Music is present in every culture, nation and had been varying with time. Music being a form of expression has continued to be re-invented throughout the years. Music is, in fact, about originality but now it has spread globally.
Music has largely evolved over the years. Looking into the history of music- Earlier the music could be witnessed only in the live performances but in 1877, the invention of phonograph has changed the way people listen to music. This was when the Americans came together to form- Columbia Records. Over the next 5 decades, phonographs had taken different forms from cylinder to flat disks which were then replaced by Vinyl in 1948. In 1950’s, a new technology had been quickly rising, called the magnetic tape recorder. This technology had been adopted by the car makers which ensured a quick rise in the technology. The road trips, eventually, got more interesting and exciting. But, it was Sony which had changed the game by coming up with Walkman in 1981 which let people take the music with them whenever and wherever. And, with the launch of CD in 1982, the US market sales alone rose to $14.6 billion. However, in 1999 Napster paved the way for new era. Napster provided free music to everyone which dint go well with the music industry and ended up with long, expensive legal battles resulting in some websites being shut but the damage had already occurred and sharing of music hadn’t stopped.
With the introduction of iPod and MP3 players, the digital technology was in rise but this wasn’t enough to create a fall for the physical format sales. Apple Inc., is one of the successful companies for streaming music; some of its patents include:
- Music synchronization arrangement (US10/997,479)
- Audio preview of music (US12/729,717)
- Scrolling virtual music keyboard (US12/893,971)
- Methods and systems for providing musical interfaces (US11/033,428)
- Playlist confirmation and preview (US13/335,836)
- Graphical representations of music using varying levels of detail (US12/398,056)
Some companies even introduced subscriptions like Pandora but the breakthrough came in 2011 by a Swedish startup- SPOTIFY, had done something which others couldn’t achieve to do, i.e. licensing a vast music library. It had filed several patents for
- System and method for allocating bandwidth between media streams (US14/165,517)
- System and method for playing media during navigation between media streams (US14/165,514)
- System and method for multi-track playback of media content (US
- Automatic login on a website by means of an app (US14/711,178)
- A method and system for the identification of music or other audio metadata played on an iOS device (US15/323,701)
- Identification of taste attributes from an audio signal (US15/901,570)
But, Spotify gives very little money to the artists. They have 25% rights on the music produced across the world. So even if they make 0.006 dollars per listen, you still become a millionaire. Spotify, is something that, allows artists to upload their own music and get royalties without middlemen.
With Spotify, we no longer own music, we just stream it. Streaming brings the music industry back on track. Now, streaming has become responsible for huge revenue growth in the industry.
For example, let us get back to the history again- when was the last time you had actually bought a CD? It must have been very long, right? In 2000, more than 900 million CDs have been sold just in America but now, 18 years later, this had dropped to 90 million i.e. less than a tenth of what it used to be. Well the reason behind is, obviously, the internet downloads. As mentioned previously, platforms like Napster, Torrent have completely changed the industry. So… does this mean the record labels are going bankrupt? How they are even able to survive the illegal internet downloads?
It was the first software which allowed the users to download songs in MP3 format in a free, faster way, and, of course, an illegal way. The records were being available online. NAPSTER had lost the battle at the court, but it was too late. Anyways it, however, didn’t cause much loss to the physical records. But what could be the reason behind “not much loss”?
Earlier in 1935, union of American musicians published a statement- Records are multiplied & duplicated by the thousands and sold to be used in places where the musicians were not available. According to this union, 8000 professional musicians have lost their jobs, only, due to JUKEBOXES- Jukeboxes are a big record player placed in restaurants where one could insert a coin and play a song of their choice. By the year 1935, more than 135000 machines were sold throughout America. The way we listen to music had changed forever.
Something similar happened in 2000, Universal music group fired 4000 people overnight which accounted to 34% of their staff. At this point of time, 90% of their income was from record sales and these sales were decreasing by 20% year after year. The past had to be repeated again, in order to survive, these record labels stopped being record label and had started to be a music label.
What does this Music Label mean? Well, it could be explained with a good example of Universal Music, where it had sold all those that were not making money, like the record manufacturing factories, etc. And with all that money, Universal had bought all the music label in order to expand their music catalogue as much as possible. As a result of this, the tastes and genre of music change again. For example: Gangnam style; a popular South Korean music album which had ended up expanding to whole of the world. Universal Music Group holds several patents like:
- Advanced encoding of music files (Patent number: 9230552)
- Electronic music/media distribution system (Patent number: 7624046)
- Electronic music/media distribution system Patent number: 7209892)
- Method and system for enabling commerce from broadcast content (US11/354,351)
As in 30’s, music was limited only to local region and later it spread across the nation, by 2000, music has become a 100% global industry. And companies like Universal had bought music labels in almost all markets which cannot be even imagined.
The latest music industry is nothing but a shadow of what it used to be. 72% of the industry is covered by 3 big companies: Universal, Sony & Warner.
And looking into the history, any new technology could shake up the present situation all over again.
Will we witness the arrival of another new creative transformation?