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The Rise of Technology In Music: From Vinyl to Streaming Services

If you had told someone in the 20th century that one day they would be able to listen to music from anywhere in the world simply by tapping a small device, they would have thought you were crazy. However, it has become so common for all of us to easily listen to our favorite music and find new artists and tracks that we often forget that just 30 years ago people would have considered this a joke. Technology and the rise of the internet have changed many aspects of our daily lives, including the way we consume art, particularly music. The availability and accessibility of music in the digital age have transformed the way we consume and interact with it. Today, we have access to an overwhelming amount of music from different genres, cultures, and languages. With just a few clicks or taps, we can create personalized playlists, share music with others, and discover new genres and artists that we might not have encountered otherwise. With the current trend towards new music and artists, which has been further accelerated by the COVID pandemic and the rise of TikTok, it is now easier than ever to discover and enjoy music. As a result, it has become quite common for many people to try and capitalize on this trend and create even more art, which might not always be good. But, art is subjective, right?

Before the advent of streaming services, people used to listen to music through various means, depending on the time period and technological advancements available. For decades, radio was the primary source of music for many people. People tuned into their favorite radio stations to listen to their favorite songs, discover new music, and keep up with the latest music news. Vinyl records were the most popular physical music format for many decades, from the 1950s through the 1980s. People bought records at music stores or received them as gifts, and played them on record players at home. Moving on in the 1980s and early 1990s, cassette tapes were also quite a popular way to listen to music. People could buy pre-recorded tapes at music stores or make their own mixtapes by recording songs off the radio or other sources. In the 1990s, CDs replaced vinyl records as the dominant physical music format. People bought CDs at music stores or online and played them on CD players or in their cars. In the early 2000s, portable MP3 players like the iPod became popular. People could store hundreds or thousands of songs on a single device and listen to them on the go. Before streaming services became popular, people could buy digital music downloads from online stores like iTunes or Amazon. They could then transfer the files to their computers or portable devices to listen to the music. Digital downloads, were a big problem that got people into pirating music and messing with the copyright as a result of huge losses in profit for labels and of course artists and DSPs (Digital Service Providers, such as Spotify) were the solution.

One trend that is likely to continue is the rise of streaming services and the decline of physical album sales. As technology continues to improve and more people have access to high-speed internet, streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal are likely to become even more popular. This could lead to changes in the way artists release music, with more of a focus on singles and shorter EPs rather than full-length albums. Although it wasn't easy convincing label owners to shift and invest in platforms such as Spotify, as seen on Netflix's documentary "The Playlist" it had to be done sooner or later. Streaming services have become widely popular all over the globe and they are here to stay because of their accessibility and low monthly fees. One factor contributing to the popularity of streaming services is the ubiquitous use of smartphones and other devices that offer various functions, with the primary focus on providing extensive music libraries via an internet connection. There are two types of streaming service users: those who sign up for a free account but have to deal with ads, and those who pay a monthly fee for an account with no ads and additional features like offline playback.

After some digging, I found that, between 2009 and 2021, the monthly price of individual subscriptions decreased by more than 20% due to the pricing plans not keeping up with inflation. Meanwhile, consumers have gained access to more music and innovative services, such as higher-quality audio, new video content, and synchronized song lyrics. Consumers have embraced legitimate music, and today, streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal are responsible for more than 80% of music sales. Published figures from Ofcom show that 47% of the population made weekly use of streaming services in the first half of 2022. This figure has almost doubled since 2017 but has remained relatively stable since 2020, suggesting it may have reached a plateau. Younger people aged 15-34 stream music more frequently, with 77% streaming on a weekly basis compared to just 19% of people aged 55+. With access to a wider variety of music than ever before, listeners are becoming more open to different styles of music and are less likely to be confined to a particular genre. This could lead to more experimentation in music and the emergence of new genres and sub-genres.

In 2020, over 60% of music streams were songs recorded by only the top 0.4% of artists. To reach the top of the charts, a song needs to be played millions of times every day, leaving many artists in a situation where their work can have millions of streams without translating into a significant share of their income. For instance, 12 million streams a year could earn an artist around $13,000, but less than 1% of artists reach that level. More creators than ever are releasing music, with the number of artists increasing from about 200,000 in 2014 to 400,000 in 2020. Today, creators have more options for distributing their music, thanks to technological innovation that has made it easier to create and record music outside of traditional studios. New services have emerged that allow creators to take their music to streaming services without the need for a record label. Social media and other digital platforms are likely to continue to play a big role in the music industry. As more people discover and share music through platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram, these platforms could become even more important for artists looking to build a fan base and promote their music.

TikTok has created a new way for music to become viral, with songs and sounds being used in millions of videos, leading to increased exposure for artists and their music. The app's influence on the music industry can be seen in the rise of chart-topping songs that have gone viral on the app, such as "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X and "drivers license" by Olivia Rodrigo. These songs have gained immense popularity through TikTok, leading to their success on traditional music platforms such as radio and streaming services. Additionally, TikTok has created a new marketing channel for record labels and artists to promote their music. By using influencer marketing and sponsored posts, artists can reach new audiences and potentially increase their streams and sales. TikTok has also influenced the creation of music, with some artists intentionally creating songs with TikTok in mind. They focus on creating catchy hooks or danceable beats that can easily go viral on the platform and don't care much for the artistry instead they want virality and the instant gratification that it provides.

The music industry is continuously evolving, and technological innovation is a significant driving force behind this change. Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used in the music industry in various ways, including music composition, performance, and even marketing. It could also be used to create new music or to analyze listener data to personalize music recommendations. AI-generated music is becoming increasingly popular, and we may see more AI-generated music entering the mainstream in the future. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are also being used to enhance the music experience, and could potentially change the way people experience live music, with virtual concerts becoming more common. In the future, we may see more virtual concerts and live events that fans can attend from anywhere in the world, creating new revenue streams for artists and the industry.

It's noticeable that artists prefer to have power in their craft by managing multiple channels alone or with their team than letting the record label take care of everything. Business models such as music distribution services, Web 3.0 platforms (including AI), Marketing Agencies, online blogs, etc are going to profit from this uptrend the most since they help creators grow but don't control their art. Overall, the future of music is likely to be shaped by a combination of technological advancements, changing consumer behavior, and evolving industry trends. and providing new opportunities for artists, fans, and the industry.