The digital age has savaged and revived the music industry in the last 20 years.
However, music has been in a constant state of re-invention and transformation for longer than 20 years. Vinyl became cassette, cassette become CD before CD gave way to MP3. Vinyl has had life breathed into it, by audiophiles searching for the warm wholesome quality it gave the music but that is a limited segment of the market.
The latest transformation of the music industry is the transition from MP3 to streaming. An innovation aimed at reducing the illegal downloading that plagued the MP3 age, it has divided the public, with some championing it, whilst others like Thom Yorke calling Spotify declaring it “the last fart of a dying corpse”.
For upcoming artists, they don’t enter an industry where their music will by those they can physically reach (with the exception of giving the EP to a radio station), but a digital environment where a single Soundcloud track upload could land them a record deal. Already established artists have released themselves from the traditional methods of releasing music in album formats, to developing elaborate marketing campaigns to generate interest. That is an aspect of the landscape, with infinite opportunity and one I would like to pursue in my professional career. The power now belongs to the listener, their expectations have changed. They want to treated like individuals instead of being told what is current. It’s difficult to envision an era where universal phenomenons like The Beatles or Michael Jackson could ever exist again. Whilst some artists may try to reclaim the power, or deny that it was ever transferred to the listener- the successful ones will adapt. Listeners aren’t restricted to only listen to the music they can afford to buy on CD or MP3, but they can find their next favourite song on YouTube before sharing it with 450 friends on Facebook.
With prolific databases like Spotify now freely accessible online paired with suggestion radio services like Pandora now prominent, it raises questions about what the next chapter of the music industry has in stall. Do we listen to fewer or more artists than the pre-digital era? Will the innovation continue to lead the listener, or will the listener lead the innovation?
Music plays a major part in the digital narrative, and the digital world plays a major part in the narrative of music.