MP3s Are Not Free!

by Jennifer Vaughn

Historically, how did you get a package, whether it was a spot, promo/liners, or paperwork to another destination?

I’ll answer that one for you. Courier, DCI/DGS, or Zephyr/CODEC. Are any of these services free? I will also answer that one for you: no. As far as couriers go, Fedex, UPS, Airborne, the U.S. Postal Service, and private couriers charge big bucks to do this job. Internet shipping companies such as DCl/DGS do the same. The costs associated with Zephyrs and codecs are pretty pricey too: 32 cents a minute per line, $90 monthly ISDN service and line fees, not to mention the $8,000 investment on the piece of gear needed on both ends plus ISDN line installation. These companies make millions of dollars a year doing the exact same thing we do through the Internet with mp3’s attached to emails.

There are literally dozens of costs associated with the few mentioned companies, and that’s why they charge you, the end receiver or shipper, money, to carry out this service for you or your employer. MP3’s have the same costs, but most users don’t realize they are there.

Let’s see now, there are monthly costs for phone line, cable, or DSL connections, and now, the newest way to surf the net, satellite. You also need a server, ISP/LAN, or website FTP. Again, another monthly cost. Some of us have dedicated computers for this task, a one-time investment but an investment just the same. Most programs, which do your conversions, are not free. There is also the issue of storage. MP3 storage takes up space, space on your hard drive or space on a supply of CDs or MiniDiscs. There are companies  out there now that charge you for that space. You’ve heard of data storage companies. EMC, one of the bigger ones listed on the New York Stock Exchange, had $31 billion in revenues last year. But the single most expensive cost is...have you guessed? Labor! Your time is very valuable.

MP3-ing (as it’s often called) is usually a 6-step process, but let’s take a look at the process in detail for a moment. Step 1, conversion (depending on how many or how long the packages are, time varies). Step 2, sign on (if you’re on line all the time, you’re one of the lucky ones). Step 3, type out your e-mail, instructions, etc. and attach your mp3. Step 4, upload (another time varied situation). Step 5, make sure it got to its destination by looking to see if you received a reply email later on that day. Step 6, by large the most time  consuming step is resending the mp3 when there’s a server/ftp down or crashed, error, client/station can’t seem to open it, file corruption, client/station lost the file a day later when their DAW crashed, someone gave you the wrong email name, their conversion program is not working and they’re blaming you, and I could go on forever. Now just for a minute, consider the amount of labor it takes when you have to upload or download just twelve mp3’s a day. I don’t know about you, but I hear cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching. You are now spending valuable time on something that was never your job. Shipping!

In fact, SpotTaxi.com saw this market and went after it. You actually upload to their FTP site, and whoever needs the audio can go fetch it. This service is $10 for 1 to 4 minutes of stuff, and it’s archived so you can request it anytime you need the file again. It’s a shipping service, and shipping services were never free. So why are so many doing it for free?

The flip side? It’s a great way to generate a new form of cash flow for the radio station or production house. My advice, go tell the GM; he’ll probably give you a raise for not only saving the company money, but finding a way to capitalize on the loss.