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Where Can I Find MP3 Music?

Where Can I Find MP3 Music?

  • Web Sites
  • What's FTP?
  • Searching for HTTP and FTP Music Files
  • Newsgroups–MP3s the Hard Way

Someday MP3s–or some improvement on current MP3 technology–will completely replace the CD recordings we buy over the counter these days. Getting a small, high-quality audio file will be as simple as turning on the water tap. Too bad. We'll have lost the thrill of the hunt. Collecting music is like any collection–each item added individually, only after it's pulled from the morass of pop culture, and each item has a history, a story, a separate raison d'etre.

So here's the skinny on this chapter: Two types of Internet sites let you download MP3s and other forms of music: HTTP, which in practical terms often translates to "legal," and FTP, which means "jail bait." We'll look at how to find music on both types of sites, using online search sites and the software included on the book's CD-ROM. At the end of this book, musician Michael White has written detailed reviews of the top 101 MP3 sites. We'll also see how to find songs hiding as text messages.

Web Sites

If you look at a Web address your browser displays, you'll see it prefixed with "http," which means simply that the site uses hypertext transfer protocol. This isn't as foreboding as it sounds. If you already surf the World Wide Web, you're already familiar with HTTP sites, because that's the only kind the Web has. It really has to do with the fact that HTTP lets site creators use programming code called hypertext markup language (HTML) to design sites with graphics and fancy fonts and all the other bells and whistles that so enchant us.

With a dedicated, full-time connection to the Internet, you can set up an HTTP Web site on your own personal computer. But it's not a good idea. If the site's successful, you can forget about using the computer for anything else. It will have its circuits full just responding to requests for pages and downloads from surfers, especially if you post your MP3 collection. Usually Web sites are not located physically in the same building as the person or company that created it. Instead, you rent space from Internet hosts, who have scads of storage, fast file servers, and multiple links to a high-speed T1 or T3 Internet connection.

Although HTTPs can generally be interpreted as "legal sites," this isn't always true. There are perfectly respectable-looking Web pages that contain enough outlaw MP3s to fill a clandestine Tower Records. The record industry's enforcers regularly patrol MP3 Web sites, and when they find unauthorized songs, they lean heavily on the company that is physically hosting the site to close it. But usually no trail leads to the individual who set up the site, and it may appear again on a different rented server.

Generally, though, you can download anything you find on an HTTP site without getting the law hot on your trail. These legal downloads include two species of artists. The first is bands you've actually heard of, or as they're known as in the wilds, BYAHO. At the same time, you have a chance for another adventure–discovering new artists who are happy to give away their music for free just for the chance to break into the big time, where they actually get paid by a record company.

What's BYAHO?

While writing this book, I quickly tired of writing "bands you've actually heard of." But everything else I thought of–"star bands," "brand bands" didn't sound right. And so I gave birth to an acronym. And I know. I should be ashamed.

Only a few of the songs at legal Web sites are by BYAHO, at least with the blessing of the bands or their record labels. But with persistence and frequent trolling of the major MP3 sites, such as MP3.com, you can find big-time band downloads that are perfectly legal. The songs are placed there by the record companies to get you hooked so you'll buy the albums they come from. Often you listen to the song in a streaming format rather than downloading it to your hard drive. Occasionally, there are no strings attached to the download. But more often, they'll have some sort of digital rights protection built into them, particularly if they're offered as .WMA or Liquid Audio files.

The requirements of the secure digital music initiative (SDMI–see Chapter 2, "Is This Going to Get Me Thrown in Jail?") are flexible enough to enable record companies to attach different strings. Sometimes a time bomb is built into the file so that it won't play after 30 days. Or, the file might play only on the computer to which it was downloaded. Other schemes won't allow the song to be copied to a writable CD or converted to a wave (.WAV) file. The record industry still hasn't figured out exactly how it wants to use free downloads, and you can expect different strategies from song to song. And way too often, the BYAHO songs are actually simply previews. You get about 30 seconds of Nine Inch Nails, and then nothing (a small file size is usually the tipoff here). Often you'll only be able to download after giving something to the record company–such as your email address. In Chapter 7, "How Do I Play MP3s? And How Do I Keep Track of 1,000 Songs?" you'll see how you can record streaming audio so that you can listen to it offline and how to skirt some of the copy protections so your song doesn't go belly up in a month.

Table 3.1 The Most Popular Internet Audio Sites


Web Site



















































Source: PC Data, June 2000

Most of the songs offered for downloads unfettered by copy protection or legalities are from indie bands. Indies are independent groups that don't have a contract–at least not with any of the major labels. The Web has given rise to indie labels–online companies trying to figure out how to crash the big time by publicizing their bands through MP3 files. Most of the indie bands, however, are associated with no label at all. These are garage bands who are leveraging PCs to put them on the same playing field as bands backed with more money for recording and promotion. PC sound editing and mixing software let the musicians produce an MP3 without the expense of studios and tape mixers. The Internet gives them a way to distribute their songs, build up a mass following, and get signed by the record companies, who will then use, exploit, and abandon them to a life of playing nostalgia gigs at beer halls.

How Do I Find Which Garage Bands Are Hot?

Surf on over to this book's own Web page, http://www.mp3under.com/. There we've posted links to the top song lists at the top Web music sites, including mp3.com, Rolling Stone, the Big Five music labels, Amazon, and a slew of others.

A lot of the indie bands will never get anywhere near MTV. In addition, some songs are remixes, while others sound like musical parodies. When you open up the music world to anyone with a band and a PC, you're going to get a lot of crap. But you're also going to uncover some treasures you never would have had a chance to hear under the old, oppressive record regime. You might be one of five people in the United States who like Narcoleptic Lovers, and it's only through the Web that you could know about them at all.

The are several different types of MP3 sites. Most specialize in music downloads. But others are better for software, news about music and digital downloads, fan chat rooms, buying CDs, Webcasts, and Internet radio stations.

Some offer it all. These are rich sites with one-stop shopping for all your music needs from free downloads to CD sales. Among the biggest megasites are mp3.com, rollingstone.com, listen.com, and tunes.com. mp3.com is the seminal MP3 Web site. What you can't find at mp3.com, you'll at least find a link to. MP3.com, the company, has set the standard for music sites on its pages and in the courts, where it battles the record companies (not always winning). Any of the sites associated with record labels have lots of pizzazz and some promotional downloads of performers as wide-ranging as Alanis Morrisette and Shania Twain. Others to check out are askmp3.com, which is great for technical background on MP3, and rollingstone.com, which is good for a smorgasbord of downloads from brand-name bands.

At the end of the book, musician Michael White reviews the top 101 MP3 sites. And check out this book's official site, http://www.mp3under.com/. We are a modest link site where you can click through to the latest versions of the software on the book's CD-ROM, as well as programs we didn't have room to include on the CD-ROM. We also have links to the top 100 MP3 sites and many of the also-rans.

MP3–It's Everywhere!

Just for laughs, try going to the address field of your Internet browser and typing anything mp3.com. Any combination of mp3 preceded by any word in the English language has been registered as a domain name by someone. Not all are working sites, but you can make a game out of trying to come up with a cool-sounding name for an MP3 site that hasn't been spoken for already.

Most downloads on Web sites are simple to snag. You're probably already familiar with how to do it. (Clue for the clueless: You click something.) But even if Web downloading is old hat to you, check out Chapter 4, "How Do I Download MP3s Once I Find Them?" where I'll show you a better way of downloading using the free software Go!Zilla, included on the book's CD-ROM.

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