Heyday of the MP3 – A History

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Did you know there are over 1.2 trillion mp3 files on earth? That’s more than 171 times the number of people on the planet! It took nearly 200,000 years to grow the human population to 7.2 billion but only 20 years to produce the number of mp3s that exist in the world today. How come there are so many? What has made the mp3 so popular?

In this article we’ll take a look at the history of the mp3 and see how it gained its foothold in the audio world. We’ll also investigate some of the newer codecs that are being used alternatively to the mp3.

In 1989, the Moving Picture Expert Group (MPEG), an international standardization organization, wanted to introduce an audio standard. They received 14 audio coding proposals from participants who were then encouraged to combine their contributions. This resulted in the creation of ASPEC (adaptive spectral perceptual entropy coding), the precursor to the mp3 (MPEG layer 3). The technology was later incorporated into ISO MPEG standardization, which ultimately led to the success of its creators, the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (FIIC).

Unfortunately, marketing the mp3 was a bit of a disaster. In 1996, consumers were able to purchase the first mp3 encoder via the internet, which quickly led to mass distribution of the mp3. Regrettably, the software was bought by an Australian student using a stolen credit card and was made publicly available. Fraunhofer’s software business may have been laid to rest, but the result was the mp3 spreading like wildfire across the internet.

What’s more, music that was encoded in mp3, often in breach of copyright, was being distributed via file sharing and torrent sites such as Soulseek, Napster and Grooveshark. At the time, an average 128 kbps mp3 took up around 3.5 megabytes of space, a size that could easily be transferred over the internet when higher connection speeds ranged only from 56k to 1.54 mbps.

Finally, the advent of the mp3 player would solidify the mp3’s existence for years to come.

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The last two decades have shown that mp3s were favored over formats such as AAC because they were compatible with more listening devices at higher bit-depths. They also required less storage space than large, uncompressed file types such as AIFF or WAV. This is still true today and streaming and download services such as Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and Murfie continue to support mp3s, but they also support alternative formats as well.

There’s debate about which file formats are best for consuming music, but what consumers should be primarily aware of is the difference between lossy and lossless compression and how it affects their listening experience.

Lossy file types such as mp3 and AAC are compressed audio formats that use inexact approximations and discard data to represent the content for the purposes of storing, handling and transmitting. In other words, what you’re hearing is not the audio in its entirety. It’s similar to printing a draft on your printer as opposed to a full quality print. Less ink is used and the print is often lighter, but what remains is enough information to tell you what you’re looking at. Depending on the bit-depth of these file types the listener may experience reduced audio quality. Some would argue, however, that at higher bit-rates degradation in audio quality is hardly noticeable when compared to lossless formats.

Lossless file types like WAV and AIFF, FLAC and ALAC are containers that are able to store all of the data of an audio signal. Bit-for-bit, these file formats are more accurate representations of a signal because they don’t eliminate any data while encoding. FLAC and ALAC are newer codecs, which are compressed to some degree, but claim to deliver the same quality as uncompressed formats.  Although these containers are often massive in size, they are great for storing audio files in their original condition (true CD quality). And with the advent of hi-res streaming packages like Murfie Hi-Fi, you’re able to stream your music in FLAC on your lossless-ready devices for only $10 a month!    

When you send your collection to Murfie, we’ll rip and store the data as uncompressed audio (WAV) and make it available for streaming in 320 kbps mp3 (1411 kbps FLAC if you choose the Murfie Hi-Fi plan) or download in AAC, mp3, FLAC and ALAC.  

If you’re looking to transfer your CDs, vinyl or cassettes to digital and stream them from your preferred devices, send your collection to Murfie. To get a free quote click here. To learn more about our services, contact us or check our FAQ for answers to frequently asked questions.

Evolve Your Listening Experience with Murfie!

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Imagine a time before the invention of the CD burner, back when tapes were still more popular than CDs because they were more durable and our only means of copying and cataloging music.

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I remember fearing the inevitable destruction of my CDs, a consequence made real by overplaying them or neglecting to put them back into their cases afterwards. I certainly didn’t want to pay for the albums again (though that would have been the only option since there was no internet), so I often transferred them from CD to tape.

There were moments when my CDs even fell by the wayside and all I had were tapes of albums I had recorded or mixes of the lot. After all, cassette Walkmans were still more efficient than CD Walkmans back then because CD skip protection was still in its infancy, and I liked to jog while listening to music so the choice was obvious.

When CD burners entered the scene, CD Walkman technology had improved enough that you could pretty much play a CD without skips so long as you didn’t jostle the player too much. People were already ripping CDs to their computers and storing them on hard drives at this time, but it wasn’t until awhile later that actual burning capability became a household item. Consequently, we might have just skipped burning CDs altogether and just moved immediately to file sharing and streaming if it wasn’t for the lack of technology and our learned behavior of collecting physical media.

Binders full of plain discs with hand-scribbled titles gradually replaced the authentic, colorful and provocative ones. The originals were either sold or sat on shelves or in boxes in storage. Eventually, all I had to look forward to was what was on the CD when I played it. I could no longer hear with my eyes. It’s no wonder many of us lost interest in physical media.

music-1163286_1920Today, with the advent of streaming services, ownership of music has declined. We no longer flip through tiny booklets filled with pictures, art, lyrics and production credits while we enjoy our favorite albums. Certainly, we might look at the CDs front cover as a 2″ x 2″ thumbnail through the glare of our cellphone screen, but for the most part the haptic aesthetic of albums is gone.

Additionally, we pay for monthly subscriptions to listen to our favorite tunes, but in the end we’ve sacrificed ownership. If we lose our account or stop paying, our collection disappears. Not to mention, the music we can listen to is limited because subscription services do not have everything. The collections are incomplete.

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Contrary to the latest trend, physical media still exists and will continue to exist in many forms because there is a human need to experience the world with all of our senses. An artist performing a show personalizes it by offering physical media to their fans at a merch booth. A rare box set sells because it was uniquely crafted in remembrance of a great musician. A new generation of audiophiles realizes we got it right the first time with vinyl records and begins rummaging local thrift shops for sonic delights. Not to mention, a vast majority of consumers’ shelves, attics, basements and storage continue to brim with cassettes, CDs and vinyl records.

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Subsequently, a solution that ensures consumers retain the value and ownership rights of the albums they’ve paid for must be brought into being. We need to preserve the option of the aesthetic experience of an album if a listener so chooses and alternatively provide an efficient and safe way in which to catalog and store it. Finally, we need to ensure that when music is streamed, it can be done so at the highest bit rate possible per listening device for the ultimate listening experience.

So what is the solution you might ask? Murfie.

Murfie will take your collection of vinyl, cassettes and CDs, digitize them and make them available for streaming in a variety of popular formats, such as FLAC and mp3, complete with metadata for your preferred devices. When you send us your collection, it is ripped to your personal account for you and you alone. We believe that ownership matters, and so we provide you with exclusive access to your albums as well as give you the option of selling or trading your albums in our marketplace. The marketplace is also useful for filling the holes in your collection. In addition, we provide you the option of storing your albums indefinitely in our secure warehouse to free you of the burden of storing them yourself.

What makes Murfie unique from other streaming services is that if at any time you want to cancel your account or get your music back, you are able to do so. We don’t want you to lose the music you have spent countless hours collecting. We also don’t want you to pay for albums you have already bought over and over. We encourage you to enjoy your physical media the way it was intended, but we understand that advances in technology have led us to more simplistic ways of consuming media. And that is why we are here, to help you evolve and make the decision of what to do with your physical media effortless and pain free.

Send us your collection today, click here for an instant quote. If you have any questions feel free to contact us or check our FAQ.

Ownership Matters: What Apple Music users and Jim Dalrymple should know

“This is Apple Music. And it’s just the beginning.”

Apple’s website tells all: a single user can subscribe to their new streaming service, Apple Music, for $9.99/month. Though it is in fact just beginning, the new service has been met with a cascade of criticism.

Users reported some major hiccups with the service, including the iCloud Music Library aspect, which is meant to bring your iTunes library onto all your devices for you to stream anywhere. Users were reporting duplicate songs, songs that were moved to the wrong album, and missing songs.

Apple blogger Jim Dalrymple’s situation was particularly upsetting. When he was having complications with Apple Music, he decided to turn it off on his devices, resulting in what looked like 4,700 songs disappearing from his view. It’s reason to panic indeed, although Apple Music technically does not alter any of the original song files stored on your PC or other locations.

If your music “disappears”, whether permanently or temporarily, it’s important to have a backup just in case. Choosing to buy physical music that you own saves you from losing files, and from being at the mercy of a large music service, which are both terrifying things.

When you buy a CD on Murfie for example, we’ll give you the download to add to your iTunes, and streaming access you can take anywhere. If something happens to your files, whether it’s your fault or Apple’s, you’ll always have a perfect archive of all the music you own, ready to be downloaded again at any time. If you don’t want to hang on to the CD, we’ll hang on to it for you.

If you choose ownership, you will always have access, and there will be no need to worry. This is something that all Apple users, including Jim Dalrymple, should hopefully know—and we’d love to have them try us out!

Interview with DJ Pain 1 [Podcast]

DJ Pain 1DJ Pain 1 is a prominent hip-hop producer, and over the years he’s worked with names you know like Young Jeezy, Public Enemy and Ludacris. He’s also a Madison local and active community member who volunteers for non-profits. We had the great pleasure of having him here at the Murfie office recently.

In this interview, he brings up some important topics—like the pressure that Madison police put on venues that try to book hip-hop shows. Unfortunately, the lack of hip-hop in Madison makes it hard for talented acts to really blossom in town. What you might not know about DJ Pain 1 is that his real name is Pacal Bayley. He’s a true lover of all dedicated musicians, a physical music collector, and a mushroom hunter—although he’ll never tell you where he finds morels.

Now, I don’t want to give away all the best parts. Here’s a transcript of our interview along with the recorded version (below) on our Soundcloud player.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Who: DJ Pain 1; interviewed by Kayla Liederbach
Where: Murfie HQ, Madison, WI
When: Wednesday July 1st, 2015

K: So I am currently in one of the Murfie warehouse rooms surrounded by discs with DJ Pain 1. Welcome to the office, first of all.

DJ: This is kind of surreal.

K: It is. Being surrounded by so much music kind of makes you think about all the albums that have come out over the years.

DJ: Well all I see is boxes, so I’m just smelling cardboard—and there are all these boxes with numbers written on all of them. It’s like musical coffins or something.

K: That’s one way to think about it, for the people who store their CDs here. We do have people who get their CDs digitized and shipped back to them. But I suppose it is a good resting place, and these boxes are actually like water resistant and temperature—

DJ: Oh they are?

K: Yeah we make sure everything stays nice and cozy in there. But you know there are a lot of things to talk about in music, especially someone like you who is involved on all these different levels. So over the years as you’ve gained all your experience, the music industry has changed a lot, especially recently, in terms of the way people listen to music, and the way it’s being released. So in your opinion, is the music industry changing for better or for worse?

DJ: I think it’s always a duality. I think access is a good thing, and access has been improving for decades now. And so what access begets is saturation. And of course it changes the landscape as far as fans are concerned and their expectations of artists. They expect a lot of music, and they expect instant access, and they expect free most of all. And so that’s not necessary a bad thing, because it’s forced artists to really adapt in new and innovative ways, whether it’s just challenging the traditions of a genre or finding new and exciting ways to market and promote themselves. So, it’s good for some and bad for others, I guess that’s a subjective question. And I don’t necessarily know, because I’m benefiting a lot from it—but then on a macro level the music industry is just kind of crumbling before my very eyes. At first that kind of scared me, but now I’m just sitting there looking at my watch waiting for it to happen, because I kind of can’t stand the paradigm. But it also every now and then lets me in through a door, and then I make some money and get some notoriety off it.

DJ Pain 1K: Well I like what you said about finding ways to adapt that are new and interesting. I feel like that’s gonna be the differentiator between people who succeed regardless of how the music industry ends up being. So what are some of the best ways that you’ve learned to connect with your audience and make a living?

DJ: I give a lot of stuff away for free. And maybe the ratio is somewhere around 10:1 or 15:1. 15 being what I give away and 1 being what I sell. It gives me more leverage for the people that are following me and benefiting from the resources I give out. So I don’t know if it works, but it’s worked for me in some capacity, so I’m going to keep doing it.

K: Well especially if your music is good and people like it.

DJ: Yeah with me I really speak more to the producer community, so: free resources for producers, a lot of video advice for just aspiring artists of all kinds, and streaming Q&A shows, panels, the professional development stuff that we do locally here. I’ve done it around the country too a little.

K: So you’ve seen Madison’s music scene, and you’ve also traveled to different places. How does Madison’s music scene compare to other places?

DJ: That goes back to the word access. I’m gonna use Appleton as an example just because it’s so close and it’s so much smaller than Madison. I mean, their population is a lot smaller than Madison’s. You know alone we have 40,000+ just students, just like a transient population, but Appleton has more venues, more music events going on concurrently, more music festivals, and just it seems that there’s more access. And I know that things have changed maybe in the last year or two, but when I go there it appears to me that they have more going on. When you come to Madison there are very few options as far as live music goes, and especially if you’re a fan of what people would consider—quote urban unquote—styles of music. That’s unfortunate. Because I mean the talent here isn’t any less amazing. And I’ve been all over the place and we have great talent here. But I think access and opportunity not only allows for sustainability, but it also promotes talent too, and growth too. I mean people feel boxed in here, so I don’t think we’re all growing as much as we could be.

K: You know, when you say that, I do realize I haven’t seen a lot of hip-hop and rap shows being promoted.

DJ: No they’re all banned, it’s banned. Name a venue and I’m probably banned from it.

K: Really! Majestic? Frequency?

Continue reading Interview with DJ Pain 1 [Podcast]

6 Reasons Why Music Ownership Matters

Why own music in the digital age? When you buy digital downloads or streaming subscriptions, you’re sacrificing important benefits that are tied to ownership.

Buying CDs and vinyl gives you several ownership rights, and with the Murfie service, you don’t have to choose between owning music and the convenience of streaming and download access. In short, Murfie exists to give your physical collection the cloud upgrade it deserves. We rip your CDs and vinyl and upload the music to your Murfie account for you to download and stream on all your devices.

But still, why even start with owning CDs and vinyl when you can just download and stream music? Here are six reasons why ownership still matters in the digital age.

  1. Your music will always be yours.

You can obtain digital music in a snap nowadays. Whether it’s streaming with a service, or listening to digital tracks you bought online, you have access to the music—as long as the service exists.

If you’re renting your music with a streaming service and the service closes, or you decide not to subscribe anymore, you end owning nothing. If you bought a digital download somewhere, you won’t have access to re-download that music after the service is no more. Even if the service stays put, oftentimes you’re limited in the number of times you can download.

When you buy CDs and vinyl records, you’ve made a real investment in your music. These are properties you truly own and control. Your money is well-spent, and Murfie helps maximize the enjoyment of the music you own by moving it to the cloud for you. And if you’d rather not store the physical disc on a shelf at home, well, store it here at Murfie!

  1. The quality is better.

Let’s take a look at popular music services and their bitrates, shall we? iTunes = 256 kbps. Amazon = 256 kbps. Spotify = 160 kbps (ouch!). Spotify does have 320 kbps available to subscribers who pay $9.99/month.

At Murfie, your CDs and vinyl are ripped in lossless FLAC format, providing 1411 kbps of audio quality. FLAC is a favorite of audiophiles who enjoy the highest quality music they can get. At no extra cost, you get unlimited downloads of your Murfie collection in FLAC, ALAC, 320 kbps mp3, and aac, and free streaming in 320 kbps mp3. We too have a paid streaming tier for $10/month—but it’s lossless FLAC streaming of course!

  1. You’re not limited to a device or service.

Buying downloads or a streaming subscription limits your listening in key ways. Many services are walled gardens that make it difficult to transfer your files when you change devices. When you own your music, you’re always in control of where, when and how to listen to it.

  1. There’s no “Buyer Beware” terms and conditions.

Did you read the terms and conditions? When you purchase digital content online, you’re agreeing to whatever that fine print clearly (or not so clearly) says. Sometimes the fine print gives the vendor rights to alter or take away what you purchased. The “Buy” button itself historically implies ownership, but that’s not true anymore.

  1. You have rights to sell, trade, or gift.

Ever heard of the first sale doctrine? It allows you to sell your CDs and records if you no longer want them. It’s a freedom that we as consumers deserve. At Murfie, you can buy any CD, stream it, and return it within 24 hours if it’s not for you. You can also decide what CDs you no longer want and sell them on the site. We also have a nifty gifting feature that lets you gift an album to a friend!

  1. You can will your music to your next of kin.

Unless you own your music, you won’t be able to pass it on to someone after you die. The fate of digital assets after death has lately become a buzz topic. Your Murfie collection, in all its digital glory, comes from your physical CDs and vinyl with ownership rights attached to them—so you can will your music just like the contents of a safety deposit box. It’s yours, after all!

Ownership Matters: Buyer Beware!

Did you read the Terms and Conditions?

It’s no secret that Terms and Conditions are subject to change. When you buy licensed content online—whether it’s music, movies, or some other media—your access to that content is always at risk.

Take this for example: Online gamers were able to buy full songs within a virtual social networking game created by IMVU, Inc. Later on, all the songs were truncated to 20-second clips, resulting in a lawsuit filed by Peter MacKinnon, Jr., a gamer who was upset that all the songs he paid money for were shortened. This instance shows how the uncertain future of licensed content can make your initial investment wasted if the terms change, or don’t protect you.

IMVU argued that since MacKinnon accepted the terms, he has no property rights to claim.

And that’s just it—MacKinnon accepted the terms, so it’s perfectly legal for the gaming company to do whatever they want with the songs he bought if that’s what the terms say. That doesn’t change the fact that, well… he got screwed, and everyone can see that!

We all read and understand the fine print all the time, right?

As a music fan, it’s a problem when your rights are dictated by often complex and flexible terms and not good old-fashioned property rights. The terms of buying licensed content are making this a “buyer beware” world—which seems worse than a world where what you buy is legally yours in a way you understand, forever and unchanged, across vendors and services.

If you want to buy music and have it always be yours, it’s great to go with ownable formats like CDs and vinyl. A lot of people dig digital music, and so do we—which is we built our service to provide you digital download and streaming access to a physical collection you own. The CDs you buy on Murfie and send to Murfie will always remain yours—so no fear here if our terms change. Ownership has got you covered.

Ownership Matters: Swift vs. free Spotify

In a move that shocked fans and media outlets, Taylor Swift pulled her entire catalog from Spotify on November 3rd without any advance notice. Swift was silent for a few days about the issue, and in the meantime Spotify asked her to bring back her music to the millions of fans who were already streaming it.

But when Swift responded on the issue a few days later, her reasoning became clear. It’s not that Swift doesn’t want people to stream her music—clearly people want to stream, and there’s no denying that. She just doesn’t believe Spotify’s model fairly compensates her for her work.

Some songwriters and big-name artists also question whether streaming payouts represent fair compensation. Album sales, unlike streaming, pull a large chunk of revenue forward for artists and songwriters.

If millions of fans are streaming Taylor Swift’s album on Spotify for free, it’s a near certainty that she’s selling fewer albums, and making less than she possibly could if everyone who listened to her album paid for it first. She also wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal about the value of music.

Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek recently explained to artists that “The more we grow, the more we’ll pay you.” He’s asking people to trust him, to believe the numbers will add up in the future if everything goes as planned. But all this, in Swift’s opinion, still seems like a “grand experiment.”

Swift believes the definition of fair compensation is that everyone who listens should pay, and that playing without paying devalues music. “And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free,” says Swift.

Another artist, Amanda Palmer, has a different view. Palmer believes that not everyone who listens should have to pay, because the fans who truly want to support you will support you if they can. And for her, that is enough.

Something to think about is: you don’t have to pick between a streaming service and an album sale. You can buy the album, and stream it also. That’s the service we built at Murfie—streaming for your CD and vinyl collection from the web, your phone, tablet, and more. In great quality too.

Do you think everyone who listens to music should have to pay up front, or do you have a view like Amanda Palmer’s? Let us know in the comments!