How the MP3 Became Ubiquitous

Jonathan Sterne

in The Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies, Volume 1

Published in print April 2014 | ISBN: 9780195375725
Published online July 2014 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

How the MP3 Became Ubiquitous

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This chapter offers a historical account of how the MP3 became the dominant music format in the world. It explains that MP3s became a ubiquitous format in part through a series of marketing failures and multiple booms in software and music piracy. It highlights the fact that the code to make and to listen to MP3s was itself file-shared and disseminated online. This article also suggests that while MP3s were behind an unprecedented expansion in the availability and circulation of recorded music, it was also the drive to move music that made the MP3 what it is today.

Keywords: MP3; music format; marketing failures; software piracy; music piracy; recorded music

Article.  9323 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Sound Studies

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