Ever since I can remember, I have always been fascinated in the journey technology has taken in producing music and getting it into our ears.
From copying radio transmits via cassette tapes, to listening to Beethoven on Spotify in the comfort of your own bathroom, we have advanced by leaps and bounds in terms of how we listen to music.
Before mass production became a thing, music was formally written only for the educational and the elite via music notation.
The exquisite minds who were talented in both playing an instrument and reading those instrument notes simultaneously.
After the invention of the Printing Press, it ultimately encouraged every Tom, Dick and Harry to pick up a bow to perform as they could all now afford their own sheet music.
It wasn’t just exclusive to the elite, now everyone could have a go.
Although questionable in design, Edison’s Phonograph was the first major altercation in not only how people heard music but how they wrote music.
It was safe to say that this sound recording device was the first to uproot everything we once knew about the music industry.
Wherever they were, musicians could play intricate pieces over and over, and so became much more musically adept in their playing.
The shortage of the wax cylinders also affected how the musicians wrote music, now having to adapt to three to four minutes a song as opposed to longer.
Later versions of Edison’s phonograph soon emerged with better sound quality and durability all around.
The more popularised gramophone soon started to appear in every household, with the ever-famous vinyl being the next greatest impact to hit the industry.
Still standing the test of time since 1948, they have fallen and resurged like no other music technology before them or since.
It is any audiophiles dream to collate such a collection of classic vinyls time- stamped throughout history.
Robust and ahead of its time, cassettes elevated opportunity for people to make home recordings themselves – without having the level of expertise required for reel-to-reel.
Not only did it bring about a Do-It-Yourself ethic to the music industry, it was the spearhead in making music portable.
Partnered with Sony‘s Walkman, it seemed like everyone had one of these strapped to their waists in the 1980s.
Not before long though, shiny and sleek soon made its way into the 1980s, in what seemed like the turn towards the modern age.
With online music not to become present in over twenty years time, CDs were the most sophisticated way to listen and store music; the ultimate successor of vinyls.
With CD storage space of over 100 minutes blowing people’s minds and its thin design ideal for effortlessly flicking through them on a bookshelf – regardless of their flawed integrity which developed consistent scratching – CDs rose to the top.
Soon after, however, the decline soon began when music found its way on The Internet.
Just as The Internet was coming of age in 1999, Napster took the world by storm and changed the way in how we access our music.
With its 80 million users worldwide, Napster changed the game with its ability to easily share music files between one another. Although seriously infringing on copyright, it was a major breakthrough in showing us just how dangerous The Internet was, when it came to how easily accessible anything and everything was.
Soon after, it became apparent that music fans could obtain their favourite artists’ tracks without having to pay a single penny.
Napster was eventually taken down in 2001.
Soon enough, Steve Job’s big ideas brought about the little iPod, and although this was not the only MP3 player in the music market, it brought about the most revolutionary digital piece of music software that has ever been created – iTunes.
Paired with this insightful bit of kit, the iPod became the must-have accessory for every music lover and redefined the course of the music industry.
By giving music lovers the opportunity to purchase their faves online via digital formats, the desire to go out and purchase CDs seemed to be a thing of the past.
With the musical powerhouse of iTunes in the driving seat, iPods have accrued over 400 million sales worldwide. The success it achieved over a such a small period, was largely focused on the simplicity of buying a single song for no less than a pound, which was loved and adored by many.
Careening from iTunes, there now rose a new challenger, primarily focusing on online downloads. In 2008, the first major on-demand service that catered for exactly what the listener loved and listened to entered the industry. .
For many, it seemed that this was the turning point for technology, as Spotify started to know more about our music tastes than we did ourselves.
It soon became iTunes‘ descendant and became an industry giant with its free access to music online; without the need for large amounts of data.
Now boasting an impressive 248 million active users each month, it allows streaming music to be effortless, using a delightful combination of easy accessibility, flamboyant technology showboating a wide array of music genres which uses such a primitive amount of data to store bucket loads of songs which you can listen to on the go.
From one device to infinite, the possibility seems to be endless.
The only questions is – what’s next?
So here we are – the future. What does it hold for the music industry? Will we possess Virtual Reality in music? Will Alexa become a personal assistant for playing our music? Or will we endlessly just stick with music streaming, with the favourable choice of picking up a vinyl every now and then?
Only time will tell, I guess.
Extra reading –
History of the Cd’s Rise and Fall: https://www.digitaltrends.com/features/the-history-of-the-cds-rise-and-fall/
The 1990s and its effect on Music Production: https://reverb.com/news/how-the-1990s-changed-recording-and-music-production-forever
Story of Napster’s Rise: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/feb/24/napster-music-free-file-sharing