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mp3 disc analog digital
The conversion from analog to digital music in the 1980s changed the way Americans listened to music. Humans talk and listen in analog. When people speak, they create vibrations in their throats that then travel through the air around them like ripples in a pond. A membrane in the ear, known as an eardrum, picks up these vibrations, allowing people to hear. Patterns in these vibrations enable people to differentiate sounds from one another. Before compact discs (CDs) and MP3 files, all music was recorded in analog form. On a record player, the vibrations that create music are impressed in grooves on a vinyl disc. A needle passing over this impression vibrates in the same way, turning those vibrations into electrical waveforms that travel along a wire to an amplifier and into a speaker. With tape players, the analog waveforms are recorded in electronic form nearly verbatim on a magnetic tape.
The biggest problem with analog recordings is that each time the music is recorded or copied, the waveform degrades in quality much like a photocopy of an image. Digitizing the music resolves this problem of fidelity. To record and play music digitally, an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) and a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) are needed. In the recording process, the analog music is fed through the ADC, which samples the analog waveforms and then breaks them down into a series of binary numbers represented by zeros and ones. The numbers are then stored on a disc or a memory chip like any other type of digital information. To play the music back, these numbers are fed through a DAC. The DAC reads the numbers and reproduces the original analog waveform that then travels to headphones or speakers. Since the numbers always reproduce a high quality version of the original recording, no quality (fidelity) is lost, regardless of how many times the song is transferred or recorded.
The Compact Disc and Compact Disc Player
Digital music was first introduced into mainstream America in 1983 in the form of compact disc players and compact discs (CDs). Klass Compaan, a Dutch physicist, originally came up with the idea for the compact disc in 1969 and developed a glass prototype a year later at Philips Corporation. Over the next nine years both Philips and Sony worked on various prototypes of a CD player. In 1979 the two companies came together to create a final version and set the standards for the compact disc. The first disc players were sold in Japan and Europe in 1982 and then in the United States in 1983.
With a standard CD, music is recorded digitally on the surface of a polycarbonate plastic disc in a long spiral track 0.00002 inches wide that winds from the center of the disk to the outer edges. A space 0.00006 inches wide separates each ring of the spiral track from the one next to it. Tiny divots, or pits, a minimum of 0.00003 inches long, are engraved into the surface of the track. The polycarbonate disc is then covered by a layer of aluminum and a layer of clear acrylic. (See Figure 5.1.) As the disc spins in the disc drive, a laser follows this tiny track counterclockwise, and a light sensor, sitting next to the laser, tracks the changes in the laser light as it reflects off the CD. When the laser strikes a non-divoted section of track, the laser light bounces off of the aluminum and back to the light sensor uninterrupted. Each time the laser
|Manufacturers' shipments and value of recording media, 1982–2002|
|[577.4 represents 577,400,000. Based on reports of RIAA member companies who distributed about 84 percent of the prerecorded music in 2002. These data are supplemented by other sources. Minus sign (–) indicates returns greater than shipments]|
|X Not applicable.|
|1Net units, after returns.|
|2Includes discontinued media.|
|SOURCE: "No. 1141. Recording Media—Manufacturers' Shipments and Value: 1982 to 2002," in Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2003, U.S. Census Bureau, Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, 2003, http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/03statab/inforcomm.pdf (accessed November 22, 2004)|
|Unit shipments1 (mil.)|
|Albums—LPs and EPs||243.9||167.0||11.7||2.2||3.4||2.9||2.2||2.3||1.7|
|Value (mil. dol.)|
|Albums—LPs and EPs||1,925.1||1,280.5||86.5||25.1||34.0||31.8||27.7||27.4||20.5|
hits one of the divots along the CD track, however, the light is scattered. These flashes of light represent the binary code that makes up the music. Electronics in the disc player read this code. The ones and zeros are then fed into a digital signal processor (DSP), which acts as a digital-to-analog converter, and the analog waveform for the music emerges to the delight of the listener.
When CD players were first released in the United States by both Sony and Philips, they ran close to $1,000 apiece. The CDs themselves, which occupied a very small section of the music store at the time, went for close to $20 a piece. Despite the high costs, 22.6 million CDs sold in 1985, according to U.S. Census figures. (See Table 5.2.) About 287 million compact discs were sold in 1990, and by 2002 this number reached 803 million. The Digital Electronics Association estimated that in 2000 fifty-four million CD players were produced. Over the years, CD players have become much more compact and have been equipped with many more features, often designed to increase sound quality. By 2005 personal CD players and CD boom boxes were widely available for less than $50.
The Rise of MP3
In 1985 the first compact disc read-only memory players (CD-ROMs) were released for computers, again by Sony and Philips. CD-ROM players could read computer data from CD-ROMs as well as music from CDs. While people with early CD-ROMs were able to listen to CD music, downloading it onto a computer was difficult. A three-minute song on a CD consisted roughly of thirty-two megabytes. (Each byte consists of a string of eight ones and zeros that can be used to represent binary numbers from zero to 255. In binary, which is base two number system, one is 00000001, two is 00000010, nineteen is 00010011, and 255 is 11111111.) During the late 1980s and early 1990s, most computer hard drives were only big enough to hold a few songs straight from an audio CD. In 1987 researchers at the Fraunhofer Institut Integrierte Schaltungen in Germany began to look into ways to compress digital video and sound data into smaller sizes for broadcasting purposes. Out of this work, the MP2 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer II) and then the MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer III) audio file format emerged.
Using the MP3 format, digital songs can be compressed from thirty-two megabytes per song to roughly three megabytes per song. Compact disc recordings pick up any and every sound in a studio or concert. The MP3 compression system works by cutting out sounds in CD recordings that people do not pay attention to or do not hear. This may include sounds drowned out by louder instruments. In classical music, the MP3 might cut out a nearly indiscernible note from a flautist or the sound of a faint cough in the audience. MP3 encoders, such as XingMP3 from Real Networks or Apple Lossless from Apple Computer, can compress a typical CD track into an MP3 file only one-tenth the size of the original recording. When played back, MP3 files sound nearly as good as CD tracks and much better than tapes.
The first of the MP3 players on the market was the Rio PMP300 by Diamond Multimedia, released in February 1999. MP3 players consist of a hard drive, as large as sixty gigabytes in late 2004, and all the electronic circuitry necessary to transform an MP3 files into analog music. Using a USB cable, the device can be hooked up directly to a home computer. Once connected, the user can download thousands upon thousands of songs into the MP3 hard drive. When the user selects a song, a microprocessor in the MP3 player pulls the song from the hard drive. A built-in signal processor decompresses the MP3 file to CD format, converts the digital signal to an analog signal, and then sends the analog waveform to the headphones. Though MP3 files do not sound quite as good as a CD tracks, most people can place their entire music collection on an MP3 player.
According to the telecommunications research firm Juniper Research (www.juniperresearch.com), more than 1.7 million MP3 players were sold in 2002 and 3.5 million were sold in 2003. Sales were expected to increase by 50% a year for several years to follow.
MP3 and Peer-to-Peer File Sharing
The widespread use of MP3 files and the increased size of hard drives in the late 1990s caused a sea change in the music industry almost as big as the advent of digital music. People could now store entire music libraries on their computers and swap music for free over peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. According to Michael Gowan in "Requiem for Napster" (PC World, May 17, 2001), the Napster file-sharing service had approximately eighty million subscribers at its peak.
The availability of free music cut deeply into the recording industry's sales. Table 5.3 shows consumer expenditures for sound recordings from 1990 to 2002. Between 1999 and 2000 total expenditures fell from $14.6 billion to $14.3 billion, which represents a 2% decrease. This was followed by a 4% drop in 2001 and an 8% drop in 2002. Seeing diminishing profits, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sued Napster and the users of other peer-to-peer networks that shared music files. (See Chapter 4.) Some high-profile bands at the time, such as Metallica and Creed, joined the RIAA in its attempt to close down Napster. Other musicians, however, did not seem fazed by Internet file sharing. Radiohead released their album Kid A on the Internet three weeks before it was released in stores. The buzz generated by the Internet prerelease catapulted the album to number one in the United States after it hit record stores. Before Kid A, Radiohead had never had a number one album in the United States.
According to Madden in Artists, Musicians, and the Internet (Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project, December 5, 2004), musicians have mixed feelings about the impact of the Internet on the music business. They report favorable impact in such areas as creativity, ability to reach a wider audience, ability to connect with family, friends, and other musicians while traveling to performances, and ease of scheduling performances and travel arrangements. However, musicians are somewhat divided over the issue of online file sharing, according to the report. While 35% agreed that file-sharing services are "not bad" for musicians because the artist derives some promotional benefit from the download, 23% agreed that downloads "are bad" in that they allow people to obtain copyrighted material without paying for it. In the survey, 35% agreed to both statements, showing the ambivalence of artists themselves over the issue.
Regardless of what musicians thought, the lawsuits brought on by the RIAA succeeded in putting an end to much of the free file swapping on the Internet. The free Napster Web site shut down in May 2000 and reopened a year later as a pay music service where users could buy songs. After the RIAA began going after private citizens, traffic on many of the remaining peer-to-peer sites diminished greatly. As Figure 5.2 reveals, the number of people using the noncentralized Kazaa peer-to-peer network dropped precipitously after RIAA became litigious with file swappers in 2003. A memo released by Pew/Internet and comScore Media Metrix in April 2004 revealed that 38% of American adults who downloaded music from the Internet had cut back somewhat after the RIAA lawsuits began. The memo also revealed that 14% of online American adults who had ever downloaded music had stopped the practice as of spring 2004. At the same time, more people turned to pay music services, such as Musicmatch and iTunes. Over eleven million adult Americans visited the six major online music services in 2004. (See Table
|Profile of consumer expenditures for sound recordings, 1990–2002|
|[In percent, except total value (7,541.1 represents $7,541,100,000). Based on monthly telephone surveys of the population 10 years old and over]|
|NA Not available.|
|1Percent distributions exclude nonresponses and responses of don't know.|
|2Excludes record club purchases over the Internet.|
|3As classified by respondent.|
|4Beginning 2001 includes video DVDs.|
|SOURCE: "No. 1142. Profile of Consumer Expenditures for Sound Recordings: 1990 to 2002," in Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2003, U.S. Census Bureau, Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, 2003, http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/03statab/inforcomm.pdf (accessed November 22, 2004)|
|Total value (mil. dol.)||7,541.1||12,320.3||12,236.8||13,711.2||14,584.5||14,323.0||13,740.9||12,614.2|
|10 to 14 years||7.6||8.0||8.9||9.1||8.5||8.9||8.5||8.9|
|15 to 19 years||18.3||17.1||16.8||15.8||12.6||12.9||13.0||13.3|
|20 to 24 years||16.5||15.3||13.8||12.2||12.6||12.5||12.2||11.5|
|25 to 29 years||14.6||12.3||11.7||11.4||10.5||10.6||10.9||9.4|
|30 to 34 years||13.2||12.1||11.0||11.4||10.1||9.8||10.3||10.8|
|35 to 39 years||10.2||10.8||11.6||12.6||10.4||10.6||10.2||9.8|
|40 to 44 years||7.8||7.5||8.8||8.3||9.3||9.6||10.3||9.9|
|45 years and over||11.1||16.1||16.5||18.1||24.7||23.8||23.7||25.5|
|Ad or 800 number||2.5||4.0||2.7||2.9||2.5||2.4||3.0||2.0|
|Media type: CDs||31.1||65.0||70.2||74.8||83.2||89.3||89.2||90.5|
|Singles (all types)||8.7||7.5||9.3||6.8||5.4||2.5||2.4||1.9|
5.4) Between October 2003 and March 2004, iTunes had added nearly one million unique visitors to its site.