Homemade CDs spook the music industry
by Alan Zisman (c)
in Vancouver Computes,
The explosion of interest in the MP3 format for audio
has the music
industry spooked. And with good reason. Up until now, they've had a
good thing going. While users could tape music onto cassette tapes, the
most convenient and highest quality medium, CD, has been read-only.
And while CDs cost next to nothing to produce in bulk,
for more than formats like pre-recorded cassettes, which are actually
expensive to produce.
But all that's starting to change. Combine the
Internet as a distribution
medium, highly-compressed MP3 files as a format, and the more and more
affordable and common CD Recorders and who needs the music industry?
Take my 15 year old Joey. (I'll ignore the temptation
to include the
old punchline "Please!").
He's recently spent a lot of time online, collecting
MP3 music files.
(Of course, he only collects non-pirated songs from independent
right?) He listens to them while he's on the computer-- doing his
or chatting to his online friends via ICQ.
The other night, he asked if we could make a CD from
we have a CD Recorder (aka a 'burner'). These devices now start around
$280, with blank CDs at about $2 each-- on a par with cassette tapes.
We discovered that depending how you want to use the
CD, it may not
be quite as easy as just copying a bunch of files to the disk, but it's
not too difficult a process. First step is to decide how you want to
the CD. If you just want a CD as a way of storing a bunch of songs, but
you're only going to play it on computer, it's easy. And while an
audio CD holds about an hour and a bit of music, if you want to store
files on the CD, you can easily store ten or twelve hours of music on a
(A typical pop song may only take up 3 or 4 MBs of
space, and with about
650 MBs on a CD, you could easily get, say, all of the Beatles' output
onto a single disk. And if you already owned copies of all the original
CDs, and were making a copy for personal use only, it would probably
But as we said, you could only play this on a
Joey wanted something he could play in his DiskMan, or
take down to
his room and play on his stereo. For that, he needed to convert the
to CD audio format.
The CD-Recorder came with a copy of Adaptec's Easy CD
Creator-- a program
to create data or audio CDs. To create audio CDs, it needs the music to
either already be in CD audio format (copying tracks from existing CDs,
for example), or in Windows-standard WAV format. So the trick is to
the MP3 files to WAV files.
There are a number of programs floating around the
Internet that do
just that. The $10 shareware Winamp (www.winamp.com) is popular, for
as it can also be used as a player for a wide range of music files, and
accepts plugin 'skins' to change the program's appearance.
We used the free MP3Box (www.gti.net/fannet)-- it made
a pretty quick
job of converting the songs, one by one, into WAV files, and in the
removing the MP3 compression. The output WAVs were easily 12 or 13
as large-- a song that was 3 MBs in the compressed format ballooned to
40 MBs or so as a WAV.
As a result, Joey's CD could hold about 18 tracks--
just like a standard
But once we had the music in WAV format on the hard
drive, Easy CD Creator
made it as easy to create an audio CD as its name suggested-- locate
files in its file browser window, drag them in the desired order to the
CD window, and click Create Now. It recorded the audio CD in 2x speed,
taking about half the time to record as it would to play it back.
The program even offers a jewel case layout option,
the list of tracks, and allowing Joey to paste in a graphic he'd found
online as a cover and insert for the CD case.
Joey's happy-- he's got a custom CD with 18 of his
favorite songs and
no filler, and he can play it on pretty much any audio CD player. He
he can create more as he collects more MP3 files, with pretty good
quality and at a cost that's a fraction of what a retail CD costs.
With pirated MP3s of commercial hits floating around
the Net (despite
industry efforts to stamp them out), it easy to see why the music