When I was a freshman in college, I remember being asked…Have you used Napster yet? I was totally oblivious to this new technology! I said, “what’s that?” Soon, I discovered that I could use Napster to download entire albums for free. Not that I did!
Soon after Napster, came Limewire. Limewire was essentially the same technology. Your only cost for using the unregulated sharing software was the price of a new PC once a virus destroyed your Gateway.
It’s hard to believe that almost 20 years ago, music on the internet was solely illegal. I majored in Music Business and the battle between record labels and streaming services was fierce. The market for singles was nearly dead. CD sales were driven by pop bands like the Backstreet Boys. Radio was the best way to listen to new music and independent artists struggled to enter the market.
Today, CDs are no longer the desirable option for music purchases. Sites like Pandora and Spotify allow consumers to listen to music without making a purchase. If individuals are willing to sit through a few commercials, they can listen to an artist’s entire album for free.
Besides the financial gain for consumers, services like Apple Music, Tidal, and YouTube Music, have almost killed the need for traditional radio. iHeart Media fought back in 2008 by founding iHeart Radio, a service that connects more than 800 radio stations across the US.
With services being pressured to increase their catalogs and speeds, technology is being pushed to keep up. For years, consumers could use Spotify as a streaming service with social media components. In 2015, Apple launched a streaming service that was almost identical to Spotify (for almost the same pricing structure).
Instead of fighting the future, record labels had to embrace it. Today, CD sells are no longer the main indicator of success on Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100. Views on YouTube and streaming has come to mean success to a new artist. The purchase of singles (which was nearly extinct in my college days) has become the new normal for young consumers. Instead of purchasing an entire album for $14.99 and using precious iPhone storage for songs you never listen to, $1.29 seems like the logical choice.
For artists, streaming services have been both a blessing and a curse. The internet and streaming services have propelled pop stars into stardom (Such as Justin Bieber). The negative side of this success is that streaming services pay very little royalties. Unlike record sales, you can’t make money off something that you’re giving away for free.
In 2015, I signed up for Apple Music on the first day of it’s launch. It was conveniently already on my iPhone, it offered be a variety of artists for a low monthly fee, and it put together some amazing playlists based on my preferences. The same person who once shuttered at the idea of illegal downloads has not purchased a CD in almost 5 years. I am not the exception, I am the typical music consumer. 20 years ago, I could not predict the future and I still lack psychic abilities. It is my hope that technology continues to enhance (not overtake) our lives. I am open to all change no matter how big or small.