How the music industry screwed up music streaming the first time around

When file-sharing of music first popped up in the middle 90s, the music industry didn’t pay much attention. Dial-up connections were slow–it could take up to an hour to download a single song–and the only people interested in this technology were nerds and dweebs. Nothing to worry about.

But when Napster hit in June 1999, the industry began to take notice. As the lawyers did their work, the music industry, still flush with cash from CD sales, made some half-hearted attempts to get into the download business.

To say it screwed things up royally would be an understatement. Motherboards look at how they messed it up.

It wasn’t always this way, but life is pretty good for the music industry these days on the streaming front.

The industry, for the first time in more than two decades, is seeing significant growth, largely off the back of streaming technology such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora.

Good for them—and possibly also for consumers. But it’s not hard to forget that the music industry, caught off-guard by new technology in the late 1990s, tried to force the issue of getting paid through the launch of forgotten services like MusicNet and PressPlay—and despite the similarities to the way we stream music now, it got burned, badly.

Perhaps that was a foregone conclusion, but the response to Napster is still very much worth analyzing. Why did a very similar spin on today’s streaming services crash and burn, anyway?.

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.

One thought on “How the music industry screwed up music streaming the first time around

  • August 27, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    Seems like the industry has been a little messed up for quite a while…. before Napster. When is the last time you heard of a Beethoven type of music being promoted into the mainstream? When 3 and a half minute sound bites of music dominate the radio’s so that they can continuously slip ads in-between songs… you can be sure the end of good music was near.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.