An Education in MP3

A survey conducted by Webnoize, a site dealing with the new media music industry, confirms what many have long suspected about the use of the MP3 music format: It has become a pop culture phenomenon and it is being fueled by college students with high-speed Internet connections.

According to the survey, MP3 is the most widely recognized digital music format. Between December 1998 and April 1999, MP3 awareness jumped from 7.9 percent to 59.94 percent, a 750 percent increase. Not only are more people familiar with MP3 technology, the survey found that once they start using MP3 files, they quickly become massive users of these files.

In December of 1998, 95.2 percent of the respondents to the survey had never downloaded and MP3 file. By April of 1999, this number had decreased to 67.6 percent. In the same time period, the percentage of respondents who have downloaded more than 250 MP3 files increased from 0.5 percent to 13.9 percent.

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Consumers primarily download MP3 files through email, chat, and FTP servers, the survey found. Only 5 percent of the respondents download from sites on the Web, while 41 percent download from FTP servers, 33 percent from email messages, and 21 percent from online chat sessions.

While much has been made of pirated copies of MP3 files floating through cyberspace, the study found that purchasing digital music files is not totally out of the question. Consumers’ decision to purchase digitally downloaded music appears to be influenced by the amenities of the physical product, such as portability, the ability to copy to other formats, and liner notes. According to the study, 79 percent of respondents buy music via digital download if cover art and liner notes are included, 37 percent if they have the ability to transfer the music to a CD or cassette, and 21 percent if they have a way of using the music on their computer.

Data for the Webnoize survey was collected from 1,861 college students, including a subset of 770 participating at two time points (December 1998 and April 1999). The participants were 65 percent male and 35 percent female.

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