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The Death of the Mp3 (1993-?)

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When looking back on how the introduction of Napster as well as other file sharing networks changed all of our lives in regards to how we consume music, one has to consider the basic fundamental outcome of what those services offered. And, that outcome was a widespread introduction to the mass populous of new format to store and play music in the forms of the MP3. Though the first emergence of Mp3 files on the internet was during the mid nineties, the Mp3-file sharing and Cd burning phenomenon didn’t take shape until peer-to-peer networking entered our lives.

Since then, the music industry has fought what has seemed to be never-ending battle with underground software companies and file-sharing users in order to resolve the increasing problem of copyrighted piracy exchange. In early 2003 Apple’s Ipod found a way to capitalize from Mp3 technology by licensing and selling Mpeg-4 files as both song singles and full-length albums through their Itunes service. This new innovative commercial behavior sparked the digital revolution in music changing the course of distribution and licensing for record labels and artists alike.

After Napster experienced a barrage of law-suits and problematic press the company re-structured its method of use into a legitimate music streaming service in which users subscribed to for a monthly fee. They eliminated file downloading in order to protect copyrights and merely offered a media player service to give both paid subscribers and free users access to a wide database of music. This peaked new interest for both software developers and record labels. Napster would eventually be acquired by Rhapsody in late 2011.

By the year 2005, Mp3 files had become the most popular form of digital music consumption and has maintained its strong, until recently. Through a process of breakdown and re-construction of the modern music model and business approach, software developers seem to have finally found an answer to online piracy and possibly a reduction of music sales across the board. This answer would come in the form of a newly redesigned form of the same technology that had become a growing tumor in the music industry for years.

Though internet radio has its own user advantages and pluses for music license holders, it is the emergence of subscription-based digital music streaming services that hold the key to the future of not only music, but all entertainment consumption. Instead of downloading the physical song file music services stream the data via internet connection, or store the information in a digital cloud. Though Rhapsody would be the first to offer this unique service for computer users, its through the advancement of smart-phone technology that now leads the way for the next phase in the world of digital media.

Companies such as Spotify, Last.fm, Grooveshark, Rdio, just to name a few are the new leaders in the digital music revolution of the new age with their innovative and extremely user-friendly controls and preferences. Why spend hundreds a dollars on physical or digital copies of music when for a measly 9.99 you can subscribe to a database with millions of songs both popular and underground with unlimited use? No need to burn cd’s anymore because you can download your service’s smart-phone app and connect an audio auxiliary to your vehicle’s stereo. Spotify even allows you to create playlists and take advantage of artist-radio whereas your service will play random selections of similar music based on your preferences.

These services don’t just benefit users and license companies but also give independent artists much needed exposure using various forms of digital distribution giving them a bigger platform to be heard. We have yet to see the outcome of what these new technologies provide in quenching our musical thirst. What we do know, for the first time ever, is the control of what music we become exposed to is now in the listener’s hands. Oh sweet glory, how long we’ve been awaiting this day.

Matt G is independent recording artist and viral marketing expert from Austin, TX. His music can be heard at: mattgmuzik.com