This was news to me. It might be news to you too:
MP3 is NOT free to use if you’re an online publisher. BUT – let me be clear – there are some opt-outs. It appears you don’t have to pay any license fees if:
It’s for personal use or non commercial reasons (not generating income). OR – if your company revenue is below $100,000 a year.
Now, these rules might change of course. Make sure to check these yourself and ensure you’re up to date by visiting mp3licensing.com for full details.
However, when there’s alternatives I don’t see why anyone publishing audio online would want to or should publish in MP3 format.
So what’s the best alternative? Well – it’s all about OGG.
Okay, a slightly strange name. Here are the facts:
OGG is just as high quality as MP3.
OGG is just as quick to download as MP3.
OGG is open source – this means no fees due, ever (for full details on OGG visit vorbis.com).
The only current downside of OGG is that it isn’t as widely supported by audio players as MP3.
BUT – I’m convinced this will change. As more and more online publishers say “No!” to paying hefty and unnecessary licensing fees, more and more audio will be published online in OGG format, meaning more and more audio players will support OGG.
So if you’re currently publishing audio online in MP3 format, what does this mean for you?
Well, my advice is to convert your audio from MP3 format to OGG format, without delay.
Now I’ll admit it can be a little bit time consuming, but once it’s done, it’s done. And would you rather make a little effort to convert your audio, or pay licensing fees year after year?
So how do you convert MP3 to OGG? Easy – use an audio converter. You’ll find a ton of high quality free ones by searching download.com and also sourceforge.net. My personal favorite is WinLAME (awful name, great software) from winlame.sourceforge.net.
So use WinLAME to convert your MP3 to OGG. Pay attention to keeping the MP3 and OGG files around the same size (I’ve actually found OGG files to be slightly smaller). And then compare the audio quality. I’ll be surprised if you can find any difference between them.
Now this conversion process might take a while. For about six hours of audio it took my computer at least a couple of hours of processing time. But I just left the computer to it and came back when it was done. You can even leave this process running overnight if you have a lot of audio to convert.
Now here’s an extra snippet you need to pay attention to:
Some OGG audio has “Tags”. Tags are extra information inside the audio file which often includes the name of the song for example.
At this time (this will probably change) some audio players have trouble playing OGG with “Tag” information in them. So take the tag information out. It’s easy and doesn’t affect the audio in any way – here’s how you do it:
Download “MP3Tag” from mp3tag.de/en/. Install the software, and start it up. Then just choose to “Remove All Tags” from your OGG files. This process takes literally two minutes but is very important.
Now after you’ve converted and de-tagged the OGG audio, you’ll need to upload it to your server of course.
Then you’ll have to change all your download links. This is fiddly, but needs to be done. For example – you would need to change all your links from:
Then test every download link to make sure it’s working correctly.
Important Note: Don’t forget about the audio you’ve got in Zip files too. You’ll need to recreate those Zip files with OGG audio instead of MP3 audio and re-upload them.
If you’re not sure where all the MP3 and Zip files are on your websites, here’s an easy way to list them:
Now, this only works on Unix-based servers (which covers Linux servers, FreeBSD…etc – ask your web host if you’re not sure)…
This is pretty advanced so don’t do this if you’re not comfortable with the process. Or ask your web host to do it for you if they’re happy to do that:
You need to Telnet into your server and then type the following:
find . | grep mp3 > allmp3
find . | grep zip > allzip
This will then give you two files on your server: allmp3 & allzip
Download these files and take a look at them in a text editor. They’ll show you the path of every MP3 and Zip file on your server so that you can quickly and easily find which files you need to convert to OGG. Dead handy.
Okay – so after you’ve converted and uploaded the audio, you’ll need to change the text around the download links. You’ll need to take out any mention of “MP3” from your website.
I don’t suggest replacing it with “OGG” on a sales page for example since that will probably confuse people. Just replace “MP3” with “downloadable audio” or “high quality downloadable audio”.
And then on your download pages mention that the audio is in OGG format which is just as high quality as MP3 and just as quick to download. Then link to a couple of audio players that you know for a fact support OGG.
The audio players I personally mention are Winamp from winamp.com and Quintessential Player from quinnware.com.
Important Note About Winamp: As I write this only the Full version (not the Lite version) of Winamp supports OGG successfully. So make sure to tell your visitors to download and install that version. It’s still free though so your visitors won’t have to spend any extra money just to listen to your audio.
And that’s pretty much all the steps needed to convert your published audio from MP3 to OGG, which can save you a small fortune in licensing fees without compromising audio quality or speed of download.