The music industry has always been adapting to new technology. The old style of recording a record involved expensive and hard-to-understand audio equipment that needed an expert. Now, anyone with access to computer software can digitally make and record music in your own bedroom at a very low cost.
Here are some of the most significant milestones for recorded music throughout history. Will music investing be the next game changer in the music industry moving forward? We think so.
1877 – The first ever recording of the human voice was made by Thomas Edison reciting Mary had a little lamb.
1888 – The gramophone got invented! It could hold up to 2 minutes of recorded sound.
1900s – The gramophone and self-playing piano was the most popular music mediums at this time. A boom in recorded music lead to copyright questions. Eventually, a law passed requiring a royalty to be paid to the owners of the music.
1920s – The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) was mass-producing commercial radios. As a result, record sales in the US plunged.
1925 – The first electrically recorded discs go to market in the US. The new technology added more than an octave to either side of the existing sound range. Record sales rebounded.
1933 – The launch of the FM radio that offered higher fidelity sound with less static and required less transmittal power. Radio listening is booming.
1940s – Vinyl became the music medium of choice in the world.
1964 – The cassette tape became mainstream when Philips introduced a 30-minute format and allowed other manufacturers to duplicate it and anyone to record their own cassette. With the price of an empty tape around $3 and a vinyl album at $6 by the end of the 1960s, the record companies worried about their sales.
1970s – The music industry fought against cassette and vinyl bootlegging. With music sales still growing, their protests were mostly unheard. By the late 1970s, music sales dropped, and the industry campaigned for a tax on empty cassettes to make up for the lost revenue.
1979 – The Sony Walkman was introduced with an improvement in sound quality and the cassette tape became the only format that you could have in your home, in your car, and in your pocket. The music industry continued its fight for taxes on empty tapes and legislators eventually grant the music labels a portion of every empty cassette sale.
1982 – Billy Joel’s ‘52nd Street’ was released in Japan and became the first CD released in the world. With the introduction of the CD, the 80s became the most explosive boom period in recorded music history.
1983 – The MIDI standard was introduced to the world, making it possible to connect one keyboard to another and even to a home computer, and was in many ways the forerunner to the modern DAW (Digital Audio Station) that people use today to make music without needing expensive studio equipment.
1988 – The CD surpassed vinyl in sales. By 2007, over two hundred billion CDs had been bought and sold worldwide.
1990 – The launch of the MP3 format that compresses digital audio files to a size that can be easily sent from computer to computer without compromising quality.
1992 – Cubase Audio Mac, a computer-based digital audio recorder for Mac computers was introduced to the market. This was the first DAW to incorporate audio, MIDI, and scoring (music notation).
1995 – RealAudio successfully launches the first major streaming audio service. Streaming became highly popular, despite the initial poor audio quality, in comparison to the long wait when downloading a music file.
1999 – The file-sharing network Napster was launched. The company got sued for copyright infringement and the service had to pay a total of $36 million to the music industry.
2000s – Worldwide revenues for recorded music fell by an estimated 50% between 1999 and 2009 due to file-sharing and illegal downloads. Music was suddenly “for free”.
“I don’t even know why I would want to be on a label in a few years, because I don’t think it’s going to work by labels and by distribution systems in the same way. The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it”– David Bowie from the 2002 New York Times article “David Bowie, 21st Century Entrepreneur” by Jon Pareles
2003 – The launch of iTunes, the online music store. In its first year, they sell 70 million songs at $0.99 per song. The same year, the file-sharing website The Pirate Bay launched but later shut down and the founders were found guilty of copyright infringement and had to both pay damages and go to prison.
2005 – The launch of YouTube, the online video-sharing platform that is also the largest music streaming platform today with around 2 billion active users listening to music.
2006 – The launch of Spotify, one of the most popular streaming platforms today.
2010s – Courts around the world issued notices requiring internet service providers to block sites that were knowingly sharing copyrighted works through torrents. DJ Shadow became the first artist in history to sign a deal with one of them, BitTorrent, to receive payment every time someone downloaded his new release through the platform.
2015 – Digital music revenues surpassed all other music mediums worldwide.
2020s – The launch of Tangy Market and other music investment platforms are made possible thanks to the digital revolution.
The future of the music industry will depend on where the technology takes us. What else the future holds, we’ll just have to wait and see. One thing is for sure, the enabling of music investments will be another game-changer in the music industry.