The FezGuys
Placing Your Song On The Web (part 2)
[ No. 4 - Feb 1997 ]

Things That Are New

RealAudio finally has released beta players for Unix machines to play their new 3.0 files. No longer must Unix users be left out in the cold for new RealAudio 3.0 content. (

Macromedia announced that Shockwave support Marimba's Castanet Tuners. Say What? Don't worry, it just means that if you create Shockwave Audio content, you can now bring it to people using another new technology. (

The beta version of the new release of Apple's QuickTime can now play back MPEG audio files! (

The newest audio streaming player on the block, AudioActive, can play back Shockwave Audio files. If you've got a lot of money, you can also buy their live encoder packages. (

Welcome back and thanks again for the comments, feedback and helpful spam.

Last time, we got a ten second soundfile onto your desktop. This month, we're taking the next step: putting it on the World Wide Web, where anyone and everyone can hear it.

We've used audio capture and edit utilities like SoundEdit 16 or Cool Edit to create the soundfile. Now we're going to take that raw soundfile and convert it into a smaller (read: manageable) file for placement on the Web. We will create the two common forms of accessing audio on the Web: "streaming" (or "stream-enabled") and "on-demand". To review: Streaming audio means that the listener can play your files in real-time with playback beginning right after the click of a mouse on a web page. On-demand means that the listener must click, download the entire file, and when it's completed (minutes or hours later, depending on the file size), listen to the song.

To create a stream-enabled soundfile we'll continue to use RealAudio because it's free, cross-platform and we've been working with it. Shockwave, LiquidAudio and Xing StreamWorks also perform these functions with similar methodology. Please refer to the first FezGuys column for their URLs. (

For the creation of a stream-enabled soundfile, start the RealAudio Encoder (available from their website, like their player). Press input and choose your soundfile. From the dialog box menu select any of the 28.8k settings. Try playing with other compression algorithms to hear the difference in audio quality. If you'd like, save the file in a variety of formats and play them back on your computer to see which one you prefer. (Note: if you encode into a RealAudio 3.0 format, the audio file will require a RealAudio 3.0 player to play it.)

You now have an encoded and compressed file on your desktop that is called "yourfilename.ra". The ".ra" suffix is the default name for files encoded using RealAudio.

Look at the documentation for all other fields and familiarize yourself with this app. There are no manuals but there is an extensive help section on their web site.

There are two discrete files for web placement of a stream-enabled file: A metafile (yourfilename.ram) and the actual encoded soundfile (yourfilename.ra). A metafile exists on your server and is a pointer to that actual encoded soundfile that exists on a RealAudio server. That is, to have a soundfile be stream-enabled it has to sit on a stream-enabled computer (server). Your computer probably isn't stream-enabled, but your ISP's server might be. Ask 'em. You are going to move a copy of your .ra file to a server that supports your sound app (in this case, RealAudio). The process of placing the audio metafile and the actual audio file is handled by your File Transfer Protocol (FTP) app. The process of creating the actual file is handled by your encoding utility (in this case RealAudio). A metafile is simply a text file which for RealAudio looks like this:


What you enter for "" and "/path/to/yourfilename.ra" will depend on the name of the computer which is running the RealAudio server and how it is configured to find the file you have placed there. If your ISP is providing this service, they can tell you what to put there; if you are doing it yourself there is documentation included with the RealAudio server.

To create an "on-demand" MPEG audio file from a Windows WAV audio file, use the Cool Edit MPEG plugin. Download this MPEG filter from the Cool Edit site ( Follow their directions for installation.

What's a plugin? Imagine a Swiss Army Knife with multiple blades and tools. You have the knife already but want to add the magnifying glass. The knife is the app. The magnifying glass is the analog to a plugin that increases the number of functions that can be performed by your app.

A Mac AIF-to-MPEG audio file conversion tool can be found at ( There are more efficient apps and plugins that perform this function, but these particular programs can be downloaded free right now. Support the author, of course, by giving them feedback and/or an optional registration fee.

Download, install and open the app.

For Windows users running Cool Edit, choose your soundfile and "save as" (or "export"). For Mac users running the MPEG Audio Coder (MPEGAud) open the app and choose File->Encode.

Note: MPEGAud will not run on a Powerbook unless it has an FPU (floating point math co-processor) installed.

From the various options we'll choose the layer, bitrate-per-channel and mode. Again, familiarize yourself with the apps' different options. For our purposes choose:

Layer: II (as opposed to I)
Bitrate-per-channel: 96kbps (kilobits per second)
Mode: stereo (as opposed to quadraphonic!)

The higher the bitrate the larger the file. Note: Layer II at 96kbps is "near-CD quality"* and the lowest Layer II supports is 32kbps. It is common to place several copies of the same song using various compression methods covering a broad spectrum of playback technologies. Experiment. (Note: 24kbps is the compression threshold for streaming audio over the Internet to a 28.8k modem user. This is an on-demand MPEG soundfile, so file size is not as much of a concern as it is when a soundfile is stream-enabled. You might as well make it sound as good as possible.)

Save. Then wait. These apps tend to be slow. For example, a ten second clip encoded with the above parameters will take several minutes to process. Have some soup. It's winter and you've been working hard.

When you return to your computer with your steaming mug of soup an on-demand soundfile will be on your desktop with the suffix ".mp2." Be sure to test your soundfile. You'll need an MPEG player like we listed in our first column. Test locally, play globally!

In order to place your web-ready soundfile file on the Web you must first have somewhere to put it. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) should, as part of your account, provide you with some disk space on their server. 2MB is common and is plenty for our needs.

You are going to transfer your file from your computer (the client) to your ISP's computer (the server) using a technology called File Transfer Protocol (FTP). You'd think that a degree in rocket science is necessary to manipulate the language of the Internet but no, it isn't.

Windows comes with an FTP client already installed. Mac users should get Fetch, the most common Mac FTP client utility. Download ( and follow installation instructions.

Use your FTP client app to upload your soundfile. Look on the net for resources regarding this process. Your ISP tech support may also be kind enough to help.

To recap: Manipulate the soundfile on your desktop into a web-ready soundfile. Place the file on your server using your FTP client. Access the file using your server account, your browser (we've been using Netscape 3.0) and audio player (we've been using RealAudio 3.0 and MPEG Layer II). If everything is working correctly, you have a soundfile on the World Wide Web for anyone and everyone to hear. Now link it into your web page, test it once more, then try it with a full song!

If, when you click to hear your song, you get a window full of garbage instead of the soothing strains of your song, don't worry! It's not your fault. Should this occur, contact your friendly neighborhood Web Server Administrator and have them add the correct MIME types (those pesky things that tell your browser what kind of file you are downloading) for your soundfile (RealAudio or MPEG for our examples).

What good is having your music on the Net if no one knows about it? The Secret Knowledge behind the success (as defined, in this case, by how many people listen to it) of your soundfiles on the web is Promotion. Put the URL for your music everywhere. On stickers, tshirts, letterhead, cassette jcard, CD insert, tattoo, bus kiosks, billboards, you name it. In short, the old rules apply. Just because you build it doesn't mean that they will come. It all comes back to the arcane alchemical metaphysics of Marketing and Promotion. Evil? Maybe. It's not the tool, it's how you use it. Useful? No question.

Let's Go To Another Letter

Dear FezGuys: In your last column you mentioned a "normalizing" filter. What is that? - dg

Dear dg: A normalizing filter is a rudimentary compression algorithm that squashes your soundfiles' audio content into a reasonably flat dynamic range. This enhances aural clarity in the playback stage.

Alright: see you next month when we review LiquidAudio. We really, really, really swear we're gonna do it this time.

* Near CD quality: a euphemism for: "I can make out the lyrics!"

We welcome your comments. May the Fez be with you!

Please check out the FezGuys website... all columns and info are there.

We welcome your comments.



About the authors:

Jon Luini is a working technophile, a musician (bass player/singer) with full-blown facility and extensive experience on the Web and no free time. He is a co-founder of IUMA and MediaCast, co-creator of Addicted To Noise, and runs an Internet and music consulting and technology company, Chime Interactive (formerly Evolve Internet Solutions). <>

Allen Whitman is a working musician (bass player/singer/producer) with a keen, real-world interest in the practical use of the Web. Music credits include: The Mermen, "Brine-The Antisurf Soundtrack, biL, Deep Field South, Doormouse, Delectric and Drizzoletto. He has written for the San Francisco Examiner, Wired, EQ, Revolution, Yahoo Internet Life, Prosound News, Surround Professional, Replication News and others. <>

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