What is music to you? It is a melody; for some, a medicine; for many, an art; for a few, it is escapism. However, for everyone, music is a part of their everyday life. For ages, it has been an indescribable element of human emotions and a creative resultant of the human mind. Therefore, as other realms of daily life evolved with technology, there has also been a tremendous revolution concerning music. From the time Edison discovered the phonograph in 1877 to analog tape machines to digital recording software today, technology has played a vital role in shaping music as we hear it today. This is true not only at the listeners’ end but also for the way music is created today. Musicians play for thousands of fans worldwide through live-streamed performances; composers produce film scores from their home studios, while songwriters record albums like rae morris rachel@fairyland review and release them on digital distribution and streaming platforms without landing or signing a single record deal. However, like other general arguments about technology, the impact of technology on music has its share of both pros and cons. While it has facilitated piracy and other forms of illegal reproduction of music resulting in enormous losses for the music industry, it has also made music democratic. For example, the internet has enabled users to share and download music online. Now anyone can download any song virtually through file-sharing platforms at no cost. Moreover, modern home recording software allows musicians to record cheaply.
Delving deeper into the same tangent, in this article, we will further trace the genesis of some of the most innovative music companies globally that have revolutionized how people consume music today.
Surprisingly Spotify emerged as a disciplinarian for the entire generation of consumers who were infested by the “free music” mentality, thanks to platforms like Limewire and Napster. Before that, music was sold in physical dispensible forms such as CDs and vinyl. Limewire and Napster came up with rather an uncourteous pitching to help people share music files in the form of digital sound files. This gave birth to illegal practices like piracy since people could get any song they wanted for free.
Spotify innovatively solved this problem by meeting the needs of both the audience and the music industry. Found in the year 2006 by Swedish entrepreneurs Martin Lorentzon and Daniel Ek, Spotify had a simple idea for the consumers. Instead of buying a single music piece or album they want to listen to; they can get seamless access to millions of music at a specific monthly charge. Furthermore, it is an open platform, i.e., it can be accessed by anyone and enjoy music for free, though then they will experience several advertisements interrupting their musical flow. Therefore, Spotify has successfully established stability in the global music market.
Spotify is appreciated for several reasons other than simply online streaming, like being the first to sort music based on our moods and breaking the traditional and mundane way of categorizing music based on genre, artist, and year. If you are a music enthusiast, then you must be able to understand how remarkable it is since now, you will not be limited to a single musical form; instead, the multi-genre playlists of Spotify will offer you a series of different soundtracks for each mood be it, happy, sad, optimistic, or romantic. Moreover, they are also the first to bring the feature of “Autoplay,” which makes it a notch ahead of its contemporaries like iTunes, where users have to purchase and bulk up their music library to get the suggestion of new content. Thanks to the unique algorithm devised by Spotify, users get newer and relevant content after they have finished their current playlist or album. It is the same reason that Spotify’s Discovery Playlist is highly applauded.
Isn’t it amusing that the first company to legally create a successful online service for selling and distributing music is not a music industry player? Instead, it was Apple Inc. or the Apple Computer as it was previously known. In 2001, Apple launched the iPod, enabling people to carry their music wherever they go. However, it was not until late 2003 that Apple convinced the major record labels about their idea. It offered consumers to buy and download music tracks for less than a dollar. The service was called iTunes Music Store, and without a proper competitor in the market, it was recorded to grasp around 69% of the world’s digital sales market in 2009.
Today, all the online streaming services we see are enhanced versions of the root idea of iTunes, as it was the first online retailer to offer the music catalogs from all the major music companies at an affordable pricing model. Furthermore, music enthusiasts could now de-bundle the music album and only buy the tracks they liked. As per the statistics in 2013, Apple Music was the world’s largest music retailer, and it had sold over 25 billion songs since its launch.
In 2000, a Stanford Ph.D. graduate in audio analysis named Avery Wang started to develop an application powerful enough to identify any song within a few seconds, using only a cellphone, even in a crowded bar. With a couple of his fellow business-school graduates, Shazam was born.
Before that, no technology could distinguish music from the background noise, and cataloging songs note by note would require authorization from the labels. But Wang made a breakthrough by building an algorithm to create a unique acoustic fingerprint for each track rather than trying to capture the whole song. Instead, he planned to turn a song into a piece of data. Thus, Shazam hears much better than people; then, it breaks music down to digital data, matching multiple points of a sample against a spectrogram (a graph of a song’s time-frequency) to ensure an accurate match. Shazam became available in the market in 2002, and since then, it has been downloaded more than 500 million times. In addition, it has identified more than 30 million songs, making it one of the most popular mobile applications in the world.
Shazam has also revolutionized the recording industry. When the app displays a match, it shares the song title and artist name and various options to stream it like Apple Music, Spotify, or buy it on iTunes on an iOS device, or Google Music if it is on Android. Shazam is a key for independent artists, who have to leverage every opportunity for discovery. When someone hears their song at a local coffee shop, bar, restaurant, or even at a shopping mall, or on the radio, Shazam links the user to a place where they can hear more from that particular artist, follow them, add their songs to their playlists, and more.
However, a lesser but more valuable offering that Shazam provides is for the music executives. It works as an early-detection system for hits. By studying 20 million searches daily, Shazam can identify which song is catching on and where months before most people have even heard of it. The company possesses a team of people who update its vast music library with the newest recorded music, inclusive of self-produced songs from across the world. Artists can also submit their creations to Shazam. The company plans to be in the music-making business, launching a new imprint under the Warner Music Group for artists discovered straight from the application.
SoundCloud allows users to upload music to their platform. Hence it is not merely streaming but also a creative platform. Thus it attracts an extensive catalog of original music that may not be available elsewhere. Music creators then must pay to upload their music (paid subscriptions allow users to upload more music). Many artists can now cultivate their audience through the platform by uploading their raw talent in karaoke music, where they make unique covers of different songs or create a new track altogether. The platform hosts a large base of rappers, sparking a new genre called the SoundCloud rappers. One prominent name in that league is Chance, the rapper who recently won his second Grammy and credited SoundCloud, saying he would not have a career without the platform.
In the industry, there is close competition between Spotify and SoundCloud, even though there are intrinsically different. Let us understand this by using an analogy in another creative field: Netflix is to Spotify what YouTube is to SoundCloud. Hence, like Netflix, Spotify relies on external content producers by convincing them to use its platform to reach consumers. Though lately, Netflix has moved away from this strategy and has begun producing more original content, impacting the film industry. Meanwhile, SoundCloud, like YouTube, is a platform for content producers to directly reach their audiences and grow, as it allows musicians to upload their music compositions. Hence, unlike Spotify, it is also a content creation tool rather than being a solely streaming service. SoundCloud’s most significant assets are:
- It’s content creators.
- Their simplified pricing structure.
- A much greater focus is on putting editing tools at their disposal for using them as a distribution channel for their music.
Over the years, MTV had been snubbing its nose at recording companies, refusing to share the enormous profits it incurred from music videos of their artists. MTV did not invent the music video themselves but figured out how to make money from a medium that record companies had previously waived off under promotional expenses. Gradually it changed the way artists gained recognition and records were sold. While the fans loved it, the record companies did not appreciate it since MTV was not sharing its profit from selling advertising against their promotional material. This was when Vevo was born.
Vevo is a partnership between Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and the Abu Dhabi Media Company. Back in 2009, online video advertising attracted 3 percent of online advertising, and by 2013 it grew to 11 percent. Vevo capitalized on this adspend. When MTV gave up on music videos for reality programming, Vevo took over more extensively and better. Today, out of the 25 most-watched clips of all time on YouTube, 14 are music videos. Vevo’s simple but resolved idea was to create a branded, stand-alone player, accessible through YouTube, that presented only high-quality, professionally shot videos with higher resolution than the standard Web fare. Vevo also plans to offer short documentaries and other films made by artists for their audience, enhancing the sense of an exclusive experience.
There was a time when television was the only platform to find music, and it was very daunting to get user-centric music videos with high quality until YouTube, the highest video streaming platform in the world. Furthermore, it has become the primary career platform for all musicians. As a result, YouTube is the frontrunner for finding the most talented artists.
If you are an amateur, hobbyist, or on your path to becoming a singer then oftentimes you must have looked for karaoke songs on YouTube. The platform has something or the other to offer to everyone for their interests. Though these tracks may not rank high in terms of audio quality and you may get a better track from independent karaoke providers like the Hindi Karaoke Shop, YouTube is still the primary resource mine for the general mass.
The main strategy that drives YouTube to gain the demand is to add high-quality user-generated content composed of eye-catching dance and entertainment. This helps increase the viewership by going viral on other social media sites. Minus the involvement of third-party paid promotions and traditional advertising strategies, the musicians can build their fame in the society without investing a single penny through YouTube. Moreover, it established a cultural reset where artists had to work on appeal as much as their voice. For example, if we take ‘Justin Bieber’ who achieved popularity within a short period for his charismatic videos accompanying his music albums. He has 69.1 million subscribers now, and a huge fan following on YouTube reflects his worldwide popularity.
Therefore, it is safe to say that these music companies have created an innovative and everlasting ripple effect in the music industry. However, as these moguls battle each other to take on the No.1 spot for music streaming service online, music listeners are destined to be served with music curated with high personalization and affordability. Meanwhile, how these entities further blur lines between music and the rights of the record industries is yet to unfold.