MP3 Missionaries’ Efforts Counter MP3 Woes

While presidential campaign ads are debating over “rats leaving the ship,” it may be of some reassurance to know that MP3 (the format, not the company) has some real loyalists on its side.

After visiting 75 cities this spring to teach consumers about the benefits of online music and the MP3 encoding format, Bruce Fries and Marty Fries, authors of “The MP3 and Internet Audio Handbook,” have extended their tour to 100 cities to counter the efforts of the recording industry to displace MP3 with SDMI-compliant formats.

“The RIAA and the major labels just don’t get it,” says Bruce Fries. “People want music in open formats like MP3. SDMI formats rely on encryption and eliminate the portability and convenience that make formats like MP3 so popular. Despite MP3’s popularity, many people still don’t understand its benefits, or they have the false impression that it’s just a tool for piracy. We bring it to them, and help them understand how open standards like MP3 can be used in legitimate ways to benefit both artists and consumers.”

The effort is reminiscent of an earlier audio industry effort by the International Recording Media Association (IRMA), whose national “Whered Ya Hide The Cassettes” campaign breathed significant extra lifespan into what was thought to be a dying format.

The “missionary” tour consists of free seminars at bookstores, colleges and computer user groups across the United States, along with impromptu demonstrations that occur everywhere from airport concourses to convenience stores.

“Our goal is to educate consumers and counter the misinformation that is being spread,” says co-author Marty Fries. “There are many misconceptions about MP3, such as: the sound quality is poor, artists don’t make any money from it, and that most users are college students — all of which are wrong. Many people associate MP3 with computers and the Internet and assume this means poor quality sound. They don’t realize that high-resolution MP3 files can sound as good as the original CD when the computer is connected to a good stereo system. We bring a high-fidelity sound system to each of our seminars, so people can experience the quality first hand.”

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