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8.8. MP3 resources

Here is a list of some of the many online resources for MP3:

MP3 for Beginners
http://www.mp3.com/dummies.html

This is MP3.com's beginners guide to using and creating MP3 files, including encoding and playback. It offers information about where to find MP3 files, as well as players and encoders for a variety of computer platforms. Also featured is the latest in news, press releases, and headlines referring to all MP3-related issues.

Winamp home page
http://www.winamp.com

This is the web site for one of the most popular MP3 players for the Windows platform. The site includes plug-in and skin files for customizing of your player.

SoundJam home page
http://www.soundjam.com

This is the web site for the most popular MP3 player for the Macintosh platform.

Macast home page
http://www.macast.com

This is the web site for the second most popular MP3 player for the Macintosh platform.

SHOUTcast
http://www.shoutcast.com

SHOUTcast is a streaming audio system for Windows and Unix platforms. SHOUTcast allows anyone with Nullsoft's Winamp audio player and an Internet connection to broadcast audio via the Internet. The site features information on configuring and running your own Internet radio station using SHOUTcast.

Moving Pictures Experts Group (MPEG)
http://www.cselt.stet.it/mpeg

This is the official site of the MPEG group, which drafts the standards for MPEG. The site provides information about the MPEG specifications as well as the latest in standardization for MPEG.

Xing Technology web site
http://www.xingtech.com

This site is home to Xing Technology with information about Xing's commercially available MPEG products, which are among the best. Products include the XingMP3 Encoder, all-in-one AudioCatalyst, and the Streamworks MPEG audio server.

MusicMatch web site
http://www.musicmatch.com

This site is home to MusicMatch Jukebox, with information about the all-in-one product that allows ripping, encoding, databasing, and playback of MP3 files, all free of charge.

Diamond Multimedia
http://www.diamondmm.com

This site has information about the Diamond Rio MP3 player and much more on MP3. See also Diamond's http://www.rioport.com for access to lots of legal MP3 files.

Lycos MP3 search
http://MP3.lycos.com

Lycos created an MP3 database that lists millions of MP3-formatted songs available for downloading from thousands of web sites.

2look4
http://www.2look4.com

2look4 is an MP3 search engine with many features and additional information listings of MP3 FTP servers.

Emusic
http://www.emusic.com

Emusic is known as the Internet record company. This site features tons of music, commercially available as well as free for download. It also features artist profiles.

Yepp Player
http://www.yepp.co.kr

The Yepp player is Samsung's answer to the Rio portable player for MP3 files.

Microsoft Media Player
http://microsoft.com/windows/mediaplayer/download/Macintosh.asp

The Microsoft media player supports MP3 playback, with certain caveats. Please read the latest information.

QuickTime Player
http://www.apple.com/quicktime

The QuickTime player supports MP3 playback as well as a host of other formats.

Liquid Audio: building a viable e-music system

 

MP3 has altered forever the way that music is distributed. Unsigned bands are building fan bases, music lovers are illegally sharing copied files with Napster, and hardware companies are promising Internet-connected, MP3-playing car radios. All of this raises serious concerns, however, for both record labels and their artists. The rock group Metallica proclaimed that the online community was ripping them off and filed suit against Napster, stating that users were robbing the band of royalties.

 

Suits like Metallica's indicate how untenable is the situation with MP3 for the music establishment. It is not an exaggeration to say that the MP3 revolution yanked the industry into the online content business against their will; now that the music is out there, the industry is desperate for a safe and secure transaction and distribution system. Many of the elements of a viable music transaction system -- encryption, copyright protection, digital watermarking, e-commerce functionality, and of course CD-quality audio -- have already been developed by a company called Liquid Audio. While Liquid has inked many marketing deals and is involved with the key standards committees, only time can say whether their technologies will be the platform for a transaction-based music system.

 

Also available in the Liquid Audio technology is the marriage of the new file formats and the next generation of portable listening devices, such as the Rio, Yepp, and the Sony Memory Stick players. Because of important technology deals and licensing arrangements, these new devices will all be able to play and store Liquid Audio files. And beyond online downloading, Liquid Audio is appearing in "pay by the song" kiosks in major record stores and other traditional retailers across the nation and the world. The case for Liquid Audio is that they have created a technology that will attempt to cash in on the future of digital downloads, from whichever distribution method and in whatever file format the user chooses.

 
 
The Genuine Music Mark

Liquid Audio was developed by veterans of the music industry and professional recording engineers as a solution designed specifically for the music industry. Their vision was to create the music distribution system of the future. With Liquid's technology embedded not only in the Liquid Player but also in new versions of the Winamp MP3 player and the RealPlayer software, consumers can buy music online in digital form and download that music to their computer, home entertainment system, or portable playback device, or burn it to a custom CD.

 

The heart of the system is that attached to each file will be a marker carrying authentication information. In an effort to establish its Genuine Music Mark (GMM) as an industry standard, Liquid Audio has formed the Genuine Music Coalition (GMC) with Diamond Multimedia Systems, Emusic Corp., and Nullsoft Inc. (acquired by AOL), three of the main players in the emerging MP3 market. With GMM, the coalition is offering intellectual property owners a way to protect themselves against copyright infringement by adding audible authentication of origin and ownership information into the MP3 format.

 

GMM works with Liquid Audio System's proprietary watermark and is embedded into the code of the MP3 file itself, guaranteeing that wherever the MP3 file travels, the GMM follows. It will not prevent Internet piracy of MP3 files, but will help ensure that proper identification and copyright information are "married" to the music file. It also protects consumers by letting them know whether the MP3 file they have downloaded is legal. This method of marking MP3 files helps increase musicians' and labels' confidence in distributing their music over the web in the MP3 format. Liquid Audio charges for the use of the watermark, making copyright protection for audio on the Internet available to any MP3 content owners who are members of the GMC.

 

Liquid is also involved with the Recording Industry Association of America's efforts to come up with a secure download system, the Secure Digital Mark Initiative. SDMI is supported by Liquid Audio as well as a growing group of Internet technology and software companies associated with digital music downloads. The future direction and outcome of the RIAA's initiatives, however, remains unclear.

     
The Liquid Audio system

In contrast to MP3, Liquid Audio provides an end-to-end solution for editing, mastering, purchasing, distributing, and playing high-quality audio over the Internet. Unlike RealAudio, Flash, and MP3, the Liquid Audio system is geared for commerce and the controlled distribution of high-quality digital downloads. It is designed to track sales, keep licensing and copyright information in place, and provide advanced security features, including digital watermarking and encryption. Perhaps the key element in the Liquid Audio package is its flexibility, which allows musicians to easily set conditions for how the file can be used. One label may choose to give away a song with no limitations; another may want a file to be disabled 60 days after album release or 30 days after download.

 

Another key part of the system is the many marketing deals Liquid has made with portals like Yahoo! (http://digital.yahoo.com),   independent labels like Atomic Pop (http://www.atomicpop.com), and hundreds of radio stations. For a complete list of Liquid Music Network affiliates, go to http://www.liquidaudio.com/music/index.html.

 

The Liquid Player, shown in Figure 8-18, is similar to other players but has a few more features up its sleeve. In addition to playing music, the Liquid Player displays cover art, lyrics, credits, and copyright information. The Liquid Player also allows direct links to purchase the music being played. For instance, if you download a track from Amazon.com, clicking on the Buy CD button takes you to the Amazon page for that album. The software plays Liquid Audio, MP3, CD-quality Dolby Digital AC-3, or AAC encoded audio files.

 

The Liquid Player is the main user interface to the world of listeners and customers who download Liquid Audio content. It provides all the features you would expect in a music player, including extensive playback control, ability to view graphic images, and artist information. It also provides some features you wouldn't expect, such as copyright information, watermarking, the option to purchase the music online, and even a "Burn CD" command that allows you to create your own custom CD of Liquid Audio tracks.

 
Figure 8-18

Figure 8-18. The free Liquid Player for Windows makes it easy to download CD-quality encoded audio files.

 

The Liquid Player lets users preview, purchase, download, play back, and record music on a custom CD, all from within one player. Other players require multiple, often external applications to accomplish these same tasks. In Figure 8-18, you'll see the usual audio controls like play, stop, fast forward, and rewind, a draggable progress bar, volume control and song title and copyright information.

 

The Liquid Player can also display album art and other promotional material, and link to other sites, including e-commerce sites and the artist's or label's site.

 

One of the most popular and exclusive features of the Liquid Player is the ability to burn downloaded music to an audio CD. This feature allows customers to make the CDs they really want instead of having to spend $20 on a CD to get two or three tracks. In addition, users may be more willing to pay for music if they can easily carry it away from their computer.

     
Liquifier encoding tool

To encode music for the Liquid format, use the Liquifier encoding tool, which provides a mastering-like environment for recording, editing, and encoding Liquid Audio content. The Liquifier also features basic waveform editing, excellent sample rate and format conversion, and smooth "single-click" uploading to a web site or a database. In addition, a comprehensive preview function allows you to easily audition your Liquid Audio clips at different bandwidth settings before encoding the files. The Liquifier also lets you combine audio with other media elements and text such as lyrics, band biographies, copyright information, credits, and CD artwork.

     
Liquid Server

The secure Liquid Server provides a solution for online electronic sales, asset management, royalty tracking and reporting, and copyright protection. It allows the preview and delivery of high-quality, scalable audio over IP networks. The server can be licensed to provide a range of simultaneous audio streams for auditioning, as well as file transfers for purchasing encoded audio clips from either Unix- or NT-based platforms. However, the most heavily utilized method has been simply to use Liquid Audio or other large online distributors, such as Yahoo!, to access Liquid Server. That way all the maintenance, upkeep, e-commerce collection, and music distribution is handled for you.

     
Liquifier Pro

The Liquifier Pro is a mastering and encoding application from Liquid Audio. Liquifier Pro has everything you need to prepare and publish CD-quality music for secure, electronic distribution. It encodes the audio for optimum performance over a wide variety of connection speeds. It also enables lyrics, liner notes, and graphics to be combined with the music into a single file that is then published to the Liquid Music Network Server. Content submitted to the Liquid Music Network (LMN) is then automatically distributed to over 700 web sites. In addition, Liquifier Pro is the only Internet mastering tool with both Dolby Digital and AAC encoding. Liquifier Pro 5.0 also authors MP3 files.

     
Liquid in Winamp and RealPlayer

While Liquid's hold on the online music market is far from a lock as of this writing, their technologies do seem to be poised to provide much-needed structure and accountability. For example, in an effort to make the content on the Liquid Music Network more broadly accessible, Liquid Audio has made deals with AOL and Real Networks to allow the playback, purchase, and distribution of Liquid Audio-encoded files through these popular browsers. These appear to be the key deals that will make Liquid's technologies the platform on which a market for downloadable music can be built.

 


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