At the end of the 1990s, a phenomenon swept the Internet that will forever change the way we collect, listen to and distribute music: Music lovers began to download music from the Internet using the MP3 format. Unlike previous music media, MP3 music files were developed by the listener instead of the recording labels or electronics companies, effectively turning the music industry on its head. Today, tens of millions of listeners are using their personal computers to download their favorite music onto MP3 players. MP3s also give musicians a way to bypass the large recording companies in getting their music to the consumers.

The first portable MP3 players were released in 1997. According to Cahners In-Stat Group, MP3 player sales are expected to jump from $126 million in 1999 to $1.25 billion by the end of 2002, and ETC Music hopes to cash in on this proliferation of MP3 players with its newly developed MusicTeller, an ATM-like machine that dispenses music files instead of money. MP3 files are probably the most well-known digital music format, but ETC's Musicteller will also include Windows Media (WMA) and Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) music files, all of which are compatible on MP3 players.

Photo courtesy ETC Music
Soon you will be able to download and store music files using an ATM-syle MusicTeller.

When a network of these MusicTellers is established, a whole new audience of music listeners who don't own or use a PC will be introduced to MP3 music files. In this edition of How Stuff WILL Work, you'll learn what MP3 files are, how to play them and how you'll soon be able to download music at your local supermarket.