147 Views

How Music Became Free

The evolution of the way we consume music has been driven by society’s expectation to have free content. The days of the Compact Disc are numbered, as new releases from artists are made readily available on the Internet before initial release dates.

However, as illegal downloading has become increasingly more accessible in the last few decades, the future of music release is under much deliberation. How can musicians expect to make money from their work releases when their fans can easily obtain their album free of charge?

This isn’t a new threat to musicians and artists. The development of the MP3 file initially started in the 1990s by researcher Karlheinz Brandenburg retained perceived fidelity in a file a fraction of the size of the original recording.

The MP3 was suppressed by competitors to stop it being used as industry standard therefore it was released as free software on the Internet. This event is often considered by many to signal the end of the music industry. As a result of this, freeware such as Winamp was introduced in 1997, allowing people to encode their CDs into MP3 format on computers.

As broadband became more common in households, the Internet got faster. At the same time, PC memory increased to enable more storage. In 1999, Napster was launched to enable people searching for shared MP3 files to find sources more reliably.

Later, as speed and storage increased further, BitTorrent arrived in 2001, and is now estimated to be collectively accountable for approximately 40 up to 70% of all Internet traffic. This allows larger files like HD films to be distributed more efficiently by linking the downloader to a ‘swarm’ of uploaders.

So what does this mean for the music industry as a whole? With the widespread use of MP3 downloads, many popular albums were leaked onto the Web before their set date. Many top pirating groups competed for prestige rather than financial gain, which is an important subversive effect of the Internet.

Sources for content included the theft of pre-releases from CD factories or uploads of albums given to DJs and journalists. The piracy of rap featured strongly due to the music tastes of the core pirating demographic.

Lil’ Wayne recognised the power of this trend and returned to prominence as a rapper by leaking his own material, restoring his reputation as a prolific artist.

The music industry reacted too slowly to this societal expectation of free music (by 2015 it had lost $21 billion in revenues). Ultimately Napster was closed down by legal action.

Pay download and subscription sites such as iTunes and then, as network speeds increased, the Spotify streaming service, which acts essentially as an internet jukebox funded by advertisement and subscription. As a result of this revolution, album and single sales plummeted.

Bands need to devise new ways to secure revenues. In 2015, top acts such as Adele and Coldplay released their albums near Christmas time to attract a ‘gifting’ market. Many bands now make more money through touring and live performances than album sales.

The future of music downloading is under much debate at this point in time. The concept of copyright (originating in the eighteenth-century as a result of the proliferation of printed works) appears to be under threat and out-dated.

Music is no longer a scarce resource and therefore the music industry will no longer react according to an established economic model. Subscription may prevail in the end, but are consumers happy to borrow a product rather than own it? The renaissance of vinyl may restore hope in the sales of physical releases.

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate
Campus News
537 views1
Campus News
537 views1

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate

Jordan Wright - April 27, 2018

Student society Liberate the Debate’s most recent event was cancelled over a lack of compliance with the Students' Union's (USSU) requirement for a neutral chair - a…

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series
Arts
76 views
Arts
76 views

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - June 17, 2018

Pictured: Zac Black At Proud Cabaret audiences were spellbound as if at night at the circus, yet this was not like Angela Carter’s magical realist novel; Verve…

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review
Arts
110 views
Arts
110 views

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review

Florence Dutton - June 11, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Last Monday at 8pm at Brighton’s The Old Market, I sat myself down in my theatre seat eagerly awaiting…

Fleabag preview
Arts
108 views
Arts
108 views

Fleabag preview

Florence Dutton - June 2, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Following the mass success of the Bafta award-winning BBC Series, DryWrite and Soho Theatre are about to hit the…

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome
Arts
133 views
Arts
133 views

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome

Georgia Grace - June 1, 2018

Having completed my final semester of university with modules on punk history and queer arts, it was fitting that I rounded off my end-of-assessment celebrations by attending…

Arts
149 views

The Tempest review

Georgia Grace - May 30, 2018

As the sun begins to set over Hove Green, tinnies of Red Stripe are cracked open, tartan blankets are strewn, and families tuck into their picnic hampers.…

A Glass Half Empty review
Arts
159 views
Arts
159 views

A Glass Half Empty review

Georgia Grace - May 27, 2018

For those of us coming to the end of another year of university study, the prospect of careers, marriages and babies may seem a long way off.…

DollyWould at The Old Market review
Arts
151 views
Arts
151 views

DollyWould at The Old Market review

Alex Hutson - May 27, 2018

Sh!t Theatre’s DollyWould is a hilarious, thoughtful and experimental performance piece. The award winning show has the Sh!t Theatre duo integrating comedy, storytelling, personal experience and music.…

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex
Campus News
245 views
Campus News
245 views

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex

Billie-Jean Johnson - May 26, 2018

The Sussex branch of the University and College Union (UCU) has launched a petition calling for Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell to end the 'hostile environment' at Sussex. The…

Arts
117 views

Shakespeare in the sun – The Tempest preview

Georgia Grace - May 24, 2018

In a world of dystopian King Lears and female Hamlets, Shakespeare’s classics are constantly being reimagined for the modern day. There’s something oddly refreshing then about the…

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
231 views
Arts
231 views

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 23, 2018

What a phenomenal contrast these two films present when watched side-by-side. In essence, together they are capable of tracing inner and outer metamorphoses of their subjects. The…

Dollywould at The Old Market preview
Arts
149 views
Arts
149 views

Dollywould at The Old Market preview

Alex Hutson - May 22, 2018

From the 22nd May - 25th May 2018 DollyWould will be showing at The Old Market. An exciting new show, presented by Sh!t Theatre, who won the…

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu
Artist Focus
222 views
Artist Focus
222 views

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - May 16, 2018

Last week artist Fedilou made her debut exhibition in the downstairs space of Morelli Zorelli, a quaint vegan Italian restaurant in Hove, featuring a collection of intimate…

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley
Interview
158 views
Interview
158 views

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley

Nikolaos Manesis - May 15, 2018

Ron Chrisley is a Reader in Philosophy, on the faculty of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, and is the director of COGS (Centre for Cognitive Science).…

Adam review
Arts
223 views
Arts
223 views

Adam review

Ketan Jha - May 13, 2018

If you have been a stranger to the stage this spring and decide to see one contemporary show, let it be Adam. This reviewer went in entirely…

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
251 views
Arts
251 views

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 13, 2018

In celebration of iconic Brighton local, legendary alt-rock musician (and episodic actor) Nick Cave, TOM’s Film Club are hosting a double-bill screening of his films at The…

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review
Arts
288 views
Arts
288 views

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review

Georgia Grace - May 11, 2018

Meta-theatricality and interactivity are becoming all the more vogue in contemporary theatre, and in a world where the arts are becoming increasingly open and democratised, I find…

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks
Artist Focus
201 views
Artist Focus
201 views

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks

Alex Leissle - May 9, 2018

  [gallery type="slideshow" ids="35385,35386,35387,35388,35389,35390,35391,35392,35393,35394,35395,35396,35397,35398,35399,35400,35401,35402,35403,35404,35405,35406,35407,35408,35409,35410,35411"]

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival
Books
214 views
Books
214 views

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival

William Singh - May 9, 2018

Afua Hirsch’s 2018 book - part memoir, part polemic - provokes mixed feelings. So too did her discussion of the topic at this year’s Brighton Festival. Don’t…

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality
Science
267 views
Science
267 views

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality

Luke Richards - May 8, 2018

Bioweapons exist, while ethnic-bioweapons are whispered conspiracies. Pandemics can fairly hazardous to human life, the 1918 Flu Pandemic killed 20-50 million people. A man made pandemic could…

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced
News
273 views
News
273 views

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced

Jessica Hubbard - May 4, 2018

Students have voted to support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, reject Prevent and adopt new Gender Equality policies. Results for the Students' Union referenda were…