By Helen McGovern - 4/26/00
I must start out by saying that I intended to get this article out much faster than this. My maiden voyage into the land of MP3 had been a success and since I was only going to write about finding and downloading a few songs, I assumed that it would be a snap. I now realize, I was just lucky. (By now, there are some of you snickering at my naiveté. Well, a pox on you all.)
I started out searching for downloadable music and in the end I found what I needed first and foremost was good, basic information on how MP3 works. Unfortunately, a lot of MP3 sites assume you already know the basics of MP3 or are a college student with a dozen techno-savvy friends to run to. The following is an abbreviated version of the frustrations I went through before I finally found a site that gave this novice some good basic information in non-technical language. The hardest part seemed to be finding the right site in the first place.
Off to the MP3 Newswire site and their list of search engines.
The first search engine I tried was AudioValley.com, which lists free legal MP3 songs (with copyright holders' permissions). I didn't recognize anyone or anything listed. One group that piqued my interest was called The Bliss, an acid-jazz group from Switzerland (acid-jazz in Switzerland…who would have thought). I downloaded it without a glitch and while I think the song is ok, I'm not going to run out and buy their album tomorrow. But now I know who they are and what they do. Next I come across a band called Big Block 454, described as "a semi-amorphous post-modern/situationist neo-dada musical compositional construct from Manchester, England." Huh? I just wanted to find the Beatles tune "Free as a Bird".
If you want to be introduced to a new musician, MP3 has real benefits. I never would have heard about The Bliss if it hadn't been for AudioValley.com. For a new musical act, MP3 can be a miracle for introducing yourself to a potentially huge audience. It will be fun to check them out periodically and see what's new, but I wanted my Beatles.
The next site checked out was MP3Monster.com, which seemed to be having a bad day as it refused to come up.
Search engine three was Findsongs.com. This page allows you to search by artist, so I punched in a few of the artists on my mental must-have list including the Fab Four. Several of the songs are listed and all with several different links. Aha!This should be a snap I said to myself, just a little smugly. Unfortunately, the links gave me an error box telling me that my "request was denied". Do I need a secret password or is it something in the way my computer is configured? This went on for several attempts until finally my browser shut down completely and refused to have anything more to do with me. Temporarily admitting defeat, I retreated from the computer.
Three weeks later...
I finally mustered the courage to try again, my naiveté replaced with a healthy dose of skepticism.
I went back to MP3Newswire with the hope that my last experience was just part of a bad day. I tried a new search engine titled Kermit.com. It has a very simple interface that is wonderfully easy to use even for a complete novice. This site is definitely high on basic functionality. Searching for "Free as a Bird" turned out to be quick and easy. It was listed with several links. At this point I felt my luck was changing and I might get a few songs downloaded in no time flat…Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha…oh please, I'm dying here.
First, I see a sentence at the bottom of the page telling me "links marked with a "?" require special action to be accessed, click the "?" to view the site's welcome message which may contain access instructions." I dutifully click on one. This is some of what I see…
230-This server will be shut down at the end of the month.
230-Since I don't give a f*** use l/p leech/leech to login.
230-This is unlimited leech access.
230-If you have something good please upload it.
First of all, what in the heck is "leech access"? Second, I barely know how to download anything, let alone upload anything. And third, don't swear at me you rude pig.
Since nearly all songs listed started with a "?" I clicked on a few more and realized I was completely out of my depth. Those "instructions" might as well have been in Sanskrit. Is there a light at the end of this tunnel?
Finally, information I can understand
My last attempt was Audiogalaxy.com and their site and the ease of navigation impressed me. I went to the FAQ pages before I searched for anything. Bless those FAQ pages, from the basics to troubleshooting problems. They even give step-by-step instructions and warn about problem sites. What a gem to stumble onto.
I learned many things at Audiogalaxy. First of all, instructions are wonderful things; everyone and everything should come with a set. It was also comforting to discover that many of the problems and errors I experienced weren't necessarily my fault. It's always nice to realize you may not be as incompetent as you think you are. I also learned that a common request from various sites is to upload a song in return for downloading one.
For someone who has yet to master changing the ink cartridge in her printer, I hope this stuff won't be too over my head, but I might surprise myself. I wish I had found the information contained on Audiogalaxy's site sooner. I now feel I can use some of these search engines with more confidence and better use of my time.
MP3 has tremendous potential and is a technology well worth learning about. I'm not finished with it yet and won't be (at least until I get my Beatles song). In fact, my friend Rich has been telling me about something called Napster.
So much to learn, so little time.
Adventures in MP3 Part I - Read Helen McGovern's first installment of this series.
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