If given a payoff between quality and convenience, most people will choose convenience – remember cassette tapes, ‘hisssssss’. Where early cassettes were concerned, the sacrifice of quality over convenience was obvious: tapes were hissy – even with the magic ‘Dobly’ button – but they could record between 60 and 90 minutes of music. ‘Sharing’ is what mp3 has made its name for. The biggest distinction between file sharing today and the cassette swapping of yesteryear – aside from Dave Lee Travis speaking over the songs – is the immense scale at which music can be copied and distributed.

In an attempt to combat file sharing, and make music more accessible to the online generation, the music industry started to sell its music in downland form. Such was its success that it spurred a reinvention of the UK singles and albums chart to accommodate mp3 download sales. What of the poor CD? CDs are still far superior to anything else out there, but quality alone isn’t enough for the mp3 generation. The decline in CD sales is mostly down to the fact that thousands of mp3 files can now be uploaded on to something no bigger than a cassette tape. It could be suggested that the music industry is earning most of its bread and butter through selling music at a substandard quality, these days.

Despite its questionable dynamic quality in the ears of seasoned audiophiles, compression formats like mp3 have had a positive effect on both the music industry and the consumer in the form of music streaming services. The small size and versatility of compression formats allows terabytes of music to be stored and streamed  to millions of clients. Services like Napster and Spotify have  instigate one the biggest changes within the online music industry: Not only can subscribers stream complete albums on their computers or mobile phones, but they can also download and play music offline. Some record companies are still reluctant to accept that online music services are the future of music, and have  not made their albums available. They can, however, be obtained from most reputable torrent sites at a very reasonable and competitive price of nothing at all.

Lossless compression formats like ‘aac’, and ‘flac’ are becoming the new choice of audio format for the audiophile. Although much larger than even the highest quality mp3, they are indistinguishable from the original CD source in terms of quality. Also, IPods, with whopping 160 gigabyte hard drives, can more that accommodate these larger files. The internet is getting much faster too, so is mobile internet. At this rate, it won’t be long before we’re accessing the worlds entire collection of sweet sounds from the most remote mountaintops; reminiscing of the days when fat cats made it financially impossible, or highly illegal, to share and appreciate good music.

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