Throughout human history, music has been a crucial part of our lives, even before civilization took hold of the human race. It's impossible to find a civilization on the planet that hasn't danced to a certain melody of music. In the last two centuries, technology has advanced in ways that were previously unimaginable. In both positive and bad ways, they have changed the way music is made, delivered, and accessible. Since the 18th century, there have been several technical improvements in music, but digitalization of music has been the most significant. It has been a major shift in the music industry's dynamics and economics since music can be read by computers. Let's take a look at how technology has both helped and hindered the music industry.
From the instruments to the recording process, music creation has never been greater. In the last two centuries, musical instruments have improved and evolved, capturing the attention of anybody with a keen ear for music. For example, the Electric Guitar, which would go on to have enormous cultural impact, was born in the 1920s. There were many innovators and artists that tried to think outside the box in order to produce louder string sounds by employing electricity. Once it hit the big time, millions of people all around the world began to hear it and love it.
In the early 2000s, musicians would appear on shows like Top of the Pops, chart shows, and even in magazines and newspapers to promote their newest singles. It has become easier for musicians to get their music into the hands of consumers via viral videos and social media posts. Consider Canadian sensation Justin Bieber, who was signed to a record company almost immediately after being found by talent manager Scooter Braun through Bieber's YouTube account in 2008. A few years later, Bieber became one of the world's most popular performers.
As a result of how music is discovered and consumed today, there is also a detrimental side effect to the music industry's overwhelming reliance on technology. Piracy has cost artists and businesses millions of dollars in lost revenue.
The way we listen to music has undergone a radical transformation. Our mobile devices now allow us to access millions of songs through subscriptions to internet streaming platforms rather than downloading them from sites like LimeWire or relying on the enormous demand for MP3 players in the early noughties. Sales of CDs in the United Kingdom fell from 132 million in 2008 to 32 million in 2018, a dramatic reduction.
However, recent years have seen an increase in the speed at which this paradigm shift has progressed. There was a time when Spotify had 30 million paying customers throughout the world, but by 2019 that number had more than tripled to almost 100 million. Apple Music, which launched in 2015 and currently boasts 60 million paying subscribers worldwide, has a similar story.
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