Remember the excitement that would come over you on your way to the mall to buy a new CD by your favorite artist?
People would line up just to make sure they got a copy before they were sold out! However, it seems like the days of holding a new album in your hands are long gone. Technology has totally changed the game for the music industry, influencing not only how we purchase music, but how it’s made, distributed, and listened to. Technology has helped artists get discovered more easily, create music more independently, and have more agency.
Arguably, technology has enhanced artists’ ability to make their way into the music industry. Nonetheless, there are many reasons why technology has both hurt and helped the music industry, and with new technological advancements constantly emerging, what lies in store for this industry and the people who work so hard to make their mark within it?
Make way for the rookies!!
Let’s start with how technology has helped the music industry. Certainly, it’s hard to overlook the wave of amateur artists making their way into the music sphere more seamlessly than ever before. With a plethora of music–making apps and accessible software now available, budding artists no longer need the fancy equipment or big record companies to make a name for themselves.
While online services such as YouTube have been successful in getting everyday artists the exposure they need, technological advancements have also made way for easy-to-use platforms that give anyone the ability to create their own beats with no prior experience.
Figure, for example, puts all the tools for making your own music into one app, giving users the agency to create, mix, and tweak sounds right from their phone! Undeniably, breaking down barriers and creating opportunities for amateur artists to pursue their musical passion is a great accomplishment and one that may not have been possible without the help of today’s technology.
Say goodbye to flipping through radio channels!
Inarguably, one of the benefits that technology has had on the music industry is the ability to personalize what you listen to. Remember when you would have to buy an entire album just to hear a few favorite songs? Now, with online services that generate personalized playlists and radio stations, listeners can easily find new music that matches their music taste.
However, this ability to tailor the listening experience to the individual’s musical preferences has benefited the industry for many other reasons. First, by generating personalized stations, users are more eager to listen to their music, as there is a sense of engagement and agency in what they’re listening to.
Also, by creating a customized playlist with songs that the listener is more likely to enjoy, the frustration that comes with flipping through a roster of radio stations is removed! Lastly, by using user data to understand what people like, these services can help artists reach their target audience based on preferences for similar styles. Overall, this seems like a win-win situation for both audience members and musicians!
Money, Money, Money….in the hands of the artist!
One of the major flaws of the music industry is the small profit made by the individual artist; with so many royalties and stakeholders to consider, artists end up with very little for their work. However, with technology like blockchain and smart contracts, musicians not only have more transparency and agency over product ownership, but it reduces the number of people involved in the distribution, leaving more money in the hands of the musician. Additionally, blockchain technology makes way for more accountability, which means that royalties and other funds would be easier to manage and track, ensuring large agencies can’t easily take advantage of musicians.
So long, CDs
Despite all of the benefits that have emerged with new technology, it has posed some challenges to the music industry. When was the last time you went out to buy a new CD? Or better yet, when was the last time you drove past a CD store? Indeed, music streaming services have wiped out the CD market, forcing stores like HMV to close down hundreds of locations across the globe. Over the past ten years, CD sales have dropped 80%! One could argue that this blow to the music industry is one that changed the game, and the strain that it has placed on the music market may outweigh the benefits caused by other technological advancements.
Let’s be smart about how we treat our artists
While streaming sites are able to give artists the exposure they need, it’s hard to tell if it’s worth the excruciatingly low pay. Services such as Spotify, which makes billions of dollars in revenue, pay each artist less than one cent per play. This means that a song would have to be played over 5,000 times just to make about $30! And that’s before the earnings are divided up amongst all who were involved in the production and distribution.
On top of that, some of these distribution companies take up to three years to actually pay the artist, leaving many without their hard-earned money. If these platforms were to integrate smart contracts hosted on the blockchain, artists could be paid in real time! Nonetheless, music distributors need to understand how important it is to keep the makers of their sole export happy if they want to remain competitive and in business.
Like in every industry, the music world is learning how to adapt to a rapidly changing technological society, one which we must let go of old ways and quickly adopt new habits. While it’s hard to tell how future technologies will change current practices, it seems as though the music industry is one in which new technology can be put to work quickly and make a difference.
Whether those differences are good or bad is up to you!
Michael Breidenbruecker is an Austrian entrepreneur, artist and engineer. He is best known as co-founder of Last.fm, founder of RjDj and partner at venture firm Speedinvest.
He has been working with artists such as Hans Zimmer, Imogen Heap, Air, and Booka Shade. His approach in combining music discovery, online radio and social software was awarded in Europe and the USA and brought to the attention of millions of consumers, global media and global players. Michael’s last venture was Reality Jockey Ltd. which is the publisher of the RjDj mobile applications and the online music portal www.rjdj.me. The company produced some of the most innovative iPhone applications such as “Dimensions, adventures in the multiverse” and “Inception The App”. In the last year, Michael and his niece, Tassia Breidenbrücker, have created a system for private data computations and data marketplaces in distributed environments, called SLANT.