Hell, the era of legal music downloads didn’t last that long, did it?

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Since the dawn of audio recording in 1877, we’ve gone through a series of formats, starting with the wax cylinder and eventually evolving into today’s streaming services.

Of all the formats, the rotating disc is the oldest with us, starting with Emile Berliner’s gramophone disc in 1887, a technology that we still use. Eight tracks had their day in the 1970s while cassettes peaked in the mid 1980s. Compact discs appeared in late 1982 and were the dominant format in 2000.

Then things started to get weird, thanks to the internet and digital files.

When iTunes first appeared in 2001, predictions were that digital downloads would eventually usurp the role of physical product when it comes to music sales. “In the 2010s, we were told, sales of albums and digital tracks will more than offset the decline in CD sales. Vinyl? Ah! It’s dead and buried.

This does not happen. Streaming is killing digital music sales. The era of downloading music has been shorter than everyone predicted. It’s from Forbes.

The latest music industry revenue figures tell us we’ve entered a new era: the era of interactive streaming. Interactive streaming music services – Spotify, Apple Music, Napster, Deezer, Tidal, etc. – now account for the majority of the recorded music industry’s revenues and are growing at over 50% per year. We are now in the fifth era of recorded music, after the era of vinyl records, cassettes (8 tracks and cassettes), CDs and music downloads.

What the revenue numbers tell us about the previous era – the age of downloads – is just as interesting as what they tell us about the future. In the mid-2000s, music downloads spawned the digital revolution. But the numbers indicate that the download age is likely to go down in history as a brief glitch – a phase of transition from physical products to cloud-based music that has done the industry no favor.

And now a nice graphic from GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies.

Read more here.


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