How the MP3 Has Changed the Music Industry

The very word “MP3 player” brings to mind iPod from Apple in much the same way as once the personal cassette player brought Sony’s Walkman to mind. But the fact remains that iPod was not really the first MP3 player to be introduced into the market.

The honor of discovering MP3 players goes to Saehan Information Systems MPMan F10. This Korean company first manufactured the players in bulk about 10 years ago. With a flash memory capacity of 32 Mb, it could be connected through the computer’s parallel port, as USB ports were in its infancy stage those days. It is quite a surprise that these players became popular as the amount of good quality music that could be stored in 32 Mb was quite questionable. Also the fact that it cost a whopping two hundred and fifty dollars did not seem to dampen the spirits of the music lovers.

But one thing that did affect the companies, either adversely or favorably, were the lawsuits. The music and recording industry in 1998 was petrified by the launch of MP3 players. Whether it was the real potential of these players that scared the industry or whether the industry saw it as just another copyright infringement (technically speaking copying CDs without proper authorization is still illegal) is quite debatable. But the music industry’s parlous state today forces us to assume that it was the latter reason.

Being Korean helped Saehan to escape from the litigious wrath of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which could not sue them in the American courts. On the downside though, they missed the free publicity their main competitor Diamond Multimedia Rio PMP300 gained by being dragged into the courts. Though Rio had to be briefly removed from the sales counters, thanks to the RIAA’s lawsuit, the publicity that it gained made people remember Rio, rather than MPMan, as the foremost MP3 player.

But the omnipresent MP3 players and iPods are a witness to the fact that RIAA could not keep Rio off the sales counters for too long. However this did not discourage RIAA from continuing the lawsuit for some more years.

Sharing music through MP3 amongst peer groups became more popular in late 1999. But it was the introduction of Apple’s iPod with a capacity of 5 GB that sealed the fate of the music and recording industry. IPods were light, sleek, user friendly, style iconic, and could store a thousand songs in your pocket, (Apple’s adage at that time). The iPod’s capacity grew within the next eight months to double and it also became compatible to personal computers and Macs, making its march to success that much more easier.

The standpoint of the music industry had changed radically with the advent of MP3 players and even after six long years, the music industry is reeling under the onslaught of MP3. It is trying to revive itself by slapping lawsuits after lawsuits, having shifted focus on to music lovers from the manufactures of MP3 players. Hopefully they will come to terms with the reality and adjust to the new environment.

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