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Over the past fifteen years, it’s taken disruption and innovation to move the traditional industry forward, sometimes kicking and screaming, into its inevitable future. At each inflection point, we were forced to explore the possibilities. I believe that without these interruptions to ‘business as usual,’ we would have experienced a very bland alternative. Music is truly better off for it.

The major milestones, from my perspective, have been:

1993 – IUMA, From Wikipedia: The Internet Underground Music Archive (IUMA) was the pioneer of online music. IUMA was started by Rob Lord, Jeff Patterson and Jon Luini from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1993, for the purpose of providing a venue for unsigned artists to share their music and communicate with their audience. IUMA’s goal was to help independent artists use the Internet to distribute their music to fans while circumventing the usual distribution model of using a record company.

1995 – MP3, From How Stuff Works: The MP3 format is a compression system for music. The goal of using MP3 is to compress a CD-quality song by a factor of 10 to 14 without noticeably affecting the CD-quality sound. With MP3, a 32-megabyte song on a CD compresses down to about 3 MB. This lets you download a song much more quickly, and store hundreds of songs on your computer’s hard disk.

1997 – WinAMP, from Wikipedia:
The minimalist WinAMP 0.20a was released as freeware on 21 April 1997.
Its windowless menubar-only interface showed only play (open), stop, pause, and unpause functions. A file specified on the command line or dropped onto its icon would be played. MP3 decoding was performed by the AMP decoding engine by Tomislav Uzelac, which was free for non-commercial use. The acronym “AMP” stood for “Advanced Multimedia Products”. Justin Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev integrated this engine with their user interface.

1998 – Rio PMP300 – From Wikipedia:
Roughly the dimensions of a deck of cards (3.5 inches by 2.5 inches and 0.625 inches thick), the Rio was black and had an LCD screen and a circular pad with control buttons. It had controls for skipping tracks forwards or backwards, repeat, random play and for four preset equalizer settings. The LCD displayed the track number being played,
but did not display artist or title information. It could play MP2 and MP3 format audio files, and had support for a variety of bit-rates, including MP3 variable-bitrate (VBR) support. It shipped with 32 MB of internal memory and had a SmartMedia slot, allowing users to add additional memory. It was powered by a single AA battery which provided
between 8 and 12 hours of playback time. Connection to a personal computer was through the computer’s parallel port, with a proprietary connector on the Rio’s edge.

1999 – Napster – From THE NAPSTER CONTROVERSY website:
An 18-year-old college dropout named Shawn Fanning changed the music industry forever with his file-sharing program called Napster. Shawn Fanning, co-founder of Napster His idea was simple: a program that allowed computer users to share and swap files, specifically music, through a centralized file server. His response to the complaints of the difficulty to finding and downloading music over the Net was to stay awake 60 straight hours writing the source code for a program that combined a music-search function with a file-sharing system and, to facilitate communication, instant messaging.

2001 – Kazaa – From The M-cyclopedia of New Media:
Kazaa and the underlying peer-to-peer technology Fast Track were founded in Amsterdam by Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis. Together with their company, Consumer Environment, Kazaa was introduced to the world in March 2001. Kazaa quickly replaced Napster as the most popular peer-to-peer network as the latter was ordered by the U.S Supreme Court to shut down in July of the same year. As Kazaa grew in popularity, its creators started licensing the software to other companies. Soon, Kazaa
was repackaged under different names, such as Morpheus and Grokster. All of these were essentially the same application.

2001 – iPod/iTunes – From Wikipedia:
iPod is a popular brand of portable media players designed and marketed by Apple Inc. and launched on October 23, 2001. As of 2008, the product line-up includes the hard drive-based iPod Classic, the touchscreen iPod Touch, the video-capable iPod Nano, the screenless iPod Shuffle and the iPhone. Former products include the compact iPod Mini and the spin-off iPod Photo (since reintegrated into the main iPod Classic line). iPod Classic models store media on an internal hard drive, while all other models use flash memory to enable their smaller size (the discontinued Mini used a Microdrive miniature hard drive). As with many other digital music players, iPods, excluding the iPod Touch, can also serve as external data storage devices. Storage capacity varies by model. Apple’s iTunes software can be used to transfer music to the devices from computers using certain versions of Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows operating systems.

2001 – Rhapsody – From Wikipedia:
Rhapsody was revolutionary at the time because it was the first streaming on-demand music subscription service to offer unlimited access to its entire library of digital music for a flat monthly fee. At launch, Rhapsody’s library was comprised mostly of content from Naxos and a number of independent labels. Over the next several months of 2002, Rhapsody was able to secure licenses from EMI, BMG, Warner, and Sony to add their music to the Rhapsody library. In July 2002, Rhapsody became the first on-demand music service to offer the complete digital catalogs of all five major record labels of the time (Sony, EMI, BMG, Universal and Warner).

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I will cover the past seven years in my next post, I would be interested in your recommendations & reactions. Please comment at will!.


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