Mp3 music is audio that has been digitally encoded and compressed to make the amount of data smaller without compromising the overall sound quality. It's a revolutionary technique with incredibly good results; mp3 music is frequently indistinguishable from music found on a CD (though some audiophiles with very sensitive ears dispute that statement).
The popularity of mp3 music made available on the Internet is a trend reaching gigantic proportions; these encoded songs are everywhere. Websites called mp3 blogs offer rare or hard-to-find mp3 music and avid fans sometimes spend hours at a time sifting through the piles of downloadable material. Newer recording artists that would often fall under the radar without the help of a well-known label are now able to convert their songs into mp3 music and make them available on the Internet, allowing huge numbers of people the chance to hear songs that they otherwise wouldn't have been exposed to. It's an extremely popular thing, mp3 music, one of those rare pop-culture phenomena embraced by nearly everyone.
But regardless of its massive popularity, mp3 music is surrounded with controversy. Many programs that allow users to transfer mp3 music directly from computer to computer offer the services for free, eliminating the possibility of royalties for the artist and label. Fearful of losing tons of money to fans downloading records instead of buying them, large factions of the music industry fought to make free mp3 music illegal -- and succeeded to a degree. The laws, however, have loopholes, and many websites or P2P programs have exploited them for all they're worth.
Additionally, laws regulating mp3 music in the United States aren't necessarily applicable to other countries, so new websites and programs (particularly, for some reason, in Russia) have popped up offering the free services railed against in America. Because of the hotly argued ethical issues surrounding mp3 music, many shy away from the topic (and practice) completely. Others embrace it, citing huge record costs as justification enough for free mp3 music. It's an argument not likely to end anytime soon; the ethical issues will be debated as long as free mp3 music is available somewhere.
In any case, MP3's are here to stay, and wise is the musician who learns about them and takes advantage of them.
(With Mollie Wells)
Duane Shinn is the author of over 500 music books and music educational materials such as DVD's, CD's, musical games for kids, chord charts, musical software, and piano lesson instructional courses for adults. His book-CD-DVD course titled "How To Play Chord Piano In Ten Days!" has sold over 100,000 copies around the world. He holds advanced degrees from Southern Oregon University and was the founder of Piano University in Southern Oregon. He is the author of the popular free 101-week online e-mail newsletter titled "Amazing Secrets Of Exciting Piano Chords & Sizzling Chord Progressions" with over 57,400 current subscribers.