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MP3: Online Music Pumps Up the Volume.

When he wants to listen to some Led Zeppelin after a hard day in class, Elliot Stevenson of Tappan, N.Y., doesn't reach for a CD. He turns on his computer, clicks to the band's Web site, and downloads a song. Moments later, "Black Dog" is blasting through his speakers.

For many music fans, the ability to download music off the Internet seems like the best advance in audio since Grandpa packed away his scratchy LPs. The innovation that's responsible: MP3, a computer format that compresses digital information, making it possible to transmit sound better and faster.

MP3 Web sites have spread faster than hallway gossip, and the largest, mp3.com, offers some 56,000 songs. That's good news for unknown performers who need the exposure, but big marquee stars have also begun to appreciate MP3. Tori Amos and Alanis Morissette agreed to perform live over MP3 Web sites this year, and Public Enemy released its latest album on the Web last summer even before its CD hit the stores.

Not everyone stands to gain from MP3, however. Record companies, worried that their music is being given away free, robbing them of royalities, now have more to fret about: portable players like the Rio (below) that let people take MP3 music anywhere. At $200, they're still "a little pricey," says Elliott, 16, but if they prompt even more people to download free songs, the next big sound you hear might be that of record-company lawyers complaining to Congress.

RELATED ARTICLE: Web Music: How to Begin

BY DAVID KUSHNER

FINDING MP3 AUDIO

1. MP3.com (http://www.mp3.com) offers pop, alternative, country, hip-hop, and spoken-word tracks. Most are by lesser-known artists, though major stars also promise live concerts on the site.

PLAYING MP3

2. To decode MP3 files, you need to download special software. For Windows, try Winamp (http://www.winamp.com); Macintosh users can try Macamp (http://www.macamp.com). The sites include detailed downloading instructions.

PORTABLE PLAYERS

Priced at less than $200, the palm-sized Diamond Rio (left) has become the Walkman of MP3, playing about an hour's worth of near CD-quality music.
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Title Annotation:MP3 format makes it possible to download music from the Internet
Author:HAMERMAN, FRED
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Sep 6, 1999
Words:354
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