Why do I have to convert files?

Because the most commonly used computer audio players, iTunes and Winamp, won't play the file format that most music traders prefer.

One of the first things you'll notice when you go to download music from the sites on the live music page is that almost no one will be using MP3 files.

The music-trading community generally does not use MP3 files for music storage and sharing. The reason is MP3 files use lossy compression as opposed to lossless compression. (Don't worry if you're not sure what compression is; you can read all about it here.)

Lossy files, such as MP3s, lose information, and thus quality each time they're compressed or burned to a CD. Lossless files, however, maintain their original quality no matter how many times they are compressed or burned.

What kinds of audio file formats do traders use?

Commonly used lossy audio file formats:

  • MP3 - MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3
  • WMA - Windows Media Audio

Commonly used lossless audio file formats:

  • FLAC - Free Lossless Audio Codec
  • SHN - Shorten®

Don't worry, converting is simple!

The most difficult part of the conversion process will probably be finding a conversion program that you like to use.

I recommend xACT for Mac users.

For Windows users, FLAC for Windows is the preferred conversion tool.

FLAC's Official Web site has a nice, extensive list of conversion programs and other helpful tools for the music trader or collector. They also have a helpful site that teaches you how to use FLAC files and FLAC converters which you can find here.