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Digital Audio Essentials by Bruce Fries, Marty Fries

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The Evolution of Online Music

The specification for the MP3 format was released in 1992, but music downloading didn’t really begin to take off until 1997, when programs to play MP3 files, such as Winamp and MacAMP, became widely available. Prior to 1997, a handful of sites—such as the Internet Underground Music Archive, described later in this chapter—offered downloads and streaming samples of songs to early adopters who didn’t mind listening to low-quality streams, or waiting up to an hour or more for each song to download over their dial-up connections.

MP3.com, founded in 1997, quickly became a driving force in the online music industry by helping to educate the public about advantages of the MP3 format. The founder of MP3.com, Michael Robertson, became a vocal proponent of using the Internet and MP3 to give exposure to the thousands of artists who were not signed with record labels. A combination of publicity generated by MP3.com’s marketing machine and word of mouth helped MP3 gain momentum. The publicity surrounding the RIAA’s 1998 lawsuit against Diamond Multimedia (see Chapter 1) helped MP3 really take off, and by the end of that year “MP3” was ranked as the most popular search term by several major search engines.

Before MP3 came along, support from the recording industry was critical for any new music format—imagine if Phillips had introduced their technology for audio CDs by selling CD players, but the recording industry had decided not to release any music in that format! ...

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