The music industry is one of the most fluctuating and fastest changing. Those who have a desire to be part of the industry are often told it’s nothing but a ‘pipe dream’. In fact, many of the greatest superstars in the past have once been told they would never achieve their dreams – but more on that later. First, a brief history lesson.
The First Recordings
Long before Thomas Edison had introduced the world to the gramophone (also known as a phonograph or record player) in 1877, French inventor Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville had already recorded the first ever recording sometime around 1860. You wouldn’t be surprised to know that his recording on a clunky device he named the phonautograph was of music – a French folk song “Au clair de la lune”. Ever since, people have always been recording music to replay on different forms of media.
An Overview Of Sound Recording
The history of sound recording can easily be divided into four ‘eras’ –
- The Acoustic era – Mechanical recordings on gramophones, which needed winding of the crank in order to listen.
- The Electrical era – An electrical microphone allowed recordings to be amplified prior to recording. The gramophone was also electrified to wind automatically, making listening an easier process
- The Magnetic era – Germans during the world war invented magnetic tape to record sound, which produced an greatly improved audio quality. This medium evolved into 8 tracks and cassette tapes.
- The Digital era – Since 1975, DAWS (Digital Audio Workstations) enabled music to be manipulated digitally. During the next two decades more advances in recording technology took place: from cassette tape to Compact Discs (CDs), to mp3, and finally to streaming.
The above division is based on the medium upon which sound was recorded and then subsequently distributed. Of course, as technology advanced over the years, distribution of sound recordings became progressively easier and easier.
Where Do Artists Record Their Music?
As technology advances, recording music has not only changed in the method of recording but also the location. In the past, artists would usually go to a recording studio – this was a studio equipped with everything needed to record the highest quality music possible for the time. The recording room was padded for sound insulation and the latest equipment was installed (which was obviously expensive). In the 80’s and 90’s, people could record themselves on popular home stereo players. In fact, many rap and hip-hop artists would record their mixtapes on cassette tapes and then distribute them in the streets through various vendors. However, for professional recording it was still necessary to record at a recording studio – and in fact most record labels transformed the talented artists careers from the streets to fame by providing a studio to record their music in, and a legitimate way to distribute music. Nowadays professional recording equipment is inexpensive and a home studio is easily set up by amateur artists.
How the Internet Cause the Downfall Of The Music Industry
During the digital age, both the recording and distribution advanced in long strides. Not only was the recording process (on mp3 files to CDs) easier, it was also more easily reproduced and distributed. However, around the same time the internet was invented and with it music piracy skyrocketed. By some estimates, the music industry saw a 50% fall in revenue worldwide during the first decade of this millennium. With home computers gaining popularity, it became easy for people to simply rip CDs and make numerous copies within the comfort of their own homes. Sharing music over the internet by sharing mp3 files was also very common. After all, who would pay to buy a record, when they could download it for free? As listeners were using websites like napster, as well as torrents/download sites – artists had a wider audience but no revenue stream.
The Music Industry Rises Up Once Again
In 2011, the SOPA bill was passed in the United States – this was the ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ that made online piracy to be considered copyright infringement and thus illegal. Around the same time, digital download stores like Apple’s iTunes started to gain in popularity. It was a legitimate way to purchase music online. The music industry started to see an increase in its revenue due to digital sales through these stores. In 2008, Spotify was launched and enabled listeners to pay a subscription for uninterrupted listening. Artists could upload their music on Spotify and reach more legal listeners, and be paid through Spotify. In fact, sites such as spotify can help amateurs gain popularity on a platform such as Spotify.
It is expected that streaming services such as Spotify and Soundcloud are here to stay – as it gets more and more difficult to pirate music online. It is reasonable to expect that record labels will soon disappear from the market, as recording music at home (with more creative freedom) becomes increasingly easier.