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APRIL, 2000

MAKE LOVE NOT WAR

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE MUSIC INDUSTRY ABOUT MP3

BY ROBERT DENNIS

Some 30 years ago, the music industry was in a turmoil over a new recording format called the cassette.  People could just record copies of the records they bought and play them in the car.  They could copy the records they bought and give the music to their friends - they could even make copies and sell them.  The record industry was doomed!
The industry was in such an uproar that they brought suit in federal court and more-or-less lost.  The courts decided that a person buying a recording could make a reasonable number of copies for their own personal use.  Making copies for others and making copies to sell was (and still is) illegal.
What happened in the industry was that cassettes were made and sold right next to records and CD's.  The industry enjoyed increasing sales for over two decades.  Having this nasty cassettes around probably increased music sales.
The cassette tape was not the best format for music.  It was noisy and had less definition than either  the black Frisbee-like record and the newer CD format.  Music lovers knew this and still bought the traditional formats.  CD sales increased and cassette sales decreased.
What about the MP3 Format?
There are remarkable similarities between the MP3 and the cassette.  For instance, is is an inferior format to the more traditional CD.  It's not noisy like the cassette but it has a lesser quality that becomes obvious after a while.  The quality loss is in the imagery and sometimes strange tone modifications that happens when you try to cram a gallon of milk into one cup.
I really believe that the industry needs to wake up and embrace the MP3 as the "new" cassette format.  It should sell it and embrace it.  It will never kill it!  It probably will never be good enough to replace the CD.  Interesting things could be done with MP3, some of which is presently done on sites like MP3.com.  For instance, people that purchase regular CD's by mail can instantly get a temporary copy to listen to while they are waiting for their order to arrive. 
Industry Sales
Industry sales have gone down considerably in the last 5 years.  Record companies are blaming the Internet and MP3 for their woes.   They have a point about the Internet but not really about the MP3.
Companies used to get their high profits from the current "hit" record that dominated the air waves an the record sales.   The companies, with their promo dollars, had a big hand in what record would become a "hit" - they could jam it down the consumer's throat.   A record had a "useful life" and when you went to the store to get something that was a hit 5 years ago, you were probably told that it was "out of print" and there was no stock, and it couldn't be ordered.  
Imagine going to the toothpaste isle and seeing a hundred brands of toothpaste rather than the dozen or so you see now.  Next to each box was a little card explaining why that particular brand was the best for you - what features it has that the others don't.  The result would be that the consumers could be quite happy and the sales of current "name" brands like "Crest" and "Colgate" would decrease, but the sales of toothpaste would not.
This is the scene we have with music and the Internet.  Variety!!  Maybe the companies should consider selling ALL of those past hits with MP3 over the net!  Maybe the large companies should consider how to sell a lot more variety with less sales on each release but more sales overall.
MP3 vs. CD/Wave
Digital audio, in real CD quality, takes 10 Megabytes of storage space per minute of stereo music.  The CD you purchase has about 750 MB of storage space.  This gives you something over 70 minutes of music that is possible on the CD.  MP3 music takes about 1 MB of storage space per minute of music.  
The most probable format for a portable MP3 file is the data card.  These devices are usually slightly larger that about twice as thick as a credit card.  I understand that they current can store up to about 48 MB.   Having one that store 96 MB and is maybe even closer to credit card size is virtually right around the corner.   As soon as this happens, and as soon as the recorders and players are available like cassettes are, you have very much the MP3 replacing the "cassette" scene
I'm enthused, I invite the industry to be enthused and to get busy having the format help profits.

Copyright 2000, by Robert Dennis, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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