MP3s v CDs dressage music debate after riders ‘let down’ in competition

  • CALLS have been made for MP3 files to replace CDs for freestyle dressage music, after “countless combinations” have been let down by technology.

    Anthony Hobden of Equidance, which provides freestyle music arrangements to riders, started a Change.org petition to British Dressage (BD) stating that it is “time to upgrade” from “unreliable” CDs.

    Mr Hobden told H&H “everyone has been complaining about it”.

    “I’ve been trying to address it with BD,” he said. “I think there have been concerns about the tech from venues and maybe some riders who aren’t so savvy about it. So we’re trying to make it easier, dispel a few myths and work with everyone to bring us up to 2022.

    “CDs are 40-year-old format now – I remember them on Tomorrow’s World in 1978 – and they’re fallible.”

    Mr Hobden, who has 20 years’ experience in the music industry as an engineer and producer, says he is working on making USB flash drives more appealing to riders and venues, and that BD has been “very proactive” in response to him.

    “The number of regionals where CDs have gone wrong – you can’t have people getting to that level and having their dreams shattered because of a tech fail,” he said, adding that one rider was not allowed to compete at a major final when her CD failed.

    “Her mum had flown from Australia to see her compete and the rider was in bits; that was the snapping point for me,” he said. “The USB players are like CD players and cost about £20, so if a venue says it can’t afford one, I’ll buy one for them.”

    Zara Griffiss was riding Patrick Leg’s 17.3hh Irish draught Allegro in a prix st georges test in June when her CD malfunctioned, then stopped. She continued, singing part of the music herself and won the test – going on to win her Area Festival in August.

    “I’d definitely push for replacing CDs because it’s ridiculous,” she told H&H.

    “I joked about it at that show, but if you’d qualified for a final and spent a lot of time and effort, it’s more than just a CD going wrong. Luckily, we still got a good score on my last chance, but if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been at the Area Festivals; it’s a domino effect.”

    BD CEO Jason Brautigam told H&H many venues do offer “alternative media formats”.

    “Members just need to check with the venue directly to see which format will be acceptable, although we do encourage venues to include this information in advance on the BD schedules displayed online,” he said.

    “Although CDs are becoming outdated, they are often still seen as the easiest way to create and burn music for use in freestyle, so they remain the universal option for many members.  We certainly wouldn’t want to ‘ban’ the use of these in competition currently, and the most important thing is that we offer members the choice. There are various conversion adapters available relatively cheaply to enable MP3 files to be used over PA systems.

    “Whatever format is used, members still need to ensure that the data can be accessed across all platforms and devices, as organisers have encountered just as many problems with reading USB formats and corrupted MP3 files as they have CD failures.

    “Aside from the technology, we do also need to ensure that all music complies with the licensing we have when using MP3 files and any digital transfer, so there are no copyright infringements.”

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