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System Shock: How The Mp3 Changed Music

The ’90s was a great time to be in the music industry, things were booming and as a result, there were expensive parties and big album launches, it was just part of the culture. It was the era of NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys, a time when a single hit song could sell you 10 million albums plus. The record labels had a license to just print money and the compact disk or CD played a big role during this period, dwarfing what had come before in the industry. The profits coming in were massive, the top executives figured things were only going to get better and better but what they didn’t foresee was the change in technology that was just around the corner. A new method of compressing audio data called MP3.

The birth of the MP3 was a seminal moment for all media and entertainment. It would completely change and disrupt the music industry forever. Opening up people’s minds to what the future of digital media would be. The music industry simply did not embrace the magnitude of this change in technology and as a result, it failed. The MP3 changes people’s relationship to the internet, to culture, and to how society works, it was so much bigger than the music industry.

Through three parts, this documentary examines how the music world was forever changed by an American teenager called Shawn Fanning who started Napster in his dorm room. In doing so, he triggered a momentous shift in how media is consumed everywhere. This is the story of the MP3, an audio breakthrough that brought a billion-dollar industry to the brink of collapse but also paved the way for our modern digital lives.

Directed by: Jed Rosenberg

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