The world of music has always been one that leans towards change and innovation, but the actual music industry has not always been as progressive. Despite shifts in format from vinyl, to tape, to CD, the way the business actually operated did not really alter very much – until the past two decades. What has brought about the seismic changes we have seen in that time is the internet, which has forever altered the way people buy and listen to music.
Physical formats dying
The single biggest change has been the move away from buying music via formats like CDs to downloading it online; something that began with the file sharing site Napster back in 1999. That was a period when the Internet was less controlled and regulated than now, but the pushback of the major music companies against the free sharing of music files on Napster was arguably the beginning of the end of that era. The original Napster shut down amid copyright infringement issues, but the industry could not put the genie back in the bottle as far as downloading music was concerned. Fans switched to Torrent sites for their music, only for these to be hit with the same lawsuits by the record companies, but CD sales kept falling and the industry was forced to accept that the old music buying model wasn’t coming back. The solution proved to be streaming platforms like Spotify that allow people to download music to their devices while also giving the companies and musicians some revenue back.
New ways of launching your career
Although the internet has sometimes made it difficult for musicians to earn a living, it has provided new ways for them to launch their careers. In the past, they relied on being discovered by someone from a record company, whereas now they can use social media sites to gain an audience. Calvin Harris went from nobody to one of the hottest DJs on the planet after Global Gathering talent booker Mark Gillespie heard the early tunes he uploaded to MySpace. It is also possible to make cutting edge sounds much more cheaply now as digital tools that most can afford let people record and produce high quality music in their own bedrooms. Coverage of music has changed to fit the new landscape, with more niche websites springing up and making emerging musicians less reliant on the big outlets – many of which are struggling to stay afloat now.
Of course for all the exciting progress that we have witnessed since the internet went mainstream, people are still passionate about their favourite artists and still want to see them live at festivals or gigs, so it could be argued that the beating heart of the music world remains the same.
The internet has brought about the most radical shifts in the music industry since the birth of rock and roll, but now listeners, musicians and companies seem to be adjusting to a new model.
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