Music Industry

A question: How much longer will we be able to buy and download digital music?

[This was my weekly column for – AC]

On June 1, 1999, a university student named Shawn Fanning sent a message to his friends telling them about a new program he’d written called Napster. It offered music fans a way to connect and trade digital music files quickly and efficiently using a new type of compressed file called an MP3. “Don’t share it with anyone, okay?” he asked. Within weeks, Napster was being used by thousands upon thousands of people.

It was the beginning of the end for the traditional recorded music industry. After a hundred years of running a business based on selling physical pieces of plastic to consumers, executives were shaken from their complacency and denial about digital music and forced to do something. They needed to stop music from being free. If the public wanted music in digital form, then it needed to be legally purchased.

Some of the major labels sat down with Napster, offering to buy the company. But that failed because they demanded 90 per cent of the profits. Even if they had been successful, anti-trust laws would have made such a purchase difficult. Regulators would have never let the industry have complete control over both the creation and distribution of music.

That prompted the labels to pair off to create a couple of digital storefronts. Universal and Sony teamed up on PressPlay, an ornery, miserable, restrictive, and not very functional digital storefront. EMI, AOL, BMG, and RealNetworks launched MusicNet, which was no better. Consumers hated both.

Enter Steve Jobs. Knowing that the recorded music industry was in a bind over piracy, the threat of anti-trust violations, and technical ignorance, he offered a solution: the iTunes music store. And lo, it was pretty good.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38452 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

3 thoughts on “A question: How much longer will we be able to buy and download digital music?

  • Ya I used to buy all my downloads from the Google Play Store but they shut that down. I used to try a few others like 7Digital but they seemed to not have some albums for whatever reason. I’m not an apple fan but have had to move to that as my source now.

  • Answer: Torrents never going away

    I buy physical copies of bands/albums I rank high imo
    I do have an Apple Music sub (using a student discount even though I’m not a student)
    And, to back fill things, and even just to have my own digital copies of things, I torrent.

    Why do I torrent? The main reason is to keep a reasonable library for myself. having access to over 100millions songs is fine, but also a bit ridiculous since I can’t possibly listen to all of them
    Not only that, I’m not sure I like the model of paying for something the rest of my life and if I change subs I loose all my history, algorithm preferences, playlists, etc.

  • As long as bandcamp exists


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