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The MP3 Download Threat

Bob Starrett


The threat of mp3 looms large over the record industry, or so they say. Millions of computer users out there, lurking around illegal mp3 sites, downloading popular songs and playing them on their computers or cutting them to CD recordable media at a buck a disc. No compelling reason to go to the local record store and buy the latest CD by your favorite artist – just download a song, or the whole album, from the net.

Does it really work this way? Have you ever tried to find and download a particular song? It’s a bullshit experience. I’d rather buy the CD than go through what it takes to find and acquire an album’s worth of songs by my favorite artist. Maybe I am just not skilled enough to search the world over for the songs I want to steal. Maybe I need to hire some college students to do the task for me. Or maybe the whole threat is exaggerated.

I started with Lycos, whose mp3 search engine has been the subject of some controversy lately. Some goddamned controversy. I though I’d make a compilation of songs by Robert Earl Keen. Jr. The Lycos search finds one song, Copenhagen. It rates the reliability of the site as one star. It lists it as follows: 1 /Country/[Robert Earl Keen] Copenhagen(1).mp3 2.9M - 1999 Mar 6 19:12. I right-click to begin the download. Easy enough – "Connect – Contacting Host" a minute later, "There was no response. The server could be down or is not responding. ...;..contact the server’s administrator." Yeah, right.

OK, I am not defeated yet. I’ll try another artist. Tony Rice. No Hits. Ok, which artist do I like that is a little more popular? Nancy Griffith. No hits. Ok, Mark Knopfler. There we go. A bunch of hits, a bunch of songs! Man, I am going to cut a cool Knopfler disc!

So there are 38 Knopfler songs listed. I try each one:

1 - Sever has exceeded current limit of 4 users

2 - Could not logon to ftp server

3 - No response – server may be down

4 - Downloaded 137 bytes

5 – No response sever may be down

6 – Downloaded 157 bytes

7 - Unable to find the file or directory

8 – No response – server may be down

9 – Downloaded 97 bytes

10 - Sever has exceeded current limit of 4 users

And so it went until the final try at thirty eight. Thirty eight attempts, no music.

Maybe I’d have better luck with something more popular with the younger crowd. I asked around and was told that Korn was very popular. Sure enough, Korn fans post like madmen. There were 2778 songs listed on the Lycos search. Now I would have success, even if I had no idea whether I’d like this music or not. After a hundred or so tries, with similar results to the Knopfler downloads, I finally got attached to a server and downloaded a Korn "tune." Over my ADSL it came down at a fantastic .8k per second – my usual download speed is 40 to 50k per second Maybe I could make a pirate disc after all. I played the file. Oh, my. This is really bad. I won’t commit even one 3T pit to it. Into the recycle bin, and off I go on another raid with a new strategy.

So I Search for ‘mp3’ on Excite. This looks good – "Welcome to ALL the MP3'S you NEED ILLEGAL MP3s-Games-Apps ! FULL VER MP3 & WAREZ TOP 35 MP3Z Free Direct MP3 Downloads Top Mpeg3 Hideout WarezCreed Downloads!!"

Two pop-up windows appear "Call Girls Hardcore" and "The most beautiful women on the web." I close the windows and others proliferate. Now I’ve got 6 pop up windows on my screen and my hard drive is thrashing like crazy. Netscape locks – Thank God, I could not control all those windows.

So I try again. "MP3 World Directory - The worlds biggest MP3 Directory !!! Tons of weblinks!! .... with descriptions........" It’s a porn site, not an mp3 to be found. One more raid. Two clicks later 23 instances of Netscape are open. My system resources are at 18%. I pulled the plug and went to the record store.

So, there’s the mp3 threat, at least from where I sit.

Anybody dumb enough or with enough time to go through this process to acquire music is either unlikely to able to secure a job that pays enough for them to be able to purchase CDs in the first place or unemployed already. Record companies, that’s no lost revenue.



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