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CYBER COWBOY Cowboys In Cybersp@ce - August 1999 CYBER COWBOY

By Bob Howe © 1999

"Power to the People"

The hot topic this month is digital downloads and their impact on the music industry. Let's briefly examine what this means to the record buying public, the artists, and the Record Companies. For the public, the lure is to be able to choose exactly which songs they wish to buy, preview them, download them, and create their own music library. For the independent artists, it means being able to promote and distribute their music to anywhere in the world, with very low overhead costs. This obviously makes the record companies very nervous, and only recently have the "Big 5" global companies (Universal, BMG, EMI, Sony and Warners) begun to stake their claim on the virtual record shop.

Digital downloads have been a reality for quite some time now. The most popular format is called MP3. In simple terms, a recording is compressed into a computer file that is up to 10 times smaller than the space it takes up on a normal audio CD. This reduces a song to a size that can reasonably be transferred across the Internet, with the minimum of downloading time. The song can then be played via software on your computer. It can also be copied, without any loss of quality, which has lead to huge fears that piracy will become rampant. This technology does admittedly make the professional criminal's job a lot easier, but on the domestic front, one can't help draw comparisons with the "home taping" debate of the 80s. The unfortunate backlash of this new perceived threat has made many copyright authorities very nervous. These authorities have threatened the existence of relatively harmless, and often very useful Web sites run by enthusiasts, containing song lyrics and Midi files.

MP3 has become such a standard format, that it will probably continue to be used for many purposes, even if the big players manage to create an alternative that combats unauthorised duplication. This elusive alternative has been one of the aims of the SDMI (Secure Digital Music Initiative), a collection of more than 150 Music, Electronics and Technology companies, that also has the backing of the "Big 5". Whatever the outcome of their efforts, BMG have announced that they will begin selling music over the Internet before the end of this year. It will no doubt be a while before the sales of physical CD recordings are affected, but when they are, the whole nature of the industry will change dramatically.


Bob Howe and Guy Mitchell, Australia 1991

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4AAA-FM logo Don't forget to listen out for Cowboys in Cybersp@ce each month on the radio waves with Belinda Miller of Murri Country , 4AAA –FM (98.9 in Brisbane).
If you want to share the location of an interesting site you’ve seen or request a topic for discussion in future columns, why not E-mail me. Until next month, happy surfing.

 

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