Music Digital, the latest chapter in music history

February 20, 2018

 The digital age is making its impact on the music industry. The music industry as we know it today, has been in the making for over a century. Record labels, music publishers, private right  and various other companies flourish in this industry. They work together like a well-oiled machine that keeps people entertained on a daily base, having sold an uncountable number of physical copies of recorded music in the last century. The music industry as a particular branch of commercial activity has changed in different ways. New technologies  the music industry throughout history, changing organisational and special characteristics within music economy. Evolving from history, first the gathering of people to watch musicians perform in exchange for money to the global industry we know today (Smith, 2012).  

New World: New industry

Technology has been a key factor during the many changes in music history. The invention of the printing press made the sheet music commercially available, paving the way for the first music publishers during the 1800’s. During the last century, we saw the dawn of the recorded music in the industry we know today (Smith, 2012). 


Internet has changed everyday life since the start of the second millennium with the smartphone as one of its main assets. It has connected the whole world and made seemingly infinite information accessible everywhere. The global IT market is expected to grow 4.3 percent over the $3.5 billion predicted for 2017. Many businesses are quickly adapting to this new digital format with a continuing trend for on-demand services like Spotify (Patrizio, IT spending increases for software-defined storage, on-demand services, 2017). 


For the music industry, it has reduced the gap between consumer and music. This opened up a lot of opportunities for new businesses. More and more independent companies are running a smaller operation, made possible by the rise of the internet. (Patrizio, Report confirms on-premises data center spending declined, 2017) Taking advantage of an increasing number of online platforms, targeted marketing possibilities and an endless world of collaborators; blurring the lines between major and independent labels due to the ubiquity on all the different music platforms (Rys & Gensler, 2012). 


Rys & Gensler (2012) also talk about how the changing business model for the music industry also changed the role of the artists. Artists are able to connect with their audience on a global scale in an authentic and direct way due to social media and online music platforms. Making more and more artists able to act more independently. 

Digital Experience 


The industry shift to a more digital format has changed networks of creativity, of reproduction, of distribution, and of consumption within music economy (Leyshon, 2001). Networks of creativity are spanning the globe and reproduction and distribution of music is one mouse click away. Music these days is instant and frictionless, coming from all around the world (Byrne, 2013).


Korean Hip-Hop artist Keith Ape (


Formerly, music only came through traditional media and was mostly strongly bound to a certain scene/surrounding. This changing context of music has changed the way we encounter music. People don’t have to settle for the artists offered to them through mass media or a direct social circle. Instead, people can find their own musical identity alone online in the privacy of their own earbuds. Through the internet, an individual can be exposed to a mixture of different influences to find brands, styles and sub-cultures closer to them. This gives an extra dimension to music with new opportunities for anyone in the music business (Byrne, 2013). 


Art and Technology

Formats changed many times during the 20th century. We’ve seen the rise and fall physical music like vinyl, tapes and CD’s. With the latter being the first outing of the digitalization of music before transferring the vast majority of music history into the online cloud. In this new landscape, vinyl has made a more recent comeback finding new place in the market (Passman, 2014). 


New technologies have always been a struggle for artists. Visual artists depend mostly on the sale of their art pieces. But photography and the internet have made it difficult to fully profit from the earnings since a replica is just a screenshot away. Museums and independent artists are still able to generate revenue from their work showing the inevitable change for the auditory art form music, like its visual counterpart. This goes to show the adaptability of an art industry (McNeil, 2013)

Police boarded Radio City at Shivering Sands after Reg Calvert was shot dead. (Gamma Keystone - Getty Images)


Next to that, the music industry is always changing due to new technologies and people driven enough to use them. One major shift in the music industry was during the rise of pop culture after the second World War. During this time, the mass spread of pop music was still very limited due to government restrictions on radio and television, with major labels even controlling the majority of the market, including radio and television. During this time, the youth generation had their own channels where they were able to find listen to the music they wanted; pirate radio. Radio was in this time the new open space for music, very much like internet is today. Pirate radio where illegal radio stations operating on international waters, so the government couldn’t affect them. This made it possible to cater to the demand of the post war baby boom generation. Radio was in this time the new open space for music, very much like internet was today. Eventually pirate radio disappeared when conventional radio stations evolved to the public taste, showing how music can change due to new technologies and how an industry can adapt and set new standards (Kippen, 2013). 


The digital age has changed many aspects of the music industry, the internet brought new opportunities and has seen new players rise because of them. Challenging the music industry as a whole. There seems to be more opportunities for people to make a career in music and for those creative enough to create value using this new digital space. Overtime we'll see if the industry saturates into a somewhat of a standard format, with only hope for better creative- and business ventures. 





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