When you look at the sudden free fall of the music industry due to disruptive technologies, you can’t help but empathize with an industry that was completely blindsided and not equipped by any means to handle such a sudden alteratiaccon in the way music is made, bought, and distributed. The question we find ourselves asking is, “What drove this change in the industry?” Music torrent sites like Napster, streaming services such as Spotify, and music production applications like GarageBand are all examples of these disruptive technologies, but I would describe them as the effect of disruption and not necessarily the cause of it. I think the main ingredient of the music industries spiraling downfall is the consumer. Like all disruptive technologies, the music industries disruption is based on the fundamental question “How can we make the consumer’s life easier?”
“Free” and “easy” are the words driving the changes in the music industry. Why pay for music when I can get it for free? Why drive to a store and purchase my favorite artist’s album when I can do that with just a few clicks of the mouse? It was these concepts that anyone could get music for free through file sharing that drove Napster to such prominence that wounded record sales to such an extent that they never fully recovered. Napster of course would not have been able to thrive without the internet and file sharing capabilities that were becoming a big presence in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Not only did Napster give society the chance to obtain artists’ albums for free, but also it popularized the idea of downloading music on your computer without the hassle of going to the store and purchasing music. It’s no coincidence that Apple’s iTunes really took off after Napster disbanded in 2002. Society became enamored with the ease through which you could purchase a song and add it to your MP3 player with just a few simple clicks of a mouse. With Napster no longer an option to illegally obtain music for free, other peer-to-peer file sharing services such as Limewire and BitTorrent began to emerge, along with Youtube to MP3 websites after 2005, to satisfy the consumer’s need to not have to pay for music.
As technology increased its capabilities, so did the ease through which music could be created, distributed, and bought. Why pay $1.29 per song on iTunes when you can pay a monthly fee on Spotify or to stream music on Pandora radio? Nowadays the area of the music industry that is feeling the powerful influence of disruptive technologies are recording studios. Popular Recording studios such as this one in Soho in Manhattan may soon go by the wayside with the lack of use by artists. But this begs the question, “why pay incredibly high rates to use a recording studio when GarageBand and other recording services are available right on your own computer?” It is very likely that we could soon see more recording studios and even record labels become a thing of the past. http://www.fastcompany.com/3032642/why-the-music-industrys-next-big-disruption-is-in-the-recording-studio
So what is to come for the music industry? What new products are going to make life easier for consumers to have access to their favorite artists? A new platform of music streaming called Direct-to-Fan has made it possible for independent artists to bypass record labels and sell their music or merchandise directly to their fans through websites such as Musicglue.com or Nimbit.com. The logic here is, if you’re an artist, why give record labels and music/merchandise distributors a significant cut of your revenues, when it would be much cheaper to use one of the aforementioned websites? Another new product consumers are beginning to use is Periscope. Periscope is a live streaming app that allows the user to view live videos that other users are uploading and the user can upload their own live stream. Periscope has come under fire as some users are using the service to stream live concerts or sporting events, which violates broadcasting copyright law. Once again the consumer is finding new ways to avoid paying expensive ticket prices for events that they can watch for free from the comfort of their own home.
The question the music industry is asking itself, was there a way its collapse could have been prevented? Is there anything that can be done to stop this downward spiral? According to this article there is still something that can be done to prevent further collapse but this Forbes article does a great job explaining why the music industry is “beyond all recognition” thanks to disruption. Finally this video also gives a brief description about the causes of disruption in the music industry.