How The Internet Changed The Music Industry
The rise of the Internet has revolutionized the way people share and consume content.
There was a time when listening to music meant going out to buy your favourite musicians latest album or record and playing it on repeat for months. All though this experience is not forgotten, it’s significantly less popular in the digital age. Music can now be purchased or streamed with a couple of clicks on any tablet, computer and smartphone. There are many services today that offer customers a vast library of songs and artists to choose from, but which of these services will determine the future of music consumption? Let’s take a look at how the Internet changed the music business forever.
1999 - Napster
In 1999 a program called Napster made its way onto the web. This software allowed people to do something that was previously unheard of, share and download any song for free. Users could share their MP3’s with anyone, creating a network where at its peak, 80 million people were illegally downloading and distributing copyrighted music. Napster was incredibly popular, but it did not last long. The music industry stood to lose millions, even billions of dollars if this continued. In 2001, Napster was sued and eventually shut down and bought out by the Private Media Group. Today, Napster is owned by online music retailer Rhapsody, and operates as a paid service. Napster paved the way for other companies to get in on digitally distributing music around the world.
2001 - iTunes
It was in 2001 that Apple Inc. launched iTunes as a media and music manager for the iPod. The iPod quickly became the best selling portable music player available, with the ability to store over 1000 songs in consumer’s pockets. In April of 2003 Apple updated iTunes by adding the iTunes Music Store, a marketplace where people could buy albums and songs from their favourite artists and put them onto their iPod’s. iTunes is a fast and easy way to find music, and individual songs only cost $0.99 in the US. The iTunes Music Store was one step closer to reimagining how the world purchased and discovered music. Thanks to the iPod and the iTunes Store, Apple had a stronghold on the digital music service. iTunes was and still is a success, generating a lot of revenue for Apple, who are making 30% profit off each purchased song. Like with any lucrative business, it wasn't long before competitors started looking for new ways to get consumers away from iTunes and onto their own platforms.
2006 - Spotify
In 2006 a Swedish startup company named Spotify started developing what would soon be one of the biggest music streaming services ever. On October 7th 2008 Spotify was publicly released in parts of Europe, with free accounts available by invitation only and paid accounts available to everyone. The service works as a music library, but instead of purchasing songs users stream the music, never actually owning it. Spotify was not a huge success at launch, it was plagued by security flaws and stuck in negotiations with record companies, but that would not stop it from reaching its current status. In 2011 Spotify was released in the US, and in 2014 in Canada, after years of deliberation with 4 major record labels. The service offers 2 types of paid monthly subscriptions, Unlimited and Premium. Unlimited costs $4.99 and allows users to listen to music without any time restraints, anywhere in the world and without advertisements. Premium costs $9.99 and on top of all Unlimited’s services, customers can save their music for offline play and sync it across their devices. Higher quality audio is also part of Premium’s pitch. As of March 2014, Spotify has reached 40 million users worldwide, with 10 million being paid subscribers.
2014 & Onward
Among Spotify are a plethora of similar streaming services such as Songza, SoundCloud, Pandora, Rdio, Rhapsody and iTunes Radio. Streaming as opposed to buying seems to be what the majority of users find convenient and are looking for. What makes Spotify so great is that consumers don't need a paid subscription to browse through the millions of songs and artists. Spotify's mobile and desktop applications look amazing, they are organized neatly and allow synchronization across all devices. It's a social network for music, users can share and create playlists, follow artists and organize their music library. It’s these features that set Spotify apart from the competition and make it such a joy to use. Although I am still an advocate of going out to buy your favorite albums and support the artist, I think Spotify and streaming services are a great way to discover new music and share it with the world.