It seems that no commercial industry has gone untouched over the last half-century. From manufacturing jobs being outsourced overseas to labor jobs being replaced with automation, industry in the United States is in a constant state of flux – all driven by that elusive goal of increasing ROI year-over-year. And yet, even among other industries, a case can be made that the music industry has witnessed more change than most. It’s not just that tastes change, either; the means in which music is delivered and consumed is constantly being updated, resulting in an often unpredictable and sometimes tumultuous business environment.
Two factors that have played heavily into recent changes within the music industry are the burgeoning presence of the Internet in commerce, and the arrival of social media, from Facebook to YouTube. These two seemingly unstoppable forces have once again rewritten all of the rules – just as vinyls, CDs, cassette tapes, and music television stations did before them. What changes, exactly, did Internet and social media bring? Well, among them, the ways in which music is bought, shared and consumed. So in other words, everything.
Digital Downloads Replace CDs
Before listening to music online was de rigueur, the compact disc was the reigning king in the music world. Sold by millions, lauded for its convenience and portability, and heralded as the final say in music technology, the CD looked, for a time, to be the pinnacle. And then the MP3 player was popularized with the introduction of the iPod in the early 2000s, and the music industry changed overnight. Suddenly, people were buying less CDs and were increasingly buying digital albums instead, or even individual songs, which was a revelation at the time. And just like that, the CD all but went extinct.
Goodbye MTV, Hello Online Music Videos
Though the Internet may not be solely responsible for the death of music television (the stations themselves probably deserve some if not most of the blame), there can be no doubt that the Internet in general, and YouTube in particular, has made the very concept all but moot. Television simply can’t hope to compete with the Internet, either in terms of making media available on demand or in terms of making media available to as large an audience as possible.
In its heyday, MTV could reach a tremendously large audience – one that was engaged and the right demographic to boot. But this audience was nothing in comparison to the audience that YouTube can reach. Consider this: Kanye West has 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube, and 1 BILLION total views. Justin Bieber? How does 10 million subscribers and 5 billion total views sound? Much maligned Justin Bieber has nearly as many hits on his YouTube channel as there are people on Earth. That’s the power of the Internet.
Worldwide Word of Mouth
Speaking of Justin Bieber, he’s the perfect example of what can happen through social media. Through word of mouth alone, he went from a kid on YouTube to a worldwide sensation in a few short years. And that is because with platforms like Twitter and Facebook, word of mouth is no longer limited to you and your friends. Trending topics go worldwide not just in days or hours, but minutes, and individuals can find their 15 minutes of fame come on strikingly fast.
There can be no denying that social media has revolutionized the music industry. From how artists interact with their fans to the ways in which artists promote new music and gain new followers, social media has a role to play. Artists who can master this domain can find themselves rocketing to the top in an incredibly short amount of time. Daunting for most, but for a few, it represents a true opportunity.
Streaming – The New Hot Thing
Just as the Internet gave us the digital download (and the chance to buy individual songs; no longer did you have to buy a whole album just to hear the single!), so too has it gifted us with the newest craze in music: streaming. When it comes to listening to music online, there may be no better way than through a streaming provider, like Pandora or Spotify. In fact, the services have become so popular that new names are entering the industry every day.
One of the latest, Music Milk, is a venture by Samsung. Whether it will come to be a major player is anyone’s guess at this time, but with 200 plus stations in its catalog, music curated by experts, full customization, and an app that has been designed with user experience and user interface in mind, Samsung is taking this new venture seriously. As it should, too – streaming music is more popular than ever, and all signs point to it being the next dominant player in the industry. If you don’t stream now, the odds are good that you will soon. Will Music Milk be your service of preference?