The Muse's Muse  
Muses MailMuses Newsmuse chatsongwriting resource home
Regular Columnists

Time To Get Electric
By John Taglieri - 06/06/2007 - 10:49 AM EDT

Well, 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.

As 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.

What 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.

First 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.

Wav 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 song.

Real 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.

Then 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 or RealPlayer.

So, 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 new media.

As 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.

I can 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 as, 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.

With 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, BMI, & SOCAN 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.

Well, 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.

Keep The Faith!
-- John

[ Current Articles | Archives ]

Help For Newcomers
Help for Newcomers
Helpful Resources
Helpful Resources
Regular Columnists
Music Reviews
Services Offered
About the  Muse's Muse
About Muse's Muse
Subscribe to The Muse's News, free monthly newsletter for songwriters
with exclusive articles, copyright & publishing advice, music, website & book reviews, contest & market information, a chance to win prizes & more!

Join today!

Created & Maintained
by Jodi Krangle


© 1995 - 2016, The Muse's Muse Songwriting Resource. All rights reserved.

Read The Muse's Muse Privacy Statement