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By LawnElf

If you've been on the net for a while you've probably heard or seen talk of MP3s, but just exactly what are these files that have the media and the music industry in such an uproar?

First a little background. Mp3 stands for MPEG layer 3, and it's an audio file. It is CD quality sound, and can be stored on your computer in a relatively small file - typically 1 MB per 1 minute of music. Here's an example: If you recorded a full song from CD to .wav format, it would be an extremely large file - say 40 MB for this example. This same song in .mp3 format would be approximately 2 MB. Quite a difference.

So, why is the music industry so upset about this? Their main concern is that people will record their CDs to MP3 format and trade them with others, thereby effectively depriving them of royalties and profits. Which leads us directly to the next question: are MP3s illegal?

The answer to this is yes, and no. It is illegal to trade MP3s if you do not own the CD that the song is originally from. It is legal to record your own CDs to MP3 format however, and it is also legal if the song's copyright holder has granted permission to download and play the song.

MP3s offer a great benefit to unsigned and up & coming bands. Before MP3s, if you had a band and wanted to get your music out to the world, you had to either pay tons of money to to produce your own tape/CD or you had to get a recording contract - no small feat. Now a band can post it's music on the web for the whole world with only a computer and a digital audio recorder.

To start listening to MP3s, you will first need an MP3 player. There are many out there and I won't endorse one here, but the one I use is WinAmp. There are also programs to record MP3s (called "rippers"). Generally, these record a CD track to .wav first, then encode them to MP3, although some record directly to MP3. There is even a walkman-like player that you can download MP3s to and take with you! A great place to get everything you will need, including free music, is

In closing, I would just like to say BE CAREFUL! Collecting MP3s can be fun, but small files though they may be, they do add up. My hard drive currently contains 68 MP3s, which add up to 212 MB!

Jim Tyyska (aka LawnElf)
The LawnElf Zone

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