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Music Piracy Software The Internet Technology

Napster: the Day the Music Was Set Free 243

theodp writes "Before iTunes, Netflix, MySpace, Facebook, and the Kindle, 17-year-old Shawn Fanning and 18-year-old Sean Parker gave the world Napster. And it was very good. The Observer's Tom Lamont reports on VH1's soon-to-premiere Downloaded, a documentary that tells the story of the rise and fall of the file-sharing software that started the digital music revolution, and shares remembrances of how Napster rocked his world. 'I was 17,' writes Lamont, 'and the owner of an irregular music collection that numbered about 20 albums, most of them a real shame (OMC's How Bizarre, the Grease 2 soundtrack). One day I had unsupervised access to the family PC and, for reasons forgotten, an urge to hear the campy orchestral number from the film Austin Powers. I was a model Napster user: internet-equipped, impatient and mostly ignorant of the ethical and legal particulars of peer-to-peer file-sharing. I installed the software, searched Napster's vast list of MP3 files, and soon had Soul Bossa Nova plinking kilobyte by kilobyte on to my hard drive.' Sound familiar?"
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Napster: the Day the Music Was Set Free

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  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Sunday February 24, 2013 @07:23PM (#42998281) Homepage Journal

    There's different classes of Metallica fan, who are characterized by which album was the last album they listened to. For me it's the Black Album. To many people that album is shit that doesn't even exist. YMMV.

  • by gig ( 78408 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @07:55PM (#42998525)

    Napster totally sucked unless all you wanted to do was generate a high file count in your MP3 collection. You might as well just record the radio in that case. The rips were awful quality, the labels were often wrong, and the version of the song you got was often not the one you wanted.

    The one exception might be that you could find rare live versions or alternate versions of a track in some cases that were previously harder to find. If that had been Napster's focus — sharing music that wasn't available on CD — then it would have had a reason to exist.

    I think iTunes is better in every way. Yes, you have to pay, but it is a small amount and you get exactly what you wanted, you never have to pay again as you download for life to whatever devices you want, and in many cases today, almost all of what you pay goes directly to the artist. If you don't like a song enough to pay for it on iTunes, then listen to it on the radio or as part of a monthly subscription service of some kind. If you like a song enough to pay for it on iTunes, you'll have it forever.

  • Re:Sound familiar? (Score:5, Informative)

    by gig ( 78408 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @08:15PM (#42998635)

    iTunes is 256 kbit/s AAC — when you factor in that iTunes doesn't skip, doesn't get scratched, today's iTunes music is higher-quality than CD. People make the mistake of assuming laboratory conditions. Instead, go into someone's home and take a CD off the shelf and it will be covered in scratches, the CD player will be making up bits to fill in the gaps, and it will likely skip at least once per hour.

    And you may not know this, but it is Apple that generates the ISO MPEG-4 AAC audio file from their own master archive, which includes many songs and albums in lossless 24-bit 96kHz or even 192kHz audio — the actual audio from the studio masters. The actual mix that the producer made. Going forward, Apple will at some point release iPods, iPhones, and iPads that have 24-bit audio support (Macs have all supported 24-bit audio for many years now) and they will start releasing music in the actual studio master format, so you hear exactly what the producer made. There are frequencies in 96/192kHz audio that you hear with your internal organs, not your ears.

    Vinyl is not a truer copy, unless you're listening to something that was recorded onto vinyl, which stopped in the 1950's. Since then, music has been recorded onto analog tape, digital tape, digital hard disks, and digital solid-state hard disks. For more than 10 years now, the typical studio master has a much, much larger soundscape than even CD can reproduce. Putting that soundscape on vinyl gives you an even smaller picture of it. And most vinyl recordings have too long of a running time, which reduces the audio quality considerably. And vinyl always has scratches, clicks and pops, that are not part of the original recording. It's not really the vinyl that people are nostalgic for, it's the old amps, which were made not to be accurate, but to be musical. We see some of this coming back with Beats headphones, which were not made to be accurate, but rather to be musical.

  • Re:Sound familiar? (Score:5, Informative)

    by gig ( 78408 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @08:28PM (#42998703)

    > Remastered is just code for "we fucked the dynamic range to make it louder"

    That is not true of the “Mastered for iTunes” masters and remasters. The primary instruction from Apple in the Mastered for iTunes documentation is not to crush the dynamic range, because that can be done by Apple when they generate the AAC (or other future format) consumer audio file, or by the listener on the playback device via SoundCheck — but the dynamic range cannot be put back by Apple or the listener if it is fucked in the original master. A full dynamic range is the single most important reason to do a Mastered for iTunes remaster.

    Apple's master library supports up to 32-bit 192kHz audio, which has a much larger soundscape than CD, and they look at it as an important cultural resource because in 10 or 20 years, iTunes may be the only one who has some of those masters, because of the temporary nature of many music artists, their record companies, most music retailers, and so on. So Apple basically pleads with audio producers to give them a timeless master: the highest-quality recording you have, with the full dynamic range of the recording intact. One that they can use today to generate AAC, but also use in a few years to generate a 24-bit 96kHz version for the consumer.

    Essentially, Apple is asking music producers NOT to master their stuff. They're saying “give us what you were listening to in the studio and we'll give as much of that to the consumer as we can today, and even more tomorrow.” The post-processing of the mix gets done by Apple, same as with YouTube you can upload a 4K and they will make every kind of tiny, low-bandwidth version.

    On CD, if you crush the dynamic range, you should louder than the next CD. But with an iPod with SoundCheck turned on, everything is the same loudness, and a crushed dynamic range comes through simply as a crushed dynamic range. So we are moving out of the loudness-above-all era of music. It will take some time because it is expensive to remaster and nobody in music has any money, but at least there is a way forward articulated by Apple via Mastered for iTunes.

Exceptions prove the rule, and wreck the budget. -- Miller