What is an MP3 Rotation, why an MP3 Rotation, and why now of all times?! Well, that's a lot of things I should try to explain indeed.

A Brief Introduction To The 2000's

For those of you who aren't in the know (in other words: haven't been chronically online for more than 20 years now) "MP3 Rotations" were a very popular type of website back in the early 00s. Through these websites, people... shared MP3 files, which probably sounds like a very mundane (if not entirely pointless - Spotify anyone? ...) activity nowadays so I guess this requires further explanation.

Before the age of YouTube, which launched in 2005, finding music online wasn't easy - there was a lot of "witchhunting" because recording companies still didn't know how to deal with the new technology, and so we had basically three options when we really wanted to listen to a song but didn't own the CD --

1. Ask a friend who had it in .MP3 format like an online friend who could rip that particular song from a physical album and was willing to compromise their connection for twenty minutes (it was as unlikely as it sounds btw)

2. Download it from some shady P2P service like Napster - it took like 3 hours on a dial up connection if you got lucky, and sometimes you got a virus and a p0rn pic instead (particularly true for Japanese music cough ahem)

3. Download some simpler .MID version of the song and call it a day (phew)

Obviously, none of these were exactly ideal. But, except for a few musical artists who were kind enough to share their works online, we usually couldn't listen to music legally for free online at all so that was most of all we could do really... And then there was the fourth secret option: get it from those "in the know" of course ;) websites you couldn't find so easily in search engines, websites that required a password and so on.

MP3 Rotations were part of that fourth option - websites in which people who owned physical albums would rip and upload their songs to an audience of a few enthusiasts. Or upload songs their friends ripped and spent twenty minutes sharing over ICQ. Or songs they got lucky enough to download on some shady P2P and so forth. Or whatever else.

Granted I was very young back then and maybe memory fails me but I believe those websites were majorly responsible for the popularization of Japanese music overseas — for instance, those "visual kei MP3 rotations" through which fans of one band (usually Malice Mizer) got to know other bands (like Pierrot or L'arc and so on) and then there were the anime song rotations, the Ayumi Hamasaki & DDR J-pop rotations and a lot more. Those young people wanted to share their passions because that's what teens always did, and those MP3 Rotations were a great way of doing that so you could help others who wanted to find a particular song and not spend however-many minutes sharing the song with each friend individually.

But technology kept changing the way the Internet worked and the ways in which people interact with eachother on it.

My personal experiences in the past...

In 2003, yours truly was a ten-year-old who didn't have much of a musical taste of her own. Surely I would ask my parents to play the same Laserdisc 10 times (shout out to Gloria Estefan/Kate Bush!) but aside from that I simply didn't have access to a pair of earphones, much less MP3 files.

Around those times I started calling myself an "anime fan" in the vague sense that I liked anime that aired on TV, like Sailor Moon and Pokémon, got involved in their online fandoms and wanted to know more about anime, but VHS/DVDs were hard to attain even in the US or EU so of course in LA those were nearly unobtainable.

Because of that, back then being an anime fan encompassed - well, anything but actually watching anime (lol) Talking about it, reading reviews and summaries and thinking "man that sounds great" were most of our activities. It was easier to share music than anime episodes on dialup so a lot of people who were anime fans (loosely) ended up becoming fans of Japanese bands and so on. In my case, the anime and game MIDs I discovered through KiSS dolls and websites were a big deal.

The gamechanger was the advent and spread of broadband cable internet - from there everything was so wild I can't really explain how it went, but by 2005 I had access to Gendou (a private anime MP3 directory) and started using Pandora Radio and watching anime and Japanese PVs became easy thanks to YouTube, by 2006 I started uploading my own AMVs, and by 2007 my MP4 player was full of Japanese PVs and anime episodes so everything happened fairly quickly. Some Japanese companies in particular were very protective of their copyrights (yes, JE) so we still had to be sneaky, just... not as much.

It wasn't just me either, the shift shows in the way AMV.org saw a boom in popularity in mid 2004, for instance. The YouTube boom probably forced media companies to stop "witchhunting" and with that, MP3 Rotations also began to decline - in my mind at least, there weren't many MP3 Rotations active by the late 00s. The shady P2Ps gave way to 4shared or MegaUpload just as the MP3 Rotations were overtaken by big websites (K2N missing hours ;_;) and the MIDs were replaced by low-quality "Comic Sans MS lyric video" uploads on YouTube probably.

It's crazy to think my life went from "what are earphones?" in 2004 to "watching a simulcast stream of my favorite anime and tracking my MP3 collection on last.fm" in 2008 but that's exactly what it was. There was the MySpace band boom, and with that the emo/scene bands boom and then websites such as 8tracks and so on, all that before the age of legal streaming services.

Anyway, thanks to all of this, MP3 Rotations remind me of a very particular time... a time when we really treasured whatever we came across on the web, both because we didn't come across cool things often, but also because it took three hours to download a fucking MP3 file. And yeah, it was a struggle... but also fun, in a sense. And this sense of fun shaped my taste in music to this day which as you can probably tell by now is a mess. But it's a fun mess and I like how there's a story behind every song and artist/band I fell in love with. I truly wouldn't have it any other way.

...and nowadays.

Things have changed so much in some ways, yet not at all in other ways.

When I first watched Evangelion in 2008 (well I wasn't into mecha before!) I found it surprising that Shinji, an average Japanese boy by 1995's standards, would sometimes escape his horrendous reality through his earphones and cassette player. Cassettes were old even for me so it caught my attention - guess it's not very innovative of me to use my ROKR phone to escape into my imaginary world on the school bus or before falling asleep I thought! Well, eventually I found out my grandfather used a DIY crystal radio for that and then I finally realized just how unoriginal I was.

While people haven't changed much, the world wide web has truly changed a lot. The aspect that drove the creation of many MP3 Rotations — the basic feeling of wanting to share and spread love for your favorite songs and bands and so on — was very much the opposite of "commercial" . That feeling was prevalent on the internet I knew back then, as a kid who had fun exploring.

Of course it's great that artists are now paid when people listen to their songs digitally through streaming platforms. My nostalgia for the era of MP3 Rotations only extends to how heartfelt it all was, the feeling of excitement of potentially finding a new favorite band through a friend of a friend and spreading the love and all that. Some MP3 Rotations from back then were themed, but most were damn personal; just someone's musical identity and tastes stamped all through their website. And it just doesn't seem to me like we can't do that nowadays. Rather, it seems like we should do that more than ever.

Some songs from the early YouTube days that still live in my mind were all but lost to time as they didn't make it to the legit streaming platforms. Surely, those are also deserving of love. But I want to promote my favorite k-pop group! And share the tastes that defined my childhood as well!! Growing up meant being able to go to concerts, purchase my own albums and so on. There are a lot of experiences I would love to share, and this is why I ended up creating this website, as a homage to the feelings that permeated the era.

It's very personal, yet it's not... in the sense that what you will find is a weird mix of 90s anisons I probably heard first through a MID, obscure YouTube findings, stuff friends shared on MSN, whatever was trending on NND and YouTube in 2008, whatever was popular on MySpace and GaiaOnline around that time, whatever this online radio recommended 10 years ago, radio pop, MTV stuff and some bardcore for good measure... and everything in-between. And I swear it is all perfectly logical in my own brain.

Hopefully you will find something here that suits your fancy, be it a recommendation, a picture from my collection, a download or whatever else. Enjoy your stay!