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Take Off The Brakes

NMC/Radio and Records eChart main column as published in the 7/19/02 issue of R&R At a time when webcasters and online music services are trying to figure out their futures, the legislators in Congress are poised to make some of those decisions for us. If that happens, we may not be happy with the results.

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Rep. Rick Boucher had some advice for the music industry at this past week's Plug In conference: take off the brakes. Implicit in that advice was the threat of help from the government in doing so.

In the past, we've suggested that the music industry look long and hard past digital rights management to the MP3 file itself and providing a superfile that includes all of the same end user experience that the CD affords. Instead of the catch as catch can quality of many of the MP3 files available on the piracy sites, it would do us a great service to make available files that include completely filled out ID tags, offering album art, bios, lyrics and web URLs to artists sites that players like WinAMP, MusicMatch Jukebox (our favorite) and Windows Media Player can take full advantage of.

In addition, offering several levels of quality and file size on the CD itself, just as the local photo shop provides when putting snapshots in digital format on a CD, would give the end user a choice of versions for different situations. Imagine a superset of MP3 files of all cuts, including a smaller, 96k joint stereo version for saving space when downloading to a portable device lacking in massive storage, a typical 128k joint stereo version for use on a laptop with more hard drive space and some better audio processing, all the way up to a high quality 320k, true stereo version for use on audiophile home entertainment centers.

Services like Emusic, whose new access to portions of Universal's current and back catalog in plain, non-DRM'd MP3 format, in an all-you-can-download $10 per month subscription, is an experimental step in the right direction, and should be watched closely. Any future steps may end up being taken for us.


Ever wonder what Jay Geils is doing these days? Ever wonder what Mike O'Meara of the Don and Mike Show sounds like in a blues band? Well, lose no more precious sleep pondering these questions. They will both be playing on stage at a benefit concert for the International Webcasters Association and their efforts to gain a fair CARP fee structure. The event takes place this Monday, the 22nd, at 7:30PM ET at the historic State Theater in Falls Church, Virginia. I will be the master of ceremonies, and the event will be webcast on TVWorldwide.com. Featured acts include The Gerry Beaudoin Trio, which includes Jay Geils, and CRAP, Mike O'Meara's band. The concert will also be simulcast on several streaming channels online - check your net listings for details.

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