What You Need to Know About MP3s

by Terry Wilhite

A music compression format known as MP3 has turned the music recording industry upside down-and you, Mr. Preacher, ought to know how to utilize this new technology to more effectively proclaim the gospel message.

One of the things that MP3s allow computer users to do is to digitally extract music from CDs and compress the data to a tenth of its size. Computer users can then download the music to their computers and then transfer the music to a portable MP3 player.

Unable to re-route this "herd of ants" bound for the sweet, savory taste of high-tech music-on-demand, companies are finally wising up, recognizing that times have changed and that they've got to make their music available to customers the way they ask for it-in an MP3 format. Apple Computer was the first to "get it." More than a year ago, Apple began offering a service that allows users to download songs for a dollar each. In just a few weeks, more than one million songs were downloaded from the music site to computers and MP3 players.

So what does all of this have to do with preaching and sermon delivery? Everything! If you want to reach today's generation, your message must be on the medium of choice. Face it: cassette tapes are quickly fading-as I was reminded recently at the checkout line at Target. I overheard a lady bemoaning the fact that her favorite tune was not on tape. "There were no cassette tapes for sale," she lamented. "But, Mom," said her teenage daughter, "this is the DVD, MP3 generation." Notice that CDs didn't appear in the girl's description of the times, either. The aim today is straight-line, "intravenous" entertainment.

If you've ever used an MP3 player, you'll quickly see why they're such a hit. I have more than 60 albums that I have digitally copied on my Apple iPod. I can walk out the door with my whole music library loaded on a device smaller than a deck of cards. In addition, I often load training CDs or books on tape onto the device so I can learn a new skill as I mow the grass, walk, or shuffle papers on my desk. By the way, the Apple iPod connects very nicely with my Windows XP PC.

Preaching and MP3s

Besides the fact that technology has presented us with a new, much-in-demand medium that we need to use to reach the masses, what are the most important things preachers need to know about MP3s? Here they are:

1. MP3s are not illegal. An MP3 is a file format-neither good nor evil. Selling "bootleg" MP3 files, disrespecting copyright law and royalty houses, is illegal, but copies for one's own use are allowed.

2. An MP3 is not as mysterious as it may sound. The sound on a CD is digital information. When it is copied from the CD, the data becomes a .wav file. In audio software, such as Adobe Audition (see www.adobe.com), the file can be converted from a .wav to an MP3 by simply choosing the desired MP3 file format under the File menu.  It's that simple. To show you how effective the compression is, a four-minute song that would take 40 megabytes as a .wav file can be compressed to just 4 megabytes as an MP3 with no noticeable degradation of sound.

3. MP3s can be "burned"-recorded to a CD-in the native MPEG form or as CD audio.

4. MP3s of your message can be posted on a Web site, then downloaded.

5. Learn the new distribution system for entertainment. The music Web sites are the "stores" where MP3s can be purchased. Your church Web site can be the "store" for your message. The Internet is the "highway" from the "digital store" to consumers and those who need to hear the gospel.

Let's use our talents and gifts and the digital technology to get the gospel to the ends of the earth. Our work as Christians should be of the very best quality because of Who we represent.

For more about MP3s and communications technology in general, see www.terrywilhite.com or e-mail Terry with your questions at writeme@terrywilhite.com.  

 

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