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 MP3 News

Don't write off the CD - yet
By Patrick O'Connell

It's like a scratch on the blackboard for the record industry.

Sales of music using the web and not the CD are up. According to figures from the firms who sell music though the net using MP3 technology, sales have tripled in the past year.

It's still a tiny fraction of the world's music industry but large enough to anger the record business.

They're convinced not enough is being done to combat pirates - who can swap songs round the web like children trade baseball cards.

But the boss of the one of the big firms involved in web-music has again defended the technology and the way it's used.

Michael Robertson, chief executive of MP3.com says: don't write off the CD.

"I think the CD is going to be with us for a long time. There are a billion CD players in the world ... technologies are very reticent to be left behind. So I think CDs will be with us for a long time," he said.

Many people whose livelihoods depend on the traditional business of recording, distribution and marketing often seem less certain. The potential for piracy is enough to bring similar claims for action from rival record labels.

Is it piracy?

Michael Robertson thinks they should turn down the complaining: "The record labels ... are looking to the piracy issue as a way to say - you know - we need a secure format which we can control so we can keep our distribution control. That's really the fundamental issue here, it's not about piracy."

Talk like this might blow the circuits of both the firm's competition and the record business. But web users will know this is an argument to follow.

It prompts many questions about the commercial use of the Internet.

Already MP3.com says it's adding 200 artists every day to its stable of 25,000. Some 30% of the perfomers are based outside the US and 22% of customers live outside America.

Now, where did you leave the sleeve for that new CD?

MP3 Phone Home?
At Telecom 99 in Geneva, Ericsson demonstrates a small MP3 player, which can be attached to a mobile phone. The MP3 player from Ericsson lets you listen to near CD-quality audio through the stereo earpieces between calls. The player is shown as a fully working prototype and will be commercialized during next year. Ericsson recently also unveiled a plug-in FM radio, which will be on market towards the end of this year.

This plug-in combined MP3 player and portable handsfree for mobile phones is showed for the first time at Telecom 99 in Geneva. No more need to unplug your music and plug in your portable handsfree. Just put the two earpieces in your ears, start the high quality audio player and listen to your favorite music in the stereo earpieces. Incoming calls are channeled through both earpieces and the cord features a microphone to speak into and a button to answer calls with. If you listen to the music when you receive an incoming call, the sound from the player will automatically be muted and you may answer the call with the button on the cord. The high quality audio player is completely controlled and powered by the mobile phone - no extra batteries or space consuming buttons or display.

"The digital audio format used in this model is MP3 because it exists today and the standard has shown a proven level of quality. However, we are constantly monitoring the ongoing efforts to agree upon a format that will protect copyrights of digital music," says Jan Ahrenbring, Vice President Marketing and Communications at Ericsson Mobile Communications.

The digital music is stored on small memory cards called MultiMedia Card (MMC). Together with a card reader connected to a computer the user can copy digital music files from the computer to the high quality audio player just as easy as copying files onto a floppy disc.

Additional information about Ericsson mobile phones is available on the World Wide Web at


It's only MP3 but I like it
By Chris Nuttall

Former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman has become the first major artist to release an album on his own personalised digital MP3 player.

The matchbox-sized device with no moving parts is one of the smallest of its kind in the world and features encryption software designed in the UK to prevent piracy.

The player costs £50 plus VAT, with the album cover on its front and the actual music, claimed to be in better-than-CD quality, contained on a removable chip inside known as a Multi Media Card (MMC), similar to the SIM cards in mobile phones.

Bill Wyman has chosen to release a Special Edition album of unreleased material and live performances of his Rhythm Kings supergroup featuring Eric Clapton, Georgie Fame, Gary Booker and Peter Frampton.

The player, due to be promoted from 1 October, is expected to become a collectors' item but can be used for other MMC albums or with blank MMCs for users to record their own MP3 music choices.

Dazed and confused

"Up to now it's been hard to see how we could release our music globally in the new format and at the same time protect ourselves from the piracy problem," said the ex-Stone.

"The Bill Wyman MP3 Player totally solves this problem, I'm very excited about this - in fact my mind is reeling from the possibilities."

The player and concept have been developed by London-based MP3 UK Ltd, whose founder and CEO Grenville Lee described the launch as "a seismic event for the record industry".

An MP3 Multi Media Card Reader/Writer is also available for £50 to enable any musician to produce files for MMC albums with an inbuilt copyrighting system.

Anyone could download the music from an artist's site but a unique serial number is needed to unlock it. Musicians can get real-time online reports on album sales and royalty payments due.

Grenville Lee expects other major artists to release material on the MP3 players with album-cover wraparounds in the near future and believes it can become a Swatch-style fashion accessory that could even be worn like an earring.

The Wyman announcement comes in the same week that Pete Townshend of The Who made his latest album, Pete Townshend Live, free to download until 27 September from the Musicmaker.com Website.

And David Bowie fans were able to buy and download his latest album "hours..." from the Web weeks before it goes on sale in the shops.




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