Lange 01). “The
advantages are obvious,” commented one executive, “CD-quality sound in a
small package” (Lange 01).
The drawbacks are all felt by the record companies. Artists are likely to
benefit, eventually, if they take advantage of the new technology and
deliver their songs to their fans directly via the Internet (Mardesich 96).
They’l l no longer have record companies making money off from their work
and by eliminating this “middle man” could conceivably earn a great deal
more then they do now. However, for the large record labels, this new
technology could mean real trouble in the future.
Right now, the loss are negligible. For example, Americans spent almost
nothing on downloaded music in 1998, but they spent nearly $14 billion on
music from stores (Mardesich 96). Nevertheless, the Recording Industry
Association of America (RIAA) said that MP3 piracy may have contributed to a