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How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy
In , with the record business well into a seemingly bottomless free fall, Doug Morris, the chairman and chief executive of the Universal Music Group, was interviewed by Wired magazine. The shorthand summary of this era will inevitably point to the debut of Napster in as the death knell for the record business, but Witt pulls back to tell a bigger story. There were numerous forces — from the creation of the MP3 format to the continuing consolidation of the major labels — that needed to align in order to create the situation in which peer-to-peer file sharing could become so dominant so quickly. Witt, a first-time author, comes from the world of finance, and his old-fashioned, connect-the-dots reporting presents a nuanced depiction of an issue usually reduced to emotional absolutes. Perhaps the most telling journey is that of Karlheinz Brandenburg, an idealistic German professor who invents the MP3 as a near-perfect way to compress audio files, then watches it lose out as the official industry standard format to a less effective but better-connected rival.
How Music Got Free is a riveting story of obsession, music, crime, and money, featuring visionaries and criminals, moguls and tech-savvy teenagers. Journalist Stephen Witt traces the secret history of digital music piracy, from the German audio engineers who invented the mp3, to a North Carolina compact-disc manufacturing plant where factory worker Dell Glover leaked nearly two thousand albums over the course of a decade, to the high-rises of midtown Manhattan where music executive Doug Morris cornered the global market on rap, and, finally, into the darkest recesses of the Internet. Through these interwoven narratives, Witt has written a thrilling book that depicts the moment in history when ordinary life became forever entwined with the world online — when, suddenly, all the music ever recorded was available for free. An accomplished first book. Witt tells a thrilling tale, with a cast of music biz bigwigs, painstaking German boffins, and pirates and petty thieves. I loved it. And it tells an amazing story of a part of the Internet not to mention the criminal underground that I took for granted.
I would kill to have stuff like this. It used to take geek fortitude and money to build a solid music collection, as well as a temperate room to store it in.
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The book chronicles the invention of the MP3 format for audio information, detailing the efforts by researchers such as Karlheinz Brandenburg , Bernhard Grill and Harald Popp to analyze human hearing and successfully compress songs in a form that can be easily transmitted. Witt also documents the rise of the warez scene and spread of copyright-infringing efforts online while detailing the campaigns by music industry executives such as Doug Morris to adapt to changing technology. The publisher Viking distributed the work on June 16, The book notes that, at a presentation to the Fraunhofer Society , Brandenburg and his team's presentation of the technology that could re-create the fidelity of a recording on a CD at one-twelfth the size created a stir. In dorm rooms everywhere incoming college freshmen found their hard drives filled to capacity with pirated mp3s". Witt writes about the obscure online community known as ' The Scene ', particularly describing the efforts of the Rabid Neurosis RNS group to illegally spread copyrighted material. A North Carolina manufacturing plant employee named Dell Glover, his life described in detail by Witt, discovers that he has the ability to get his hands on albums before their official release dates and goes on to work with RNS leaking hundreds upon hundreds of discs.