First Annual MP3 Summit Hits San Diego This Week

Last week, Xing Technology Corporation announced its sponsorship of the First Annual MP3 Summit. In a statement, the company urged music-industry executives to discuss copyright issues, technical standards, and music distribution, and to participate in developing the future of MP3.

The MP3 Summit, organized by MP3.com, takes place on July 2, 1998 in San Diego. Participants are expected to include representatives from A&M, ASCAP, BMI, Geffen Records, RIAA, and others.

MPEG Layer 3, or MP3, is an audio compression standard that allows tracks from an audio CD to be compressed into a digital file one tenth of its original size. Once compressed, songs can be stored on a hard drive for playback on any Windows PC or Macintosh computer, with only a slight loss of sound quality. Users can manage their music collections on their PC, a home stereo connected to the PC, or an Internet radio station. The small size of MP3 files allows for hours of music to be stored rather than the one-hour limit of traditional CDs. MP3 files can be streamed for live web broadcasts, transferred to portable music players, or downloaded and purchased simultaneously for a small fee.

The ease with which an individual can copy a CD and then redistribute it causes some people to fear MP3 as the ultimate pirate's tool. The recording industry has been aggressive in bringing lawsuits against sites used to distribute pirated copies of music. Others say that, once MP3 is embraced, people will opt for easier, legal options for obtaining and sharing MP3 files.

According to Hassan Miah, President and CEO of Xing, "We're taking an active role in bringing together representatives from MP3 software, hardware, music, and content areas, in a groundbreaking discussion of a technology that will change the face of music distribution as we approach the new millennium."

David Touvre, who distributes MP3 music files at the mr2v.com website, comments that "I enjoy MP3 for the potential freedom it offers artists. The future I see lets people download music for a price and customize their own radio station. Users can also make their own CDs, use portable MPEG players, whatever. MP3 will allow users access to a far wider scope of talent, and artists a greater audience.''

According to Miah's vision of the future, home computers using Xing Technology's recently released MP3 Encoder software will eventually replace or complement the home stereo unit, and music fans will download the music of their favorite artists off the Internet.

"It used to be that stacked 45s were the way you customized your music selection,'' said Miah. "With MP3, you select tracks from an enormous database of MP3 files. You can create playlists that fit your mood or for special events, and these can provide literally hours of music without ever changing a disc.''

Dozens of MP3 Internet sites currently offer MP3 files for downloading. MP3 lets musicians distribute music at "near CD quality" with no need for radio stations and record stores. Any teenage garage band, classical artist, or more mainstream artist can use MP3 to place their music on the Internet, building an audience and music-distribution system.

"Anyone can buy a CD, convert a song to an MP3 file, and upload it to the Internet. The record industry sees that eventually they could lose control of the distribution system,'' said Miah. "I see an opposite and positive vision. MP3 is a brilliant way of enhancing artist promotion, reducing A&R costs, breaking new bands, and generating attractive, new sources of revenue online. MP3 is good for consumers, good for recording artists, and good for the industry. That's why we're sponsoring the MP3 Summit."

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