Understanding MP3 vs WAV in the Music Industry

There are two main ways to store audio files on the Internet: MP3 and WAV. MP3 is a format that uses compression to drastically reduce the size of an audio file. WAV, on the other hand, is a format that uses lossless compression to store the same audio file in a smaller file size. The result is that MP3 files are usually much smaller than WAV files.


One question that often comes up when people are deciding whether to use MP3 or WAV files is whether you should export your beats in MP3 format or WAV format. The general rule is that WAV is the format of choice for audio files that you plan to sell or distribute, while MP3 is the format of choice for sound recordings that you plan to use online or for streaming. It’s a good idea to keep your content in the format that’s best suited for the purpose you have in mind when you’re creating it, so that you’re not frustrated by the limitations of a particular format later on.


Popular music sharing and streaming services, such as YouTube, Spotify, and iTunes, have set content guidelines that mandate that uploaded audio files must be in one of their supported formats. This means that it’s generally a bad idea to upload your music to a streaming service using MP3 if you have the option to use WAV. 


If you are sending loops to another Producer that you already know, share them as a WAV file in a place that you both know how to use and access, such as stored on Google Drive or Dropbox. If you are sending loops to someone that you haven’t worked with yet, it might make sense to just attach a few MP3s to an email so that they can be easily played. Keep in mind that nowadays some email clients are not allowing MP3 attachments to be previewed, so a backup method like a Dropbox URL is always a good idea. 


A mix engineer will probably ask for WAV files or trackouts when a song needs to be mixed professionally. A rough demo can be recorded over an MP3, but to get a professional mix, you’ll need the instruments stemmed out. Most DAWS have an option to export each playlist track as a separate WAV file, making this process seamless for Producers.