The Digital Music Revolution

28 Aug 2014

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From the little white headphones and Beats by Dre, to a multitude of on-demand streaming services, the digital music revolution is thriving.

While many are suggesting it is transforming the music industry, with almost a daily stream of innovative new ways to access and interact with music online, others argue that it spells death for the music industry with record declines in download sales.

There’s a Reason For The 21st Century…

Initial developments in the 2000s saw the rise of digital music consumption and fundamental changes in how to record, distribute, store and play music which would ultimately transform the industry and the relationships of everyone – artists, producers, audiences – involved.

Paving the way for the transition from recorded to digital music was Napster, a peer-to-peer network that allowed the free exchange of music files. However, this also presented the industry with another issue; music piracy. Apple (of course), then followed with a system that provided music storage and playback capabilities, that meant audiences could transfer their physical recorded media onto their computer. This service as you now know it is iTunes.

As the popularity of this new generation of music listening services and devices (MP3 players) gained traction, the impact on recorded music sales (CDs) was felt throughout the industry. With unprecedented declines in sales of recorded music, internet music sales had reached an all-time high with more units sold over the internet than any other form. Illegal file sharing (piracy) was also at unparalleled highs, with most activity shut down in the face of threatened legal action.

We Live In A Digital World

Fast forward to 2014 and the transformation is still well underway. Music streaming has evolved substantially, from the days of Napster (circa 2000), to offering audiences advanced personal music library features and social media integrations that even allow playlist collaborations, enter services like Spotify.

Surely, that is all a bit much just to listen to your favourite tunes while you walk to work? Well, yes I suppose it is a tad over the top, but in the digital world it’s all about integrating the personal and making it easy! With the rate of digital innovation changing so rapidly applications and standing out from the ‘next big thing’ a bunch of college students throw together in their spare time.

And as audiences continue to demand new and innovative ways to listen to their favourite recording artist at home or on the go, music steaming services have come to own the market. Artists are now reinventing their offering, with digital collaborations and limited edition CDs or Vinyls, which is great because then I get a limited edition The Kooks album – amazing!

As the music industry continues to evolve and challenge the ways of old, the technology needs to keep you too. With some of the biggest names in streaming music services including, Spotify, Napster (yes they made a legit comeback), SoundCloud and Rdio all offering something a little different, but all fulfil the same goal.

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems

Now, offering these services is all well and good, but this is a time where acquisitions fly hard and fast and money talks. So how do these services plan to keep running when Facebook is after them? They turn the tables of course, invest in advertising and create an app that lets users control their music with voice commands and touch gestures - enter Google glass and the slightly lesser known Pandora (at least in the UK).

Pandora have said they plan to release an app that allows Google glass wearers to access radio stations and create new stations using voice commands or the device’s touchpad. Wearable is already playing a major role in the digital realm, so why not digital music.

As far as I am concerned, I couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds for the music industry. Here’s hoping for a brighter future for music streaming without the ads , thanks Spotify, where I can stream and sync all my favourite tunes from my smartwatch, smartphone and car radio all with the click of a button.