Who speaks for the MP3 era?
When Apple first opened the iTunes Music Store on 28 April 2003, the world of recorded audio was in crisis. Peer-to-peer filesharing networks like Napster had made physical recorded media nearly irrelevant overnight, and an industry that had once consisted of clearly-defined hierarchies of control was in tatters. By creating a legal way for consumers to purchase audio files rather than share them, it was thought that MP3 stores were recorded sound’s saviours.
Yet they turned out to be a temporary stop-gap in the transition from consumers owning a personal collection of recorded sound to renting access to sound on streaming servers. Indeed, when MP3 stores began, the files they ‘sold’ were protected by Digital Rights Management software, essentially removing consumer ownership while pretending not to – and paving the way for the subscription-based rental economy that has since dominated not only the music industry but nearly every other form of entertainment or knowledge since converted from analogue media to digital.
Like much of the early content of the Internet, the MP3 era has quickly been mothballed as it was eclipsed by streaming services like Spotify. Who will preserve this digital heritage? What exactly has been lost? What has been retained? How will the world perceive the MP3 era in years to come?
The Museum of Portable Sound invites you to join us for #MP3StoreDay, inaugurating on 28 April 2021 – an annual day of remembrance and unpacking of the MP3’s legacy.
We want #MP3StoreDay to lead the global discussion surrounding the MP3’s digital heritage by organising talks and other events designed to analyse, provoke, and explore the concepts of media, collection, ownership, and identity surrounding the MP3 – a file format and cultural phenomenon.
Get involved. Help us investigate the cultural legacy of the MP3.
Are you a scholar, engineer, collector, or advocate in some way involved with the history of the MP3? We’d love to hear from you, and work with you in the coming years to celebrate, eulogise, and criticise the complicated history of the MP3. Contact us so we can begin planning the future of the MP3 together!