here we are…January 2000. As a songwriter in this day and age, it's
abundantly clear to me that things have changed. I say this with
both excitement and hesitation. I am an independent musician. Like
most of you, I have no record deal and have been pursuing my musical
career on my own. I released my first solo CD last year and dove
into a new unfamiliar world of self promotion. With past bands,
I've done the same sort of thing, but not with the resources that
are available to me today.
I started to promote my new venture, I was attacked by all of the
new digital audio media options available…MP3, Wav, Real Audio,
Liquid Audio, etc.. Being fairly computer literate, I had known
of these for a while. Little did I realize what a huge part they'd
be playing in the progress of my career.
I've been finding is that the new world of electronic media is dividing
the music industry, both major and independent artists, into two
groups. There are the ones who love this new, adventurous ability
to freely promote themselves without the restraints that a record
label or other common factors would normally place on them. Then
there are the ones who think that the new abilities on the net allow
anyone and everyone to steal their music freely, depriving artists
of their rightful royalties. I'm going to do my best in this column
to look at both views, from a songwriters perspective, and see if
we can all figure out if this is truly a good or bad time for songwriters
and record companies alike. I'd like this to be a very interactive
column, so please feel
free to e-mail any and all questions to me, and I will do
my best to answer them, get an answer or source for and answer,
and include them in my column each month.
lets look quickly at the top 3 current options for sound media,
Wav, Real Player, & MP3. I'm going to keep things pretty basic for
now and as we go along month by month, we'll get more and more technical,
depending on your questions and reactions.
files have been around the longest and are the basic way that most
people use to record sound into their computers. Every new computer
comes with the ability to record Wav files and usually has a Wav
player and recorder built right in. The quality is sufficient, but
they tend to take up a lot of disc space making them difficult to
upload to others or to download from the net. On a slower modem,
it could literally take hours to download a full three or four minute
Audio is a streaming audio file, playing as it downloads. It makes
downloading almost instant, which is a good thing, but the quality
is limited. It can be set at different bandwidths to accommodate
faster modems, but even at it's best, it's quality is mediocre,
often giving you a somewhat fuzzy sound. You are also subject to
the traffic on the net. Because these are streaming feeds, net traffic
can often interrupt the feed, making the listener deal with an often
choppy audio signal.
there's MP3. With it's near CD quality sound, it's ease of use,
reasonably small file size, and fast download capabilities, this
is by far the most popular form of electronic audio. At the moment
players for all of these media types are freely available for download
from many sites, in many styles. Some are better than others, so
you'll have to look around a bit, but you can find one that will
play all types of current media, such as Winamp
is this freedom to give music away a good thing or a bad thing?
For the rest of this column, let's look at the upside of all this
far as Wav and real Player files are concerned, these are not threats
to artists in anyway. Wav's take far too long to download to make
it a worth while option for someone looking to "steal" someone's
music. But Wav files are the easiest to record and work with for
the novice computer person. As I said, all computers come with their
own version of a Wav player and recorder, and it's as easy as recording
to a tape recorder…just hit record and go. Real Player cannot be
saved to your hard disk as you listen to it. These files are actually
"links" to another file that actually contains the song you are
looking for. If you were able to save the stream, all you would
actually wind up saving is the link, not the actual song file. Real
Player encoders and players are available free and are fairly easy
to learn how to use. However, unless you have a web page and or
maintain one yourself, there's little use for the encoding software.
The player is invaluable due to it's ability to play many types
of current media and is one of the most popular downloads on the
net. If you do have a web page, Real Player is the most convenient
way to showcase your music.
tell you from my experience that the availability of MP3 alone has
drastically changed music for independent artists. There are a plethora
of MP3 sites on the net that will allow you to showcase your music,
freely for all to hear. Most do not charge any fees for letting
you upload your music and if you are on a high traffic site, such
the leader of them all, you have the ability for exposure you've
never had before. What this can lead to is someone seeing or hearing
your music who may never had any chance of hearing you before, thereby
reaching out to a larger audience and gaining more fans. The added
bonus of MP3 over Real Player is the audio quality of the download.
Essentially, the software compresses a CD quality file, which is
generally 40-50 megs for a 3 ˝ minute song, down to about 3-4 megs,
while keeping the sound quality intact. This makes for fast downloads.
On an average 56k modem, the downloads take about 5-6 minute on
the average. And for anyone with their own CD burner, personalized
CD's are easy to do. Which means that your song could be heard by
many more people than those just surfing the net.
most of the world now using these formats, Europe and other markets
that were once out of reach for independent artists and smaller
labels are as good as right next door. And with the popularity of
the sites growing, the respect of the music community to artists
who do well on these sites is growing also. Where in the past, it
was a novelty, it is now becoming part of the business. The performing
rights companies such as ASCAP,
have all begun to seriously work with the web community to find
ways to regulate the downloads of MP3 files and find ways to pay
royalties to the artists that get a significant amount of downloads.
They are starting to realize that it is here to stay and need to
find a way to make it beneficial for those who take advantage of
it. All of this makes being an independent songwriter a more feasible
option. While you may never sell enough to have a gold or platinum
album, you can still have a nice career and be successful.
that's it for this month. Remember:
promotion, promotion, promotion is the name of the game. As long
as you feel these new media options are for you, take a seat and
spend lots of time at the computer taking advantage of them. For
those willing to work, the opportunities are there.