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Jacqueline Rof

Professor Robin Kramer

CAS 137

October 24, 2016

Music Industry Through the Decades

Music has been an important part of many peoples lives since Bach and Mozart began

writing sheet music and playing the piano. It has progressed into a multitude of different genres,

sounds, and groups that are continuously changing throughout the course of time. Throughout

the years, the music industry itself has undergone an immense amount of changes to the way the

music it has created is disturbed. From the time music was pressed onto vinyl records to the

digital age, music has become much easier for people to get their hands on it in more recent

times. Before the new age of streaming, people had to buy full albums on vinyl or compact discs

even if they didnt like every song on the album; now people have the ability to buy one song at

a time and even torrent music to get it for free. The digital age has created many problems for

artists and has hit the music industry with very hard times. Even though vinyl records are once

again on the rise, the industry will still not be able to recover because of all of the music stolen

through online websites and free digital downloads. Artists have had the ability to continue to

strive in the downward sloping industry with fan engagement and selling of physical copies of

their music rather than digital.

Vinyl LP records were created in 1948 by Columbia Records (The Invention of the Vinyl

Record) and allowed people to easily access music in a way they never could have previously.

Vinyl records can be made in three different size formats, seven inch, ten inch, or twelve inch,
and can each hold a certain amount of music on them. Seven inches are normally made to hold

singles that artists put out whilst ten inches usually hold extended plays and twelve inches hold

long plays. Vinyl records are created on cuts based on thicknesses ranging from 140 grams to

200 grams; although the weight of the vinyl is supposed to enhance the value of the sound,

vinyl record weight has very little to do with the sound quality of the music engraved in the

groove. (180 gram Vinyl). Records allowed people to listen to an entire album just by owning a

record and allowed artists to make more money than they had been beforehand. Even today,

artists make more money off of vinyl sales than they do from streaming services such as Spotify

or Apple Music (Atkinson). Vinyl LPs have recently made a comeback in the music industry and

have helped multiple artists to gain more revenue than many artists had in digital sales, as well.

Vinyl LPs also have a better sound than digital music since they are not compressed like the

sound is on a computer or phone; the sound has no digital conversion and more information on it,

so it is a closer sound to the actual recording than digital music.

Another production of the music industry that allowed people to more easily obtain music

rather than having it on a large seven to twelve-inch disc was the compact disc, first created in

1982. Compact discs, better known as CDs, are much less relevant now than when they were

first made, but many people still prefer them over streaming music. CDs could be easily

scratched and did not hold the same kind of sound that vinyl records had since it was compressed

onto a smaller device. Compact discs were much more convenient than having to place a bulky

record onto a machine to play music every time someone wanted to listen to something.

Eventually CDs were not only used for music, but were used for things like movies and video

games; this allowed companies like Sony to expand with their idea of the compact disc into

something more than just for music.


Compact discs became a very popular method of buying music for people since the early

1980s and is something that is still around today. Within 20 years, 200 billion CDs [were] sold,

(Hopewell) and caused an advancement in technology since they had moved from turn tables to

CD players. Portable CD players gained popularity in the 1990s (LEM Staff) and allowed people

to have an entire album on the go rather than having to listen to their music at home or with a CD

player in their car. This advancement allowed for an easier transition for the music industry and

allowed more artists and bands to gain traction with audiences during this time period. Compact

discs were eventually used in computers and allowed users to download music onto a blank disc

straight from their computers. This gave people more freedom to do as they wished with music

and gave a resurgence for mixtapes since more people now had the ability to burn music onto

discs. Although CDs are still used today to listen to music, they are obsolete in comparison to

that of music of the digital age.

The digital age allowed the music industry to change forever for the better and for the

worse. The digital age allowed more artists to be recognized due to formats like YouTube and

Spotify and has given more people chances to succeed than they would have had back in the day.

Ad revenue created by these streaming services gives money to the artists, but it is not as much

as if people were to go out and actually buy the music to support the artist. More and more

artists, like The Black Keys, are only putting a limited amount of music out on streaming

services since they would rather have people buy their music rather than make no money off of

the work they put into it; a number of musicians have criticized the size of the payments that

artists receive for their songs being streamed on these services (Pritchard). Streaming services

gain a large amount of revenue and keep it for themselves rather than splitting the profit with the

artists who have worked hard to curate the music theyve made.
The digital age has also brought many problems with people tormenting music rather

than streaming or buying it. This year, Frank Ocean had come out with his sophomore album

Blonde that had gone straight to number one on the Billboard 200 with [the] third-largest debut

of 2016 and the album had been sold 276,000 units (Caulfield) in its first week. While Ocean

had major success with this album, Blonde had been illegally downloaded over 750,000 times

within the first week of it being sold (Fox). This is just one example of how the digital age has

made it much harder for artists to get the recognition they deserve in the music industry; many

people tend to steal music from the artists rather than just buying and supporting those that they

listen to. This causes artists to lose revenue from the music that they have worked countless

hours to make and degrades the industry.

Illegally downloading music has become so easy for people to do in todays day that

many people do not give a second thought to taking the music from a website without paying for

it. Often times when music is leaked before it is officially released, people will be quick to

download it to listen to it before others have a chance to. This also reduces the industries value

since music is being illegally stolen even when nobody is supposed to have the ability to obtain

the music. The mindset of many individuals is that if one person was able to get the music for

free, then they should be able to get the music for free as well. People tend to put the artist aside,

thinking about themselves and how much they are willing to spend for the music they love rather

than the damage they are doing the artists livelihood.

Although the digital age has these downsides, it also has many positives. It has allowed

artists to easily spread their music and any messages they may have behind the music that they

make. Social media outlets have allowed artists to easily advertise their music without paying

extra to do so and the digital age has authorized music get around extremely well by word of
mouth. The digital age has, also, allowed older artists and bands to continue to gain revenue even

if they are no longer working in the music industry. People have easy access to their music more

so than they ever had before since the music is accessible to them on their computers, phones,

and tablets. This convenience is much simpler for people than having to drive to the store to buy

a new CD every time a new album is released from their favorite artist. Now, people even have

the ability to open their phone and open apps like Shazam if they hear a song they like, but do

not know anything about it; Shazam will listen to any song being played and figure out what the

name of the song is and who the artist is. This upgrade of technology has allowed artists to be

able to be found very easily by most people in the modern age.

Vinyl records have been on the rise in popularity once again since 2013 and have allowed

the music business to grow immensely. They have allowed artists like the Arctic Monkeys and

even the Beatles to sell hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of records while the digital era of

music has been a time of decline (The Resurgence of Vinyl). More and more young people are

turning towards buying vinyl records and this has caused a resurgence in the music industry.

However, artists still continue to suffer at the hands of streaming services. Vinyl sales have also

helped out stores like Urban Outfitters and online retailers like Amazon.com since they get a

portion of the revenue every time somebody buys a record from their stores. As of April 2016,

vinyl record sales are at a 28-year high (Morris) and continue to be on the rise in popularity

since more people are preferring the sound of vinyl records to that of the compressed digital

sound. Some young adults have enjoyed collecting vinyl records in recent years and this has

allowed the industry to continue moving upwards since vinyl records have once again become a

trend amongst the younger generation.


People now have the opportunity to buy one or two songs from artists that they enjoy

listening to, as well, which means that they no longer have to buy an entire album. Although this

is negative for the music industry, it is positive for those that no longer wished to listen to every

single song on an album. This can also raise sales for artists since some songs tend to become

more popular than others and multiple people will buy the song; this usually allows the song to

become a hit and be played more often to gain revenue for the artist. An example of this is the

recent song Closer by the Chainsmokers that has been topping the Hot 100 for the past twelve

weeks (Billboard); it has allowed the artists to become more known and gain revenue from their

song being played all over the place. Artists are paid each time their song is used on the radio or

in commercials and this allows them to make more money than they would if their music was

being streamed on services like Spotify.

Artists have turned to other means of self-promotion in an attempt to continue making

money without just selling music since the industry is continuing to go down due to the digital

age of music. Artist have put a large emphasis on touring and live concerts in order to continue

making money; concerts are a unique experience since every concert from each artist is different

and nothing will ever be exactly the same since it is live. The new era of social media has

opened up new ways to perform which didnt exist just five years ago like live video

performances, either for a small, personal audience through a service like Skype, or for a large

audience through platforms like Twitch (Rutherford). This has allowed artists to spread their

name and become more recognized due to their name being spread through these outlets. Since

these events can be livestreamed to a broad audience or a select number of people, it has helped

spread the word better than most advertisements today do. Bands, like The 1975, have promoted

themselves whilst on tour with exclusive live shows through radio stations that not only allows
them to become more well-known but also allow the station to benefit, as well. Live events tend

to have a more personal feel and connect better with the audience than digital, which is why it is

preferred by many still to this day.

Merchandise has also been a large selling point with artists in order to continue making

money based off of the music they have made. Some will take their logo and place it on t-shirts

and sweatshirts and others will use lyrics in order to promote their music to those outside of their

fan base. Artists will offer limited edition merchandise in order to entice their fans to buy what is

being offered in the short amount of time. Most of the time personal autographs and hand-

written notes, and exclusive merch thats not available to people who havent bought [the artists]

music is what is most sought after since it is priceless to the fan (Rutherford). This allows artists

to sell something important and meaningful to their fans whilst also benefiting off of what is

being sold.

Although the industry has been declining in value over the years, artists have found ways

to avoid the harm the digital era has done and have continued to thrive. The switch of the music

industry with the production of music from the use of vinyl records to compact discs to the

digital age have impacted the lives of many artists. Vinyl records have continued to be a stable in

some peoples lives and are even preferred over the digital sound today, which also allows the

music industry to succeed and record labels to survive. Even when people are stealing music, or

constantly streaming the music rather than buying it, physical copies of the music are what saves

the industry to this day.


MLA Citations:

"180 Gram Vinyl: Is It worth the Weight?" RSS. N.p., 8 Nov. 2015. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

Atkinson, Claire. "Artists Make More off Vinyl Sales than Streaming Services." New York Post.
N.p., 23 Mar. 2016. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

Caulfield, Keith. "Frank Ocean's 'Blonde' Bows at No. 1 on Billboard 200 With Third-Largest
Debut of 2016." Billboard. N.p., 28 Aug. 2016. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

Fox, T. S. "Frank Ocean's 'Blonde' Has Already Been Illegally Downloaded Over 750,000
Times." Hypebeast. N.p., 26 Aug. 2016. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

"History of the Compact Disc." Low End Mac. N.p., 07 Feb. 2016. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

Hopewell, Luke, Andrew Liszewski, and Matt Novak. "The History Of The Compact
Disc." Gizmodo Australia. N.p., 17 Aug. 2012. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

"The Invention of Vinyl Records - Where It Began." The Invention of Vinyl Records - Where It
Began. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

Morris, Chris. "Vinyl Record Sales Are At A 28-Year High." Fortune Vinyl Record Sales Are At
A 28 Year High Comments. N.p., 15 Apr. 2016. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

"Music: Top 100 Songs | Billboard Hot 100 Chart." Billboard. N.p., 5 Nov. 2016. Web. 28 Oct.
2016.

Pritchard, Charlotte. "Call for Major Record Labels to Change for Digital Age." BBC News.
N.p., 2 Jan. 2014. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

"The Resurgence of Vinyl in Seven Graphics: A Breakdown." Billboard. N.p., 3 Sept.


2015. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

Rutherford, Thomas. "How to Make Money When Music Is Free." Careers In Music Music
Schools Colleges. N.p., 25 Jan. 2016. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.