Baby Blues

Music at lightning speed can the industry keep up?


In our current lives technology and more specifically the Internet has changed the way we listen to, access, and create music. It is rare that people buy a compact disc (“CD”) from their favorite artists. Instead they turn to online venues such as iTunes or Amazon to purchase their favorite single or video. In addition, many local libraries offer their patrons the ability to access and download free music.  Napster in its inception, created a forum in which music was shared for free amongst its members. The result was that record companies and artists suffered because they saw no profit gain from this site. Finally, the Internet allows amateurs the opportunity to create music from the comfort of their own homes, and the ability to download their finished product to sites such as YouTube without the need of an agent or record label.

Acquiring music for little or not cost is not a new phenomena. In reflecting on how I obtained my voluminous collection of CD’s as a teenager, I realize that I took advantage of the Columbia House Music Club. The marketing ploy to attract members was that if you sign up and pay only one cent plus shipping you would get ten free CD’s through the mail. I as well as my friends could not resist. I remember people signing up with different names just to take advantage of these offers. I am not sure how these clubs made money because everyone always found a way to get around the additional monthly purchase requirements for membership. Before the Internet people pirated music by making mix tapes for each other, sharing music through less visible means.

The rise and dominance of Apple and iTunes has had a monumental effect on the music industry in both positive and negative ways. First and foremost, it allows for ease and affordability in purchasing one’s favorite music.  Most songs are sold for $1.29, far cheaper than purchasing an entire CD. Apple a company always on the forefront of technology, created a vehicle that capitalized on the music industries gold mine. In a blog article titled “Why doesn’t music say anything anymore” the author discuss the growth and affects of digital media on the music industry.  In particular he focuses on the failures of the music industry to seize the opportunities presented by the internet: “Most record labels originally used the internet as a marketing tool, in which they were able to feature artists and promote their new works.” In the meantime sites like Napster and iTunes surfaced providing instant access to a persons favorite music.  The inability of the music industry to recognize and develop quicker and cheaper means off selling their product left the industry suffering financial losses. ITunes is a brilliant platform because it permits the media industry a venue to sell a multitude of products in cheap and efficient ways. In “How iTunes Save the Music Industry,” by Jessica Ullian,  ,she shares the insights of  Sumner Redstone, an entertainment industry giant, about the ways in which to keep media companies profitable in the digital age.  Redstone does not see iTunes as a negative influence in the music industry, but rather he says it has, “resurrected the music industry” by creating a legal, affordable, instantly gratifying purchasing system for fans.” The iTunes name is synonymous with fast and cheap music and entertainment. The music industry needs to work with this medium and others to market and sell its products.

The Internet and specifically iTunes has caused financial harm to the music and entertainment industry. A reality that is directly attributed to the fact that iTunes provides a cheap means of purchasing a single song in lieu of shelling out money for a full album. In an article titled “The iTunes Effect and the Future of Content,” Scott Berinato discusses the research of Associate Professor Anita Elberse of the Harvard Business School, on the harm the digital platform is causing to the music industry. Berinato says, “she found that people are buying more music than they used to, but because more are buying online, they’re buying singles instead of full albums. The revenue from all those extra songs they buy doesn’t come close to making up for the revenue lost on the albums they don’t buy.” The loss of profits trickles through and cripples the industry in many important ways.  Elberse’s research found, “That album revenue was partly subsidizing the discovery and publishing of new music, which in turn created new buyers of music, tour tickets, posters, t-shirts, and so on. That revenue in turn helped develop that artist’s next venture, and discover yet other artists.” The music industry in many ways has been crippled by the power and reach of iTunes and other comparable sites. Today’s consumer recognizes that they can have their favorite song for a bargain price without the need to purchase and entire album. Why would anyone pay for something extra?

Some critics argue that the Internet has contributed to the demise of the music from an artistic perspective.  Those individual that are anti-Internet contend that the music industry is not the same. It’s unoriginal and diluted and lacks creativity and freshness. These new vehicles for sharing and buying music at a lighting speed makes it possible for someone with little or no talent to be a superstar, an instant musical fame. J-Zone in ““5 Things that Killed Hip-Hop,” sheds light on how the Internet has changed and influenced Hip-Hop and Rap. These ideas can be universally applied to the music industry. J-Zone says, “We’re in an MP3 world now, and somebody in their bedroom is on an equal plane with somebody that’s paid dues and worked hard”(p. 260).  The Internet has allowed those individuals with little or no talent to copy the styles of their favorite singers and songwriters with a click of a button. J-Zone says, “The Internet also killed rap’s number one asset. Anticipation” (p. 260). We live in a world of instant gratification and the Internet gives us immediate access. Counter arguments can be made that the Internet has allowed new artists a chance to display their talents in a forum that is open to everyone that has access to a computer and a connection to the World Wide Web.  No longer is it necessary to first secure an audition, agents or music labels to display one’s talent. In today’s modern technology a talented singer/song writer needs a way of recording and uploading to the Internet.

The Internet is not going anywhere and therefore, the music industry must adjust and take advantages of the positive attributes of the World Wide Web. Used correctly it is an invaluable tool to reach across the globe. Surely the music industry with its wealth of talent and ideas can figure out how to not let the Internet destroy a precious and valuable expression of values and diverse cultures.

Works Cited

Berinato, Scott. “The iTunes Effect and the Future of Content.” HBR Blog Network. Harvard Business Review, 2010, January 12. Web. 27 July 2011.

J-Zone. “5 Things that Killed Hip-Hop.” Common Culture: Reading and Writing     About American Popular Culture. Ed. Michael Petracca and Madeleine Sorapure. University of California at Santa Barbara: Prentice Hall, 2009. 253-262. Print.

Ullian, Jessica. “How iTunes saved the Music Industry.” BU Today News & Events. Boston University, 19 September 2007. Web. 27 July 2011.

Vigic’s Blog. (2011, February 21). “Why doesn’t music say anything anymore?” Retrieved from