How technological advancements have changed the way we dig for music.

The process of finding music can be chaotic, planned or organized. We all are constantly on a journey to finding new music and the times that we find ourselves in dictate how we will be able to access music. With the recent rise in digital platforms which have significantly decreased physical album sales, we have also witnessed to how differently people behave online when finding music. The shift into the digital age has altered many aspects of our lives, connected the world beyond borders and has also ushered culture into a new realm. Record labels are caught having to play catch because of the technological advances. We are then pulled back to a particular defining moment in history, which is when the first iPod was released on the 23rd of October in 2001. The release of the iPod would soon change the way we listen to music.

As the population of the world continues to grow, we are confronted by an issue of space which calls for a drastic change in how we live and forms part of the reason why we should or are rather forced to let some of our lifestyle choices go. Gone are the days where the people who worked at music stores were the tastemakers and the guides in a journey of discovering music. Nowadays those music store tastemakers have been replaced by complex algorithms and machine learning systems which curate play lists for you on platforms like Spotify, iTunes and Google Play, just to name a few. People are increasingly becoming replaced by machine learning and artificial intelligence systems, or robots if you will.

Baby bloomers may still have vivid memories of how they used to find music, millennials are caught up in the unforgiving and fast digital age and generation Z probably doesn’t even know what a vinyl record is or have been in a physical music store. Generation Z is the first generation to fully have access to what baby bloomers and millennials had to have physical access to at their finger tips. The digital age comes with a lot of convenience-the thought one can 2000 songs on their phone is enough to prove the convenience. The physical equivalent of 2000 digital songs is possibly a room full of records or CDs. One is compelled to look at things from a cost perspective, digital albums are significantly cheaper than physical albums for obvious reasons. When speaking of physical copies of music, you are often forced to talk of the manufacturing that goes behind the production of physical copies of albums. For vinyl, this is possibly even more trickier because of the small numbers of pressing plants in the world. Physical distribution of music comes with a lot of costs because after the production of the copies they have to be transported to stores which creates the need for a logistical partner.

With the digital albums, you cut out many of the processes leading up to the music being consumed by the listener. There are obviously costs to getting your music sold on online stores, but those costs are significantly lower than those one would incur in physical distribution. Due to the rise in digital, we have seen an increase in digital music distribution companies and music aggregators which assist labels and independent artists plug their music on online stores.

Power has been given directly to the artist from a digital distribution point of view and if the artist understands the power of social media and uses social media as tool-the artist has the ability to push their music themselves. The digital age has seen the rise of online music tastemakers and these are normally DJs or people that curate their play lists online. Think of tastemaker Youtube platforms like Majestic, Nostalgic and Trap Nation who have grown to have fairly huge teams which consist of A&Rs and public relations teams which liaise with artists and labels so that they can take advantage of the possibility of gaining good online reach if the music is featured on such platforms. This also pushes one to think of how Universal Music Group opened a case against Google because of how their music was illegally being uploaded by users on the Google-owned platform Youtube.Google was forced to come up with a plan and strike a deal with Universal Music Group and this lead to the creation of Youtube platform, Vevo. Universal Music Group could now directly benefit financially from music being uploaded on their Youtube platform/channel.

Photo credit: Rolling Stone courtesy of www.rollingstone.com

Souncloud boasts huge numbers of daily users and the platform has its own community of tastemakers who are now taking advantage of their follower numbers and making money off the exposure they can give artists. The listener ends up being caught up in all the limbo that the digital age comes with. Questions of which streaming platform, for instance, will make the process of finding music much simpler and less confusing.

Recently vinyl has surpassed digital sales in UK which was something that hasn’t happened since 2007, but if one really assesses the situation, the fact the vinyl sales surpassed digital sales is not that special. It makes sense why in 2016, vinyl sales beat out digital sales and this can be attributed to the increased usage of streaming platforms and the fact that when one person buys a digital album then that person can easily distribute that album to friends or family without the artist or label directly benefiting from that in-circle distribution method. Streaming platforms offer slightly more protection to the artist in terms of cutting out the ‘in-circle distribution‘ and the only thing users can distribute is links.

Digital platforms have given the user the power to dig for music, but we cannot disregard the major influence of technology and how huge of a hand it gives us to selecting and finding music that fits within our interests. We live in exciting times and we have no choice but to adapt and if we find the process of having to go through thousands of songs to find what we like, we have access to online music tastemakers. There is obviously a market for tastemakers and this is seen in the rise of a lot of internet radio stations from all corners of the world. The listener cannot complain about not finding music because there are a lot of online platforms where the listener can access what matches their taste.

Technology is powerful and acts as much needed springboard which aids, in some cases simplifies, our discovery of music.

 

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About Author

Nkululeko Nkosi Creative entrepreneur, self-starter and writer are some of the words you can use to describe me. Inspired by the grit, rawness and passion you often find in underground and alternative culture. Based in the greatest city in Africa, Johannesburg.


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