This article originally appeared in The Load In, the digital magazine for musicians. Subscribe for free below.
First there were records, then cassette tapes, then CDs, and then the MP3. It’s hard to understate the MP3’s impact on the music industry. It’s the format that allowed Napster to be a thing, pirating music to take off, and the rise of iTunes and the iPod.
And now the MP3 is dead. Kind of. Mostly.
The Fraunhofer Institute, the company responsible for licensing MP3 patents to “distribute and/or sell decoders and/or encoders” for it have officially ended their MP3 licensing program. The company noted in their statement:
Although there are more efficient audio codecs with advanced features available today, mp3 is still very popular amongst consumers. However, most state-of-the-art media services such as streaming or TV and radio broadcasting use modern ISO-MPEG codecs such as the AAC family or in the future MPEG-H. Those can deliver more features and a higher audio quality at much lower bitrates compared to mp3.
Does this mean your MP3 collection won’t play anymore? No. All it means is that new software that supports MP3 playback will slowly go away (like your VHS player). As the world moves to AAC or other more modern formats the MP3 will gradually fade away (like cassette tapes).
Will MP3s ever make a comeback, like vinyl has? Probably not. But if you prefer the signature lo-fi sound of a compressed MP3, you can always try out “Lossy” a plugin from the makers of the Vulf Compressor that promises to make your track sound like “a low bit-rate digital mp3 ripped from KaZaA.”