Digital Technology and the Music Industry

How the rise in digital technologies has affected the music industry

The Big Music Debate- Spotify VS Swift

“The last gasp of a terminally ill music industry”

In 2014, Taylor Swift’s album ‘1989’ was the highest-selling album of the year, with over 1.3 million copies sold. The same year, Taylor Swift removed her entire music catalogue from Spotify saying that it undermined the value of her “art”, beginning the Big Music Debate-  Spotify VS Swift.

I am aware that I have touched on the subject of music streaming before in previous blogs but I decided this particular situation needed to be analysed in more depth. After all, the Big Music Debate that is Spotify VS Swift proves to us that the music industry is dying and causing upset and anger amongst artists.

But could music streaming services be our only chance of saving it too?

In an article written in the Wall Street Journal, Swift said how,

“music is art, and art is important and rare. Valuable things should be paid for” and that “music shouldn’t be free”.

Swift expressed her problems with the streaming service when she refused to put her latest album on the site because of the significantly low amount of royalties paid to artists when their music is streamed and listened too.

Artists recieve between $0.006 and $0.0084 per music stream on Spotify

Swift said, “piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically”.

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The Evolution of Music Consumption

Since the introduction of and continuous developments in digital technology, methods of music consumption have changed significantly.

The rise of the iPod, mobile phones and iPads being used for music consumption and music streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music shows us just how hugely influential and popular music is. These devices help to shape the technological landscape of today.

Music consumption is at an all-time high

According to a 2016 Nielson Music end of year report, music consumption is higher than it has ever been. The entire music industry saw a 3.1% increase in overall volume, with total album consumption reaching 560.7 million units.

Digital music consumption rose by 8.9% to 442.4 units with audio streams rising by 76.4% to 251.9 billion and video streams rising by 7.5% to 17.9 billion. These on-demand streaming figures were gathered using Spotify, YouTube, Apple, Tidal, Amazon, Google Play, SoundCloud, Xbox Music, Slacker, AOL Radio, Medinet, Disciple and Rhapsody. 80% of music listeners had used one of these sites in the past 12 months demonstrating how prevalent music streaming services have become.

Live music and concerts are still the number 1 expense of typical music listeners and AM/FM radio is the most popular discovery source at 44%.

Sadly, CD sales are still on the decline, dropping by 16.3% in 2016. Digital downloads dropped by 20.1%.

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Immersive Virtual Reality

Listening to music is no longer just about the sounds playing in your ears but also about the full immersive experience audiences can participate in. YouTube enables viewers to watch music videos, software such as Photoshop, Indesign and Illustrator enable aspiring musicians to create clever cover art for albums and sound engineers can make music come to life through concerts and gigs. All of these new digital innovations have provided texture and added depth to musical experiences.

Vinyl designs and cover art used to be an important part of an artists release as images that were produced on the front were used to entice audiences and be the main selling point on a record. However, the introduction of the digital realm meant that artwork lost its importance.

Art work for Diana Ross

Since the introduction of music streaming services, the importance of artwork to sell music rose once again. Today, more music is being played on devices that have screens such as iPhones and Ipads where album artwork is displayed and made visible to audiences once again. This offers audiences a further insight into an artists thought pattern behind a song or album. Cover artwork is an attempt to capture an aspect of the meaning of a song, to draw attention to it, to cause reason for comment or to trigger a fresh angle on its meanings. SoundCloud is an example of a streaming service that wants to visualise every single sound by providing audiences with the opportunity to watch the music’s waveform. This turns the sounds into social objects, allowing room for audiences to comment and debate alongside the waveform. The internet has become a visual medium and streaming services want to reflect that.

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Social Media Platforms and Its Effects On The Music Industry

Mega-star artist Justin Bieber was discovered at 12 years old by talent manager Scooter Braun after a video was posted online of him covering Neyo’s “so sick” in a local singing contest in 2007. He was then signed by pop sensation Usher and recorded his first album, releasing “one time” in 2009. Since then Bieber has created 3 multi-platinum albums that have all reached #1 and has sold out stadium arenas.

The development of the internet and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter has allowed aspiring artists anywhere to produce content and post it online, with Justin Bieber being just one example of someone who has gained success from this. These platforms including YouTube and Soundcloud allow fans all over the world to connect with their favourite artists. Social media has meddled with our personal lives and changed the ways we connect with each other. It has also interfered with and changed how businesses and industries engage with their customers and market their services and goods.

Social media has led artists to change the way they market themselves and has changed the way music is produced, distributed and sold through the integration of mobile technology.

The question is…

Is social media a positive or negative factor for the music industry?

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The Power Of Music Streaming Services

Introduction to the effects of music streaming services in the music industry:

The needs of music consumers have developed drastically since the growth of the internet, the popularity of smartphones and music streaming services. Digital technology has changed the way consumers access musical content today.

Napster, released in 1999, was one of the first services that enabled people to download music onto their MP3 players and iPods, ultimately predicting “the success that other streaming services would have in the future”. 

The recent increase in digital music streaming services such as Spotify, Apple music, Tidal and Deezer to name a few has turned listeners into passive audiences. People nowadays are controlled by music streaming services. They would rather music find them than actively searching for artists like before. Consumers of music are automatically fed popular content through streaming platforms. For example, Spotify has readily available playlists of diverse genres that suit different occasions on its browser for users to listen too freely.

There is no doubt that music streaming services hold a lot of power over the current music industry in both positive and negative ways. But the real question is…

Are music streaming services responsible for SAVING the industry or for KILLING it?


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