Music News

Gee, the legal music download era didn’t last that long, did it?

Since the dawn of recorded audio in 1877, we’ve gone through a series of formats, starting with the wax cylinder eventually evolving into today’s streaming services.

Of all the formats, the rotating disc has been with us the longest, starting with Emile Berliner’s gramophone record in 1887, a technology we’re still using. Eight-tracks had their day in the 70s while cassettes peaked in the middle 80s. Compact discs appeared in late 1982 and were the dominant format by 2000.

Then things began to get weird, thanks to the Internet and digital files.

When iTunes appeared in 2001, predictions were that digital downloads would eventually usurp the role of physical product when it came to music sales. “Sometime in the 2010s,” we were told, “sales of digital albums and tracks will more than make up for the decline in CDs sales. Vinyl? Hah! That’s dead and buried.”

That hasn’t happened. Streaming is killing digital music sales. The era of the music download was shorter than everyone predicted. This is from Forbes.

The latest revenue figures from the music industry tell us that we’ve entered a new era: the era of interactive streaming. Interactive streaming music services — Spotify, Apple Music, Napster, Deezer, Tidal, etc. — now account for the majority of recorded music industry revenue and are growing at better than 50% per year. We’re now in the fifth era of recorded music, after the eras of vinyl, tape (8-tracks and cassettes), CDs and music downloads.

What the revenue numbers tell us about the previous era — the era of downloads — is just as interesting as what they tell us about the future. Back in the mid-2000s, music downloads were the birth of the digital revolution. But the numbers say that the download era is likely to go down in history as a brief glitch — a transitional phase between physical products and cloud-based music that did the industry no favors at all.

And now, a nice chart from GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies.

Read more here.



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 38457 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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