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The internet continues to revolutionise the music industry

Dancing happy

It wasn’t too long ago that listening to your favorite band’s new release meant popping to the shops to buy their CD. And then proceed to devour it on your Discman until you could feel heat bellowing out from the bottom because of the exertion. It wasn’t much longer before that listening to tunes meant popping a tape in or wiping down your record player to listen to your hearts’ content.

A lot has changed since then. And it’s been in a relatively short space of time. Thanks to technology and the internet, worlds of music are available to us. They are literally at our fingertips. Only a couple of clicks away before we’re carried away on a wave of music.

It can’t be denied that the internet has changed the music industry forever. And it’s not just about our access to that music either.

Excessive consumption

The way that music is consumed has transformed since the dawn of the internet. And that’s had an impact on our appetites. In the early iterations of the internet, we welcomed peer-to-peer sharing of music on platforms like Limewire with open arms. It was a huge jump from tunes only accessible through buying CDs or listening to the radio.

And now we have the whole world of music at our fingertips thanks to paid subscriptions to online music sharing platforms like Spotify. This has led to a huge slump in CD sales. Dropping from 132 million sales to just 32 million in 2018 after 10 years.

The benefits of music on demand aren’t just that it’s accessible. The internet brings other virtues with it that music can capitalize on. Spotify and Apple Musics’ appeal is also that they take advantage of algorithmic foundations. They’ll take your preferences and habits and transform them into new music opportunities for you to grab. If you so wish. Discover more new music than ever before, thanks to the support of the internet.

There’s something to be said about this shift into easy access tunes, meaning music’s value has depreciated. Not to say that it has any less inherent value. But that the population isn’t prepared to pay out the big bucks for it now it’s so accessible online.

It means that live concert prices have steadily increased as musicians rely on them more heavily for cash flow. And they’re not just growing with inflation. They now outprice it, with tickets costing almost quadruple what they were two decades ago.

No need for labels

It was a long hard slog for independent artists before the dawn of the internet. Getting label representation was an absolute must if you wanted to make music heard by the masses. But it’s not quite as important in this new age.

Artists can take their fate into their own hands by uploading their projects to streaming sites. And they’re able to speak directly with their fans too. It allows them to get themselves out there, both from a musical and marketing standpoint, with very little cash flow and just a lot of tenacity.

Some websites allow artists to master their own tracks. Platforms where they can sell music for a set price to an eager market. And even places that dedicated fans can sign up to send them a monthly paycheque so they can keep doing what they love.

Done right, the internet can take musicians from nobody to somebody overnight. There are plenty of TikTok amateur artists that went viral and found fame thanks to their fans. Sometimes it only takes a catchy song and some 5 million likes or shares to reach the top.

Even the world’s biggest artists have changed the way they promote themselves because of the internet. Gone are the days of announcements via billboards and press runs. A new album can be released on Instagram and effectively reach more people than a good interview ever would before the internet era.

The social media generation

We’ve touched on the doors that the internet has opened up for marketing teams. But it’s important to stress just how much that has changed the landscape of the music industry and how it functions.

Spotify has produced some powerful takeover campaigns that almost force audiences to stream an artist. Whether they’re that interested in them or not. The fact that pretty much everyone is glued to their smartphones has made social platforms the key to world domination. It allows followers to feel closer to their favorite artists. And that breeds loyalty. It produces diehard fans who love musicians because they feel like they know them.

Another tool for the 21st-century artist is the ability to share what you’re listening to online. There’s a reason why social media influencers have become so important that a whole new job role was created. They have access to millions of people through their chosen platform. For a marketer, that’s gold dust. And gaining the benefits of this pool of potential listeners is as simple as sending merch. Or encouraging influencers to let their followers know who they’re listening to. It’s easier than ever to do that, thanks to music stickers being introduced across Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger on their stories feature.

The bad

If the internet is involved, it means that not everything is peachy. And while the internet has definitely created some amazing opportunities. Unfortunately, it’s also made some hardships for labels or musicians who refuse to evolve.

The downside of the internet changing the music industry is that the business side struggles to accrue enough revenue. If you’re part of making a record, then it’s most likely that you’re paid in royalties. And if the music changes hands without money, then royalties can’t be paid out. This explains why efforts to reduce piracy in the music industry were massive. Because people missed out on money.

And while music streaming services mean that more money is made, it’s still not as much money as when the public buys music outright. It seems like it will take a while for these issues to be resolved because they’re far from resolution right now.

Wrapping up

The dawn of the internet has unlocked numerous doors of opportunity for the music industry. But that meant new challenges to face too. And the new way of listening is still reasonably fresh, so resolutions for those problems are far off in the distance.

It’s not just how we listen that’s changed, though. The way we interact with artists has changed too. And being able to chat with your favorite musician is pretty amazing. Plus, it gives artists a chance to flourish creatively, and that’s what making music is all about.

Photograph by Marcelo Chagas

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