‘In 1995, MPEG Layer-3 was selected as the audio format for the digital satellite broadcasting system developed by World- Space. This was the firs step to mass market. Its second step soon followed, due to the use of the Internet for the electronic distribution of music. Here, the proliferation of audio material – coded with MPEG Layer-3 (aka MP3) – has shown an exponential growth since 1995. By early 1999, “.mp3” had become the most popular search term on the Web.’ K. Brandenburg and H. Popp (2000) it was from this point onwards that MPEG Layer-3 emerged as the main tool for Internet audio delivery. Its encoding system combines good lossy compression (small files) with high quality audio and a good representation of the kind of sound you would expect form the industry standard 16-bit linear Pulse Code Modulation (PCM), used in producing the biggest distributer of audio/music content, the Compact CD.
‘In 1998 the “MPMAN” (by Saehan Information Systems, South Korea) was the first portable MP3 player, pioneering the road for numerous other manufactures of consumer electronics’ K. Brandenburg and H. Popp (2000) the solid state audio player ‘contained 32MB of Flash storage, enough for a handful of songs encoded at 128Kb/s. It measured 91 x 70 x 165.5mm. It connected to an old-style parallel port on the host PC from which songs could be copied to the player. There was a tiny LCD on the front to give an indication as to what you were listening to.’ Tony Smith (2008)
It was the influence of MP3 Players like the MPMAN, which led to the development of the most influential portable music player, Apples IPod which further utilise the MP3 format with its digital library ITunes, which was capable of converting CDs into the digital AAC file format while supporting MP3 as well as other digital formats used for audio .AIFF and .Wav. ‘Unlike many other MP3 players at the time, which used flash memory, and held only a handful of songs, the original iPod had 5GB of storage. Apple touted the original iPod as holding “up to 1000 CD-quality songs on its super-thin 5GB hard drive.”’ Kirk McElhearn (2011)
People were digitising their music collections by uploading it all on to their computers for transferring onto their iPod or MP3 player. In an Apple press release from former CEO Steve Jobs (2001) said, “With iPod, Apple has invented a whole new category of digital music player that lets you put your entire music collection in your pocket and listen to it wherever you go. With iPod, listening to music will never be the same again.”
It was from this point that music had a place on the average desktop computer, the purpose not being aggressive towards piracy but as an intermediate between getting music from a CD to their MP3 player. A device that many saw as a natural progression or an upgrade from the sizeable CD players or cassette players ‘While the Sony Walkman democratized music listening in the streets, or during your commute, you still needed to carry around cassette tapes. These took up space, and were especially susceptible to dust and lint from your pockets. With the iPod, you can carry your entire music collection in your pocket. No longer do you have to decide before you go out of the house or on a trip what music you might want to listen to and remember to bring those tapes.’ Kirk McElhearn (2011)
Before anyone gets the wrong idea about the title of this section, I want to explicitly stress that the word ‘progress’ is used here as a counter measure to the issues and changes occurring as a result of piracy. A need to find alternative solutions to combat the unlawful acquisitions of data files have subsequently led to new technologies offering solutions within the restraints of the law. Many of which revolutionised the face of music and changed the way we made use of the Internet.
The argument around piracy in music fundamentally conflicts with the very foundation that is the Internet’s original intentions, ‘file sharing’.
While industries consider piracy a problem and a major catalyst for shortfalls in profits year after year, Lawrence Liang went as far as stating ‘The fact that the DVD writer is the new weapon of mass destruction is primarily for the fact that a 15 million pound film can be reproduced at literally the cost of 10 or 15 cents.’ this is very much the truth for the music industry also. Piracy may never be stopped ‘The files have been shared, there’s no way back. It’s not about shutting down bit torrent. It would be about confiscating everyone’s hard drives. The files are out there, they have been downloaded, there’s no up anymore their all down.’ Subastian Lugert. Even if the authorities were to shut down every host site, the Interfaces installed on every client’s computer would still be operational, and files could still be shared among peers. The thousands of Law suits were only used to make an example of individuals as a scare tactic for the masses. So if piracy is a problem and probably can’t be stopped then we need to look for a solution, an alternative method to distribute media that complies with intellectual property rights but gives unlimited access for a nominal fee. And yes there is a large growth in Internet technologies that are being used/developed to fill the legal gap between Internet and consumer.
The revenue lost from piracy by the record companies has not been completely lost and is not, not being spent. Consumers now have a proportion of disposable income to spend on music in different ways as a result of piracy or social media like MySpace or even YouTube, the money is filtering out into paying for music or music services in different ways. Like the iTunes store or Spotify’s music streaming subscription service. Spotify again is a good example of compliance to DRM, while not completely bypassing critics in the record industries, Spotify provides millions of music tracks, at the consumers finger tips, remember this quote from former Apple CEO Steve Jobs (2001) “With iPod, Apple has invented a whole new category of digital music player that lets you put your entire music collection in your pocket and listen to it wherever you go. With iPod, listening to music will never be the same again.” Spotify and other internet radio services like it take this quote to a whole new level. Imagine having every song that every existed on your Ipod. With Spotify you can.
Generally artist’s revenue source is coming from different channels like merchandise or playing live music, which is the very foundation of which music exists upon ‘live performance’. A recent rise in the popularity of music festivals would suggest music in culture is exceeding expectation. Sebastian Lutgert argues that’s it’s the idea of file sharing that enables us to explore new ways of making music ourselves as the consumer ‘The panic of the movie industry and the music industry Is that people could actually start to produce… file sharing technology actually enables them to produce stuff.’ and it is the influence of social media like MySpace that allows us to share an distribute this music for free! Sebastian lutgert goes on to say ‘People have lamented much the death of the author and what we are witnessing now is far beyond: The becoming producer of former consumers, and that suggest a new economic model for society’
Media streaming is a technique for transferring data so that it can be processed as a steady and continuous stream of data. In other words instead of downloading a file to your computer with streaming you can watch/listen to the content in ‘real time’. The highly compressed data files use little bandwidth and will be temporarily stored in the computers buffer. ‘If there is an interruption… the audio will drop out or the screen will go blank… the PC stores a ’buffer’ of data that has already been received… If there is no more data in the buffer, it will usually stop and display a message – ’buffering’’ Jack Scholfield (2010).
There are some key factors that make streaming media such a useful method of delivering content from server to client. Some of these advantages are beginning to shape the way in which media is accessed over the internet and has allowed applications to converge over multiple platforms, e.g. Spotify for Mac, PC, tablet and smart phone.
Streaming can be used as a method to increase protection of digital rights by enforcing restricted distribution and viewing of particular content. One model example of this would be encryption and Digital Rights Management (DRM) ‘the content is posted on a streaming media server residing on the Internet while the link to view that content is then posted on a public web site. When a client clicks the link, they are required to perform an action such as provide personal information or purchase a license to view the content before the content is streamed to their PC.’ Mark D. Fears (2006)
Though the method above is only one single method of multiple that can be implemented over streaming media Mark D. Fears noted in figure 1.2 the idea of distribution over security ‘As you increase your security measure, you limit the ability to distribute your content to a broad audience. In some applications, not only is this acceptable but absolutely intended.’
There is a degree of control over streaming that allows it to distance its self from the idea of piracy or other negative spotlights that digital media is currently facing. It can be used in the context of services like ‘Pay per View’, ‘On Demand’ or subscription based services. ‘The third-party license provider can also limit the rights of the client based upon a criteria the content owner provides. For example, the license could have subscription rights. This would allow a client to purchase a license and be able to view that content multiple times with the license set to expire after a predetermined period of time has passed.’
As basically represented above the benefits in streaming for the distributors of digital content allows intellectual property to be shared while maintaining a degree of ownership, regulation and control over the data but there needs to be significant benefits to the consumers for these methods to be successful.
One of the advantages of streaming lead us to talk about the disadvantages of digital music ‘The biggest problem with storing digital music on your computer or external drive is the risk of the music library being corrupted, deleted, or mismanaged’ Bakari Chavanu (2011) streaming music sites allow you to access your music everywhere you have access to Wi-Fi or 3G, in some cases your music can be accessed offline resulting in an application which offers a better selection, security and value for money than the alternative ideas of a physical CD or digital music collection stored locally on your computers HDD.
Perhaps the best current example of a streaming music is Spotify ‘To put it simply ‘Spotify is a lot like having a version of Apple iTunes software wherever you have an Internet connection, giving you access to the tune of roughly 15 million tracks’ Nathan Chandler (2012)
How Spotify works: ‘
- User clicks a track to listen to.
- If it’s in the cache, Spotify just starts playing it from there.
- Otherwise, the Spotify client requests the first 15 seconds of the track from the Spotify servers so that playback can start as soon as possible.
- At the same time, the client starts looking for the track on the peer-to-peer network.
- The rest of the track is streamed, from a combination of multiple sources if available (cache, multiple peers, Spotify servers). The more popular a track is, the more likely it will be streamed using the p2p network instead of the Spotify servers.
- When the track has 30 seconds to go, the Spotify client begins searching the p2p network for the next track.
- When the track has 10 seconds to go, if it hasn’t found the next track on the network yet, the client starts pre-fetching it from the Spotify servers. ’
Other Web-based “music-discovery services,” or Internet radio sites like TagWorld, Last.fm and Pandora let you type in a song or artist you like and instantly finds other music that might fit your taste. With the Internet as their allie these sites are more like an infinite library of resource.
As represented above the benefits in streaming for the distribution of digital content is a new model that combines aspects of ‘Pay per View’, ‘On Demand’ and a subscription based service. With streaming music sites, your music is accessible to you everywhere you can get Wi-Fi access, and 3G access, and very soon 4G. With Webcasting you are able to stream anything live. The constraints of the past that made streaming unreliable and slow are now exceeding in speeding up and delivering more efficient data streams in which the quality of content is in some cases better than downloading.
Music downloading in a nutshell is the transferral of music from a website down to the users local computer. Examples of online music stores include iTunes, Napster, Amazon MP3, Nokia Music Store to name a few. Usually the tracks are coded with DMR that restricts making extra copies of the music or playing the track on certain unregistered audio players. The audio files are mostly compressed with the lossy MPEG layer 1 (MP3) format. The result of the compression is reduced file sizes that as a result use less bandwidth thus the track can be transferred down to the clients computer at a much faster rate.
Bandwidth consumption when downloading may be relatively low however the client’s personal downloading speed authorised by his Internet service provider (ISP) will vary according to the areas infrastructure. The UK is currently upgrading its internal infrastructure to fibre optic that is greatly increasing download speeds.
Looking ahead and making a minor prediction about how the infrastructure is moving towards fast delivery of content and a shift in hardware to ultra books or mac book airs that are suggesting the future will be cloud based. A potential outcome would see services that offer downloading content suddenly become less appealing. As in principle having your music based on a cloud server is not too far removed from the service that Spotify offers. ‘These days, accessing music online all comes down to ownership, and how much you care about building a library of your own.’ Matt Braga (2010)
Picture this conversation between two students:
Student A: I just got the Metallica album. It’s great.
Student B: Nice. Can I borrow it? I love them.
Student A: Absolutely not, we need to protect the copyrights of artists, record companies and publishers. Buy it yourself.