Arts & Entertainment

The Evolution of Music Consumption in the Era of the Internet

AE_Vincent Johnson_Music Consumption_Dj tronick

Dj tronick/ FLICKR

Vinnie Johnson
     Staff Writer

Ever since the age of the internet began, the way that people consume various products has been evolving at an extremely rapid velocity. One of the products whose consumption has changed the most drastically is music. As a rap nerd, one of the things I enjoy the most is talking with old heads about what it was like back in the day when the only way you could own a song, record or album to listen to whenever you want, was to actually go out and purchase the vinyl, cassette tape or CD.

Boy, have the times changed. As a millennial, my earliest memories of actual music ownership were riding in the van with my Aunt Jackie and my cousins, Jyrita, Jamica and Jennell. This was during the ‘90s, and whenever we rode somewhere, my cousins were always sure to have their portable CD players, with the latest Brandy or Destiny’s Child CD in rotation. Perhaps, the era of the portable CD player marked the beginning of the end for actual music ownership.

Fast forward to the mid-2000s, during my middle school years, and the portable MP3 player is a must-have for every kid’s back-to-school arsenal. The device was small and came in many different forms and brands. But the most popular, and eventually the most powerful, was Apple’s iPod. The rise of the MP3 player ran parallel with the rise of a new form of music consumption, made possible by the advancement and evolution of the internet.

This new form of music consumption was the illegal download. Using websites like Napster and LimeWire, people of all ages were able to access and download virtually unlimited amounts of free music through the service that these sites provided.

This service came to be understood as file sharing. It was regarded as a breakthrough to young people around the world. No more would kids be forced to spend their last dollar of allowance on that new album, or beg for their parent’s permission to go out and cop that new rap CD. Now all they had to do was log on to a computer and search for what they wanted. It was almost guaranteed that someone had shared the file on one of the websites, and if it was shared it could be downloaded for free! At first many kids didn’t understand that this was actually stealing, and when they did, many continued to do it anyway. It was almost like people didn’t understand that music is a pay-for product. They began to feel entitled to free music, ‘cause in the great words of Kanye, “how could something so wrong make me feel so right?”

Eventually, the music industry and the FBI began to crackdown on all of the illegal downloading sites. The courts got involved and by the mid-2010s, illegal file sharing had become a thing that was largely of the past. Music still leaks onto the internet, but these days it usually gets shut down before people get a chance to download it. Of course, there are still darker corners of the internet that hold vast amounts of free, illegal material. But these dark waters are only to be navigated by the most knowledgeable and experienced pirates; for the average user, visiting these bays and torrents usually results in viruses, malware and computer crashes.

With the fall of illegal file sharing, a new lane was opened. The people speculated on who would fill the void, and create the next wave of innovation in music consumption. Surely, people were not going to return to purchasing CDs, and buying $10.00 albums or $0.99 songs on legal sites like iTunes. These factors led to the advent of what we now understand as music streaming sites. Companies like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and even SoundCloud have taken over. These companies have given a platform that both satisfies listeners by allowing them access to virtually unlimited amounts of music for one monthly price, and offers some compensation to the artists and record labels who create the music. With the vast amount of evolution that we have seen over the past 20 years in music consumption, it’s quite hard to understand just how most people consume music these days. So in order to get a better grasp on the question, I surveyed a random pool of college students here at UNCG. Here is what I found:

·         Out of 64 students, 34 reported that they do pay for music in some way.

·         Out of that pool of 34, 20 reported that they use some streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music.

·         Out of the 30 students who reported that they do not pay for music, 8 admitted that they still use illegal file sharing sites like Pirate Bay and Frost Wire to download music.

Although this survey was taken using a small pool of students, I do believe that it accurately reflects the music consumption habits of millennials in the year 2016. With the decline of actual music sales, and the fall of illegal file sharing, many people have turned to the new wave of music streaming to satisfy their lust for music. And I’m sure that many people have a clearer conscious knowing that they are not just outright stealing from their favorite artists anymore. And while it can easily be understood that a system of pay by the month music streaming brings more honest compensation to artists than a system of pirating and file sharing, I don’t think most people realize that artists aren’t all that much better off because of it. Think about it. Music streaming creates a system that gives one person access to virtually unlimited amounts of music for the small, fixed, monthly price of $10 a month — a price that becomes even smaller when you factor in different packages and deals like Apple Music’s Family Membership, along with the millions of free trials. When we began to understand this, we realize that artists aren’t getting even a fraction of what they are due in sales. And that’s before factoring in the way that these streaming sites calculate how much to pay artists. According to informationisbeautiful.net:

·         Google Play pays artists $0.0073 per play

·         TIDAL pays artists $0.0070 per play

·         Rhapsody pays artists $0.0019 per play

·         Apple Music pays artists $0.0013 per play

·         Spotify pays artists $0.0011 per play

·         YouTube pays artists $0.0003 per play

When you factor in the elements of the record labels, who take roughly 45.6 percent of that per play streaming money, the 20.8 percent that goes to the streaming platform, the 16.7 percent that goes to taxes and the 10 percent that goes to publishers/songwriters, that leaves roughly 6.8 percent of the per play money that goes to the artist. Now, I know that the vast majority of music consumers don’t give a shit about how music is made, let alone how the money from making music is distributed. But as the way we consume music continues to evolve, it is important for those of us who actually do give a shit to understand how this evolution is affecting artists, and therefore, affecting the music that makes the world beautiful. Music, along with other art forms, is part of the lifeblood that makes this world worth living in. And the artists who create it shouldn’t be exploited just because technology is evolving. We have to evolve, too.

Ever since the age of the internet began, the way that people consume various products has been evolving at an extremely rapid velocity. One of the products whose consumption has changed the most drastically is music. As a rap nerd, one of the things I enjoy the most is talking with old heads about what it was like back in the day, when the only way you could own a song, record or album– to listen to whenever you want, was to actually go out and purchase the vinyl, cassette tape or CD.

Boy, have the times changed. As a millennial, my earliest memories of actual music ownership was riding in the van with my Aunt Jackie and my cousins, Jyrita, Jamica and Jennell. This was during the ‘90s, and whenever we rode somewhere, my cousins were always sure to have their portable CD players, with the latest Brandy or Destiny’s Child CD in rotation. Perhaps, the era of the portable CD player marked the beginning of the end for actual music ownership.

Fast forward to the mid-2000s, during my middle school years, and the portable MP3 player is a must-have for every kid’s back-to-school arsenal. The device was small and came in many different forms and brands. But the most popular, and eventually the most powerful, was Apple’s iPod. The rise of the MP3 player ran parallel with the rise of a new form of music consumption, made possible by the advancement and evolution of the internet.

This new form of music consumption was the illegal download. Using websites like Napster and LimeWire, people of all ages were able to access and download virtually unlimited amounts of free music through the service that these sites provided. This service came to be understood as file sharing. It was regarded as a break through to young people around the world. No more would kids be forced to spend their last dollar of allowance on that new album, or beg for their parent’s permission to go out and cop that new rap CD. Now all they had to do was log on to a computer and search for what they wanted. It was almost guaranteed that someone had shared the file on one of the websites, and if it was shared it could be downloaded, for FREE! At first many kids didn’t understand that this was actually stealing, and when they did, many continued to do it anyway. It was almost like people didn’t understand that music is a pay-for product. They began to feel entitled to free music, ‘cause in the great words of Kanye, “how could something so wrong make me feel so right?”

Eventually, the music industry and the FBI began to crackdown on all of the illegal downloading sites. The courts got involved and by the mid-2010s, illegal file sharing had become a thing that was largely of the past. Music still leaks onto the internet, but these days it usually gets shut down before people get a chance to download it. Of course, there are still darker corners of the internet that hold vast amounts of free, illegal material. But these dark waters are only to be navigated by the most knowledgeable and experienced pirates; for the average user, visiting these bays and torrents usually results in viruses, malware and computer crashes.

With the fall of illegal file sharing, a new lane was opened. The people speculated on who would fill the void, and create the next wave of innovation in music consumption. Surely, people were not going to return to purchasing CDs, and buying $10.00 albums or $0.99 songs on legal sites like iTunes was too much of an investment as well. These factors led to the advent of what we now understand as music streaming sites. Companies like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and even SoundCloud have taken over. These companies have given a platform that both satisfies listeners by allowing them access to virtually unlimited amounts of music for one monthly price, and offers some compensation to the artists and record labels who create the music. With the vast amount of evolution that we have seen over the past 20 years in music consumption, it’s quite hard to understand just how most people consume music these days. So in order to get a better grasp on the question, I surveyed random pool of college students here at UNCG. Here is what I found:

·         Out of 64 students, 34 reported that they do pay for music in some way.

·         Out of that pool of 34, 20 reported that use some streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music.

·         Out of the 30 students who reported that they do not pay for music, 8 admitted that they still use illegal file sharing sites like Pirate Bay and Frost Wire to download music.

Although this survey was taken using a small pool of students, I do believe that it accurately reflects the music consumption habits of millennials in the year 2016. With the decline of actual music sales, and the fall of illegal file sharing, many people have turned to the new wave of music streaming to satisfy their lust for music. And I’m sure that many people have a clearer conscious knowing that they are not just outright stealing from their favorite artists anymore. And while it can easily be understood that a system of pay by the month music streaming brings more honest compensation to artists than a system of pirating and file sharing, I don’t think most people realize that artists aren’t all that much better off because of it. Think about it. Music streaming creates a system that gives one person access to virtually unlimited amounts of music for the small, fixed, monthly price of $10 a month, a price that becomes even smaller when you factor in different packages and deals like Apple Music’s Family Membership, along with the millions of free trials. When we began to understand this, we realize that artists aren’t getting even a fraction of what they are due in sales. And that’s before factoring in the way that these streaming sites calculate how much to pay artists. According to informationisbeautiful.net:

·         Google Play pays artists $0.0073 per play

·         TIDAL pays artists $0.0070 per play

·         Rhapsody pays artists $0.0019 per play

·         Apple Music pays artists $0.0013 per play

·         Spotify pays artists $0.0011 per play

·         YouTube pays artists $0.0003 per play

When you factor in the elements of the record labels, who take roughly 45.6% of that per play streaming money, the 20.8% that goes to the streaming platform, the 16.7% that goes to taxes, and the 10% that goes to publishers/songwriters, that leaves roughly 6.8% of the per play money that goes to the artist. Now, I know that the vast majority of music consumers don’t give a shit about how music is made, let alone how the money from making music is distributed. But as the way we consume music continues to evolve, it is important for those of us who actually do give a shit to understand how this evolution is effecting artists, and therefore, affecting the music that makes the world beautiful. Music, along with other art forms, is part of the lifeblood that makes this world worth living in. And the artists who created it shouldn’t be exploited just because technology is evolving. We have to evolve, too.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s