It is a fact that technology is forever changing the world we live in. Today more so than ever, technology is evolving and effecting our every day lives. The music industry has felt the full force of these changes over its long history. The business has been required to adjust to the continuing demands of technological progression on innumerable occasions. Some advancements have even revolutionized the business.
The electric guitar; the synthesizer; electronic sampling; all excellent examples of how music has embraced technology for the better.
Using this technology in new ways has created genres; even entire scenes. Rock music wouldn’t have been born without the distorted electric sound that has characterized it’s sound. Electronic dance music is now the music industries biggest commercial juggernaut. And the creation of hip-hop would not have come about without the sampling techniques that make the beats so infectious. The list goes on. Even the simple fact that we can listen to our favourite music at home owes itself to technology; technology created the recording industry.
However, some would argue that certain technological developments have had a negative effect on the industry. Apple’s invention of the iPod was a game changer. Along with iTunes, which has left a mark on digital music. Napster paved the way for Spotify. And while the former may be dead and gone (due to a high profile lawsuit), the latter has faced allegations of destroying the industry from musicians and businessmen alike.
We now live in a digital world. But digital music has been a double-edged sword for the industry. On the one hand; we can now enjoy our favourite tracks in unparalleled high quality recordings, on the go wherever we are; but on the other, it has signalled the death of the album as hard copy sales of records have dropped dramatically.
No longer does the average punter go out and purchase the newest release, by their favourite band from the local record store. Teenagers don’t sit in their bedrooms listening to their favourite album on the record player, religiously reading the sleeve notes. Thanks to the Internet, we can just hit a button and download from the comfort of our own homes. More alarmingly however, some choose to do this for free, illegally, bypassing the artists right to payment for their creations. The wants and needs of consumers have changed. Why venture out to see a band live, when you can watch it all on YouTube without the expense or hassle? The digital world has encouraged a lack of physical engagement with music by its audience. Albums don’t exist in our hands anymore, but in the technological ether.
Fans don’t support their favourite musicians with undying fervour and love any longer. The iPod society has seen a loss of the fandom that made untouchable deities of the likes of Bowie or The Stones. Some now describe their music taste as: whatever’s on my iPod.With declining albums sales, comes a new emphasis on the single. UK singles sales have soared in recent months and while this definitely shows people still care about music, it doesn’t bode well for the construction of the album as an art.
While the World Wide Web has diminished the role of the record store, and of course hard copy releases, it has opened up such an exciting network for bands, journalists and fans. Social networking is a new tool for promotion, and the thousands of online only music publications have meant journalists now have an even bigger and brighter readership. Fans now have greater access to music than ever before, and this is where technology has really helped the music industry. Musical diversity and quality is at an all time high. There are hundreds of thousands of new amazing bands out there, just waiting to be discovered by the net savvy music fan.
Technological change is unavoidable. If music didn’t attempt to encompass and embrace these developments the industry would become defunct and irrelevant. Without technology we wouldn’t have The Beatles, The Sex Pistols or Chase and Status. And without technology you certainly wouldn’t be reading this right now.
Written by Robbie Bryson