- How did the introduction of downloads affect the music ind...
How did the introduction of downloads affect the music industry?
Since downloads were introduced in the late 1990s, the music
industry has seen a huge number of changes. CD sales are steadily
declining, whilst every day more and more people download music
onto their computers, digital music players or mobile phones.
However, as a large number of these downloads take place illegally,
the music industry has not welcomed all the changes. Add to this is
the fact that it is now apparently easier for unsigned bands to
reach the music charts and cut out the 'middle men' of the record
industry, it seems that the music industry is in danger of being
'the loser' when it comes to music downloads.
There are a number of issues to consider when examining the
effect of downloads upon the music industry. The main aspects to
consider are music piracy, the effect on sales and music charts,
and the effects on the artists, record companies and consumers. I
will deal with each of these issues separately, but a number of the
areas do overlap.
Radio stations no longer take into account a record's release
date, and instead start to play it as soon as it becomes available
online. Similarly, the music charts are no longer the preserve of
new releases. Older, well-established bands are now tentatively
beginning to release their back catalogues online, and it will be
interesting to note if the older generation of music fans are
tempted off the high street and into online stores. The fact that
DRM-free tracks are now slowly being made available could also
tempt some MP3-refuseniks to convert from CDs to download.
Whilst music piracy is clearly an issue, the industry has
already proved that it is more than capable of fighting back, after
it clawed back millions of dollars from Napster and persuaded it to
change its business model. It is also important to remember that
piracy is not a new problem, and that the music industry has
thrived despite the black market in copied tapes and CDs for
decades. Some commentators even believe that piracy is a good
thing, and in the case of new acts such as the Arctic Monkeys, it
can provide bands with much-needed publicity. With most new mobile
phones now coming complete with MP3 players, this is likely to be a
big area of expansion for music downloads in the future. One future
development to watch is Apple's new iPhone, set to be released
sometime this year. Once it becomes commonplace to download music
tracks straight to your mobile phone, the music business will have
become a truly virtual, mobile industry.