Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
MP3.com was a legal, free music-sharing service , once a good resource for independent musicians to promote their work. It was named after the popular music file format, MP3. It was shut down on 2 December 2003 at 12:00 PM PST after the domain name, mp3.com, was purchased by CNET, and has since reopened in a new, far more heavily commercialised format. CNET did not purchase the technology or music assets of MP3.com.
The website featured charts defined by genre and geographical area, as well as statistical data for artists, telling them which of their songs were more popular. Artists could subscribe to either a free account, a Gold account or Platinum account, each with progressively better features and artist stats. Though there was no charge for downloading music from MP3.com, it did require users to sign up with an e-mail address and online advertisements were commonplace across the site.
MP3.com hosted songs from a wide range of artists, including now-famous names including Linkin Park then known as Hybrid Theory and already well known artist David Bowie, who posted his own rare tracks and a cover contest page.
MP3.com went public on July 21, 1999 and raised over $370 million, the single largest technology IPO to date. The stock was offered at $28 per share, rose to $105 per share during the day and closed at $63.3125.
At the end of 1999 MP3.com launched a revolutionary promotion, called "Pay for Play", or P4P, consisting in paying each artist present in the site on the basis of the number of streaming and downloads of his tunes.
Artists provided 4-days (96 hours) of audio content per day from Summer 1999 to Summer of 2003. This equates to about 1 song per minute or 16 listening years of audio content over a 4 year period. A staff of trained music experts reviewed all content prior to publication to prevent uploads of pirated materials.
At its peak, MP3.com delivered over 4 million MP3 formatted audio files per day to over 800,000 unique users on a customer base of 25 million registered users. This was about 4 terabytes of data delivery per month from three data centers. Engineers at MP3.com designed and built the Pressplay infrastructure, eventually purchased by Roxio and renamed Napster. MP3.com also managed eMusic.com, Rollingstone.com and other Vivendi Universal music properties. MP3.com engineering developed their own Content Delivery Network and data warehousing technologies handling 7 terabytes of customer profile information.
The technology infrastructure at MP3.com consisted of over 1500 simple Intel based servers running RedHat Linux (versions 6.2 - 7.3) in load balanced clusters in data centers run by AT&T, Worldcom and the now defunct Exodus Communications. It was one of the first massively scaleable Internet architectures for media delivery. The software of choice was C, Perl, Apache, Squid, MySQL some Oracle and Sybase.
On January 12, 2000 MP3.com launched the "My.MP3.com" service which enabled users to securely register their personal CDs and then download digital copies from the My.MP3.com service. Since consumers could only listen online to music they already proved they owned the company saw this as a great opportunity for revenue by allowing fans to access their own music online. The record industry didn't see it that way and sued MP3.com claiming that the service constituted unauthorized duplication and promoted copyright infringement.
The Courts ruled in favor of the record labels against MP3.com and the service on the copyright law provision of "making mechanical copies for commercial use without permission from the copyright owner." Rather than fight on appeal, MP3.com settled with the major labels for more than $200 million and the service was discontinued. This decision turned out to be the beginning of the end of the original MP3.com as the firm, unaware of the impending dotcom bust, no longer had sufficient funds to weather the technology downturn. To add to their woes music publishers, spurred by the success of the record label suits, also sued MP3.com with their own claims of payment due.
Weakened financially, MP3.com was eventually acquired by Vivendi Universal in May of 2001 for $372 million in cash and stock. Vivendi had difficulties growing the service and eventually dismantled the original site, selling off all of its assets including the URL and logo to CNET in 2003.
E-mails to MP3.com artists and a placeholder message at MP3.com announced that CNET would be coming up with replacement services in the future, based around its current download.com facilities.
A business unit, Trusonic, of MP3.com providing background music services to retailers ended up with 250,000 artists representing 1.7 million songs. Trusonic partnered with GarageBand to revive these artist accounts. Trusonic retained most of the technology and infrastructure developed at MP3.com.
- Trusonic, Inc.
- music.download.com, CNET's new music download service.
- RIAA Sues MP3.com - January 2000 article on the music industy's lawsuit against My.MP3.com
- The Merits in the MP3.com Lawsuit - May 2000 MP3 Newswire article on the Universal/MP3.com court case.
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