The world wide web is a music lovers dream, and with the advent of broadband internet connections which can download music faster than you can listen to it - there has never been a better time for music lovers the world over.
Standard CD audio consists of very large files - one second of CD audio takes up 1.400 Mbits which would take over two seconds to download on a broadband internet connection, or over 20 seconds on a dial up connection operating at 56k a second.
However - in 1987 a company called Fraunhofer IIS started to work on a digital audio format that managed to reduce the filesizes significantly whilst losing a proportionally tiny amount of audio quality.
This technique is known as perceptual coding and is based upon the fact that the human ear is not actually capable of percieving much of the information in a standard CD audio format, and so in MP3 this information is taken away.
Free Music Downloading
With the vastly reduced filesizes of MP3, widespread distribution of music on the web has become incredibly easy. Sites such as MP3.com have huge databases of music you can download. PeopleSound is a site dedicated to new music and free MP3s. However, none of these sites distribute much in the way of commercial music, if it is signed artists you are after then you need to look into file sharing.
There are loads of different MP3 players out there, but here is a run down of the best and the ones to avoid. Some programs are unfortunately what is called spyware - most notably the Real Players, including RealOne. You can check your system for spyware and safely remove it using SpyBotSD.
The two most popular media players are Windows Media Player which has a nice media library function which is very easy to use and will retrieve title, artist and genre information for your media collection, making it very easy to locate a track in your humongous MP3 collection.
Alternatively Winamp is a very popular media player, which is highly customisable - good for people who are a little more confident using their computers. It doesn't have such a great media player but it does have much better implementation of internet radio.
Napster and File Sharing
On the first of June, 1999, Napster started operations allowing people to share their music files over a peer to peer network. Napster took off in a phenomenal way, especially in the student community of the USA who generally had high speed internet connections on their campus. People were downloading all the free music they could get their hands on and the record companies were starting to get very worried. In response the RIAA took legal action against Napster, claiming $100,000 damages each time a music file was downloaded.
On July 26th 2000, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel ruled in favour of the record industry and ordered Napster to stop the downloading of free copyrighted music by midnight two days later.The demise of Napster was nigh, and despite efforts to begin a paid for service that would not infringe copyrights its days as a hugely popular service were numbered.
Despite the best efforts of the RIAA, the demise of Napster did not herald the end of filesharing and widespread copyright infringement. Where Napster began, numerous alternatives sprang up. At the moment, both WinMX and Kazaa Lite are very popular P2P programs that will let you download free music as well as all kinds of other files.
Finding New Music
Researching New Music Online
The web is a great tool if you want to find new music to download and get into. The first site you should visit is the All Music Guide. Visit this site and put the name of a band or artist that you like into the search box and the site will display all of their influences, a full discography, history and loads of other info so you can get the names of bands and artists that are in the same vein as the one you like but that you may not have heard of.
There are also a whole load of other music lovers out there that you can contact on online forums and bulletin boards, chat etc. Many of these people will more than gladly let you know about decent bands and artists to check out.
With the advent of broadband internet connections, it is now possible to stream high quality MP3s directly off the internet, so you don't even need to download and save the MP3 files, but you can simply listen to it straight from the web. There are loads of internet radio stations to choose from. You can simply type internet radio into google, or visit the relevant category of dmoz. However - often these sites are not working, or only broadcast at specific times.
A better idea is to use either the built in radio tuner in windows media player, or if you have winamp installed, visit www.shoutcast.com. I personally love this website as it is simplicity itself to use and has absolutely loads of radio stations to choose from from all different musical genres and geographical locations.
Online radio is a great way of discovering new music or of simply being lazy and having the tunes streaming continously without any input from yourself.
So there you go - you need never be confined to listening to the same old dross anymore... get out there and find out which music really floats your boat, expand your influences and your playing will also improve as you benefit from alternative musical perspectives and combine your eclectic influences to form something new, different and original.
Check out this great selection of guitar, drum and general music accessories we have put together for you - free guitar tablature search, online metronome / drum machine to play along to and we even have an online guitar tuner for you.