Mention the word ‘napster’ to a music business executive and watch the reaction – it will be similar to lighting the blue touch paper.
The trouble with the internet, at least in the eyes of the music world, is that it is free. Users tend not to like having to pay for services online. Newspapers are mostly free, as are a good many information sources.
Software can be downloaded for the price of a phone call, and now that it can be stored digitally in manageable-sized files, the same applies to music.
Throw napster into the equation, and the music business presses the panic button. Napster works by allowing users to share files without cost, and most users look for mp3 music files stored on others’ hard disks – breaching copyright in the process.
Users have the potential to download a whole CD collection for free and the music business does not like that.
But some look at the new technology as an opportunity, not a threat.
Websites can be used to promote a particular song, much in the same way as the radio – and incidentally there is nothing to stop you from recording the latest hits straight from the airwaves.
mp3 files have revolutionised the way music is stored electronically, and there are now hundreds of legitimate sites where music can be downloaded for free.
All you need is the software to play the files, and there are plenty of free downloads available.
www.mp3.com is the classic example of a music website. Virtually every music taste is catered for, and listeners have the option of either downloading songs or simply clicking and listening.
Inevitably, the well-known artists cannot be downloaded for free, but you are given a great opportunity to listen to new acts.
Users can also store their music in cyberspace through my.mp3.
www.peoplesound.com offers a similar service, but looks slicker.
The news channel is comprehensive, and the site takes the opportunity to promote new, unsigned talent.
Downloading music from these sites is a straightforward operation, but if you are doing this at home using a standard 56 modem be prepared to wait – a single file can take up to 20 minutes to download.
This is one of the major drawbacks of music on the net – download time can be painfully long and if you do not have free phone access, your telephone bills could go through the roof.
The real fun with these, and other, sites is exploring different music genres and discovering something you would not normally listen to – you often don’t need to download the music as you can listen to it ‘live’ direct over the internet.
If you don’t like something, you can simply stop and move on.
Other websites worth looking at are www.clickmusic.co.uk, www.besonic.com, www.vitaminic.co.uk and www.brandnewmusic.com and Lycos’ music pages, powered by click2music. co.uk.
And of course search engines are invaluable – ‘mp3′ is now one of the most widely searched for word. Simply type in your favourite band’s name plus mp3 and you will find all sorts of obscure sites often containing the artists’ live recordings.
Even your favourite’s official website will have downloadable music, recognising the power of internet promotion.
OUR TOP FOUR SITES www.napster.com Full marks for taking on the mighty music businesses – if you can live with doing something illegal go for it. Click on it before it closes down. *****
www.mp3.com Does what it says on the tin. You can search for all music genres. Downloading is easy and straightforward – and not illegal. ****
www.peoplesound.com Slick site, good for new talent and unsigned groups. Don’t be put off by the number of artists you have never heard of. ***
www.clickmusic.co.uk Comprehensive music site, good selection of downloads plus plenty of extra music content. Easy to use, clear design. ***.
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