How Has the Digital Age Affected the Way We Access Music?

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  • Published : July 9, 2011
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How has the digital age affected the way we access music?

No one could have predicted that the vinyl record would become nonexistent because of the compact disc. However, in the future it wouldn’t be strange to think that the compact disc may be turned into nothing more than a collector’s item, thanks to the new format Moving Picture Experts Group-Audio Layer 3, commonly known as MP3. The impact of the digital age has become so common that it has changed the way we access music forever.

Before the digital age music was offered through limited sources to reach audiences. From a marketing point of view, music was first made available to audiences through the radio as a way of listening to music before purchasing vinyl, cassettes or compact discs. This was followed up with music videos and the releasing of dedicated music television channels such as MTV.

The digital media has changed significantly through the technical convergence of sound, pictures and text. Music can now be accessed through many different ways and devices such as personal computers, MP3 players, mobile phones, digital audio broadcasts, etc. Developments in digital media and the introduction of sites such as Napster and iTunes, amongst many others, have made music far more accessible. Within a matter of a few minutes, or a few green bars running left to right, music can be accessed with minimal effort.

The introduction of the digital media has been welcomed all over the world by consumers; however it has had a major impact on the sales of compact discs. Surprisingly, since the year 2000 began CD revenue in the United States, which may have the biggest market in the world has fallen by over 50%. In real terms this represents a loss of $8.3 billion in sales from 1999 to 2009.

Napster was one of the first sites to be launched, offering free downloads of millions of tracks. By the time legal action was taken against Napster and concluded by the Recording Industry Association of America, the damage had already been done. Accessing music online was the way forward and it wasn’t long before the music industry giants jumped on board by charging licensing fees to sites that finally got people to pay for digital music.

Digital downloading and the new technologies linked with it have ensured that consumers now have access to more music, more quickly than ever before. However, there is a downside to all of this. File sharing platforms, for example Limewire, have seen large numbers of people download music and videos illegally, sometimes even before their official release. This unfortunately has meant that the balance sheet of the music industry is still languishing deeply in the red.

Never the less, despite the legal or illegal access and downloading of free music, we know one thing for sure that digital downloads are here to stay. More music is being consumed as a result of the digital revolution and the future success of recording artists now relies less on marketing methods than the method of delivery.

Digital media or ‘new media’ has one distinctive feature from all the other types of media, interactivity. Interactivity in digital music has enriched the music consumption process and turned a passive experience in to an active engaging one. The inspiration behind this technology is computers, which are the main technical point in the making and delivery of this product. However this provides audiences with a ‘lean-forward’ interaction instead of a ‘lean back’ approach. As a result audiences now control what they see or hear and when they want to see or hear it. The focus is now on the consumer rather than the product. The consumer is no longer passive but takes an active role in interpreting and integrating media to fulfil their needs.

While the digital media in music has, for the moment, had a different effect on music labels, it has however increased the number of consumers and opened up music...
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