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Listen while you surf — MP3 blogs new music downloading alternative

Weblogs have been around for years, providing anyone with Internet access a forum to express his or her views and discuss his or her life. But words are not enough.

Blogs, described by Brian Garrity of Billboard magazine as do-it-yourself Web sites composed of journal-style commentary, have been supplemented with links to news and other Web sites and photos. New phenomena have emerged though, taking blogs to the next level.

MP3 blogs are a new way to share personal insight – and music. The sites usually consist of the writer’s thoughts about a certain musical group, song or phenomenon and offer free access to an example of his or her reviewed work.

Sound sketchy? It is. Sharing music via blogs is in a legal gray area. Because bloggers most often do not get consent from the label or artist before hosting or posting links to unlicensed MP3s, copyright owners have a potential problem, Garrity said.

Sites take some measures to avoid legal trouble by linking to stores where a reader needs to buy the song to hear it or by offering free songs only for a limited time.

Whether or not the government should be cracking down, however, has not been definitively decided. So far, record companies have not bothered to pursue the question of legality of sharing music by way of blogs, largely because the unsolicited positive discourse has served as grassroots advertising for their Indie rock groups.

Xeni Jardin, technology correspondent to National Public Radio’s “Day to Day,” said popular music is unlikely to be found on Web sites because MP3 bloggers make it a goal to find the most obscure things to post on their site.

“And it’s really more of a social experience than it is a file-sharing experience,” Jardin said. “It’s a place where people share their love of music.”

Michael Perpetua, founder and editor of Fluxblog (newflux.blogspot.com), one of the longest running MP3 blogs, told Garrity that blogs are helping record labels find their target audiences.

“You have a whole subset of people who are willing to take marketing into their own hands because they want to spread the word on stuff they are interested in,” Perpetua said.

Recently, Perpetua reviewed Bugz In The Attic’s “Booty La La,” saying, “This is certainly an occasion when my immediate enthusiasm for a song is at odds with my ability to write something about it which does it some justice. The truth is, I’ve barely thought about this song because I’ve been too busy feeling it.”

The artist and song title heading the excerpt are linked to the MP3 at mac.com, and a link to the band’s homepage is appended at the end. The exposure (Garrity says blogs like Fluxblog can get thousands of visitors each day) and ringing endorsements are what record companies hope to gain from having their artists the subject of such blogs.

In fact, an Aug. 16 New York Times article reported that in early August, Warner executives e-mailed at least eight MP3 bloggers, saying they loved their sites and asked if they would post the attached single by The Secret Machines, Warner’s newest act.

While independent labels have been using music blogs to get their acts heard in some manner since they get little play on strict radio playlists, the major record label pushing its wares on bloggers was seen as a test of principle. Music for Robots (music.for-robots.com) was the only site to post and did so under the title “Music for Robots Sells Out,” claiming they only posted to form a relationship with Warner and to keep readers informed.

Those looking to check out MP3 blogs are suggested to check out mp3blogs.org, a blog that has collected links to other MP3 blogs.

Another newer form of the blog is the photo blog, also known as a fotolog. A trend since 2000, the photo blog involves posting photos with text, or more recently, just photos with no accompanying text.

Some photo blogs are just a site for one to get the blogger’s photos out of the drawer or off of the hard drive, according to The New York Times. For others, though, such as those at fotolog.net, it is “a place where you record ‘the interesting ephemeral moments of life.”

Those looking to check out photo blogs are suggested to check out Forbes.com’s list of Best Photo Blogs, along with fotolog.net.


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