I was first introduced to the Liquid Music System (1.0) back in early '97 and was so impressed with the sound quality, features and the overall potential that I was compelled to write a Liquid Audio chapter for my second book, Cutting Edge Web Audio. Three years later, the Liquid System is still on the cutting edge of online audio technology in terms of sound quality, security features and innovation.
FORMATS? WE'VE GOT FORMATS!Liquid Audio is not an audio file format but rather several audio formats served in one easy-to-swallow package. With the release of the Liquid System 5.0, Liquid Audio has officially adopted a format-neutral status that currently supports Dolby Digital AC-3, AAC, MP3, and most recently, Sony's ATRAC3.
When it comes to Liquifying music for Internet distribution, I've had my best results with AAC (also known as MPEG 2 AAC)-it's my preferred codec of choice. With AAC, the file size is 30% smaller than that of an MP3 file, yet the sound quality is infinitely better. AAC is also the audio specification for MPEG 4 and is in essence the future. However, due to the ubiquitous nature of MP3, it is still supported in Liquid System 5.0.
TIME-OUT!Aside from issues of audio quality, security is a major concern of both artists and record labels. While this is hardly the forum to cover all the licensing options that can be encoded into a Liquid Track, I can touch on my favorite. Nestled within Liquifier Pro 5.0's Liquify Pane are controls for embedding a "Validity Period" into a Liquid Track during the encoding (Liquify) process. The validation period can be set to expire on a specific date or within a set number of days after the Liquid Track has been downloaded. In short, you bait the hook with a promotional Liquid Track, and upon its timely expiration your newfound fans have no choice but to click the Buy CD button on the Liquid Player, effectively reeling themselves in.
LIQUID EXPRESSIf you work in post-production or you've even considered selling tracks from your personal music library as a virtual online product, then you should know about Liquid Express. The Liquid Express Player is the visual twin of the standard Liquid Player but with an important difference. When the proper permission is encoded into a Liquid Track, the file can then be converted into a linear audio file that can be directly loaded into just about any DAW. Simply e-mail a link to your client(s) and they can preview your work online or even download a finished product.
FDK, FYIAt the heart of every music promotion is a visual component that corresponds with the artist, the CD, the label or possibly a combination of all three. Using Liquid Audio's FDK (Faceplate Developer Kit), you can create a custom faceplate that will be downloaded with your Liquid Track, automatically turning any music fan's Liquid Player into your custom-branded music player. Similar to the customized skins that have gained popularity with MP3 players like Winamp and Sonique, the Liquid Player custom faceplate is an opportunity for you to personalize the Liquid listening experience with a very slick visual component.
THE BOTTOM LINEIf you plan on promoting and selling your music over the Internet, the Liquid Music System can be a powerful ally. The combination of great sounding codecs, flexible security features and worldwide distribution through the LMN-perhaps the biggest virtual music store on the planet-is tough to beat.