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Group looks at setting standards for Web music

What will the future of digital music look like? CNN WorldBeat's Allison Tom takes a look
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January 7, 2000
Web posted at: 5:20 p.m. EST (2220 GMT)

A CNN WorldBeat Report

(CNN) -- 1999 was a record year for music and the Internet. MP3, the popular compression format for transmitting audio files over the Internet, became mainstream. British rock star David Bowie and other musicians released singles and albums on the Web before they were available in retail stores. The United Nations sponsored NetAid. Online music sales soared.

In 1999, music fans spent about $850 million on CDs bought over the Web. By the year 2003, that amount is expected to grow to about $4 billion.

With the Internet becoming a more popular way to distribute music, new issues are surfacing. Copyrighting is perhaps the most serious, if artists are to continue to earn money from their craft. The Recording Industry Association of America has come up with one idea, the Secure Digital Music Initiative, that is designed to focus on security issues as well as make sure consumers get the actual products they order online.

"It's an effort by over 120 technology and music companies to try to work together, to create the legitimate music marketplace for consumers," says the RIAA's Hilary Rosen.

Not all are optimistic that the RIAA's standards will prove effective. "You just have a lot of people who have to get together to agree on something," says Mike Grebb of Billboard Magazine. "That is always a challenge.

"I wouldn't say that this is definitely not going to work, but there are certainly a lot of people who are fearful of it, certainly from the standpoint that they worry the record companies are going to exert too much power over the flow of digital information."

CNN correspondent Allison Tom looks at the changing relationship between technology and music, and how other changes could give musicians from all parts of the world more control over their music -- and more access to their fans.

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Recording Industry Association of America
  •Latest information on Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI)
National Music Publishers' Association
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