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PC World

MP3 portals debut


Local bands make it big on the Web


Diamond and Lycos sites will help digital music rock the Web.

February 2, 1999
Web posted at: 10:41 a.m. EST (1541 GMT)

by Stan Miastkowski

(IDG) -- The recording industry is scared to death of it because of piracy concerns, and most superstars won't touch it yet, but MPEG-3, or MP3, digital music keeps exploding across the Web.

And this week two major players, Diamond Multimedia and Lycos, will make MP3 content easier to locate and download from the Web.

MPEG-3 compresses audio in ratios ranging from 4 to 1 for ultra-high-quality music to 20 to 1 for spoken words. "Near CD quality" music uses 12-to-1 compression.

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RioPort gets ready

Diamond, maker of the portable Rio MP3 player, has opened an alpha version of RioPort, a Web portal that a spokesperson says is designed to promote "legitimate" MP3 content. RioPort offers links to extensive -- mostly free -- MP3 content, available from hundreds of sites and in just about every conceivable musical genre.

Independent artists and producers make up the bulk of the links on RioPort, and the site also offers links to paid-content sites such as, which offers spoken-word MP3 content.

RioPort also has an MP3 Tools section with links to companies that offer MP3 software players and encoders. The latter, which can create MP3 files from music CDs, are a particular bone of contention with the recording industry, which claims they're an invitation to create and distribute pirated content over the Web. They're especially concerned by "CD Rippers," which automatically turn entire music CDs into individual MP3 files.

Lycos speeds search

The Lycos Web portal also joined the MP3 wave this week with MP3 Search, which allows fast keyword-search access to what a Lycos spokesperson says are over a half-million individual MP3 cuts, from music to spoken word.

According to Lycos research, "MP3" is the second most-searched-for keyword on the site.

Is Sony softening?

In a move that may signal a softening of the attitude of big music producers toward digital content on the Internet, Sony Music Entertainment Japan is offering an Internet download that includes a video clip and a rap poem by Japanese rock musician Motoharu Sano. It's not free, though, the "Digital Art Piece" costs 300 yen ($2.60) payable by credit card. You also need the Shockwave plug-in for your browser. And the piece uses the proprietary CD-Extra format, not MP3.

The release prompted speculation that Sony -- one of the world's largest music producers -- may be embracing Internet music downloads. Sources close to the company say that Sony is considering alternatives to traditional methods of music distribution, but is working on its own format and isn't likely to use MP3.

Rob Guth of IDG News Service supplied additional reporting for this story.

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