Music Industry: The Downfall Caused by Technology


One of the industries that have had to grapple with the impact of the disruptive technology, thanks to the internet, is the music sector. Digital distribution of music has especially dealt the music industry the heaviest blow ever. For example, RIAA reconfirmed on the 28th of April that in 2007, their sales volume for CDs has plummeted by about 20.5 percent (Seeking Alpha 2008). On the 2nd of May 2008, Real Networks, AOL AND Yahoo were all ordered by a federal court to pay music artists a whopping $ 100 M. This was meant as a back payment, on grounds that these Internet Service Providers (ISPs) had streamed the music of these artists online.

What this goes to prove therefore is that other than the main ISPs, there are countless other online companies that have played a role in the downfall of the music industry. Apple, as a technology company has over the years turned into one of the most powerful selling points for online music. For instance, in 2008, the company is believed to have sold over 2 billion songs. By extension, the Itunes/Ipod combo is proving to be a real threat to conventional retail channels of music (Seeking Alpha 2008). As such, some of these conventional retail stores for music have also had to embrace online distribution of music. Examples here include Amazon, and the retailer, Wal-Mart. Even then , the budding storms by these companies have failed to yield the much needed impact, even after the companies settles for lower prices, in addition to providing customers with DRM-free music.

Why the music industry is falling apart

According to Gross (2003), artists have for a long time tried to compete with the downloading companies that make their music available online and despite the efforts, it is clear that there is not much success. Most people have come to prefer online music than that which is on CD, mainly because (Weissman, 2003) the downloaded songs are a selection of some of the best songs from different artists while the songs on CD tend to be specific to either a given music genre, or hit songs from a single artist.

A majority of the people are of the opinion that most music on CDs fails to provide the much needed variety, in terms of song selection. Also, the songs from the internet and other online sites are cheap and easy to obtain. The music artists charge very high prices for a CD and since the technology has offered an alternative for cheaper and more accessible music, people have moved away from the idea of buying CDs from artists to getting their favorite music through the internet. People have also realized that the music artists are slowly developing the ‘Stockholm syndrome’ and they have come to appreciate the presence of technology in the music industry despite the fact that it is resulting in big losses to the music industry. This has gone on to encourage people to take up the downloading rather than the CDs. With these ideas in mind, musicians see beyond the fact that technology has taken over the music industry. There is need to perceive the music industry differently and the musicians should play a great role in this.

Reasons why technology is overtaking the music industry

According to Gross (2003), despite the fact that technology has had a negative impact on the music industry, the music industry itself also has played a part in making this be the outcome. The technology overtaking the industry is an issue the musicians have had to cope up with for quite a while and this has been due to the following reasons. To start with, the music industry has been characterized by greed and the desire for more money by some unscrupulous players. Often times, such companies do not have the best interests of the industry in mind, as they only seek to reap super profits in the shortest time possible, even if this means putting other players in the industry out of business (Gross, 2003).

Secondly, there has been low artistic integrity among the musicians. Musicians hardly have enough time to develop their skills and most people expect that artists should be producing hit songs every so often. This has resulted in musicians producing low quality music that is slowly losing its market as people opt for other forms of entertainment. People would now prefer the internet and the video games rather than having to listen to music.

The perception that musicians do not make much from their music has also led to people going for the downloaded music and other sources of entertainment through technology. According to Weissman (2003), there has been the idea that artists have to produce lots of tracks before they can earn a substantial amount of money that will help them advance their talent. Hence, fans have now opted for downloading music because they feel that even if they bought the original CDs, their favorite musicians would still make no money.

In addition, the music industry has also gone on to produce less and less numbers of music. They are more focused on making money and they tend to produce one type of song at a particular period. People tend to go for variety from the internet rather than having to buy the CDs that have become less thrilling and monotonous. The amount of music that one can get from the advanced technology is much more than that produced by the artists. On the other hand, downloading music has become so easy that it is a matter of a few seconds and one gets all the desired music. The CDs are not as easy to get as compared to the available music on the internet and it is clear that anyone with access to the internet can very easily get all the music they desire at a very short time.

With these factors, the music industry is facing a major challenge trying to come to terms with the changes that have been as a result of the advanced technology. It is clear that the impact of technology on the industry is adversely leading to its downfall and the musicians have to develop means of reviving the industry before the technology completely takes over.

How has technology affected the music industry?

Schwabach (2005) argues that the coming of the internet era was seen as a limelight to many things in the 21st century and it has effectively become a significant communication device. It has brought many new opportunities to the current world and it has made the passing of information faster and more effective. The world of digital revolution can therefore be said to come at a time when the world needed it most. However, despite all these, problems have come up that has made the digital revolution a difficult issue to cope with.

The laws in information technology were created before the introduction of technology and this is the same law that is guiding people. There was hardly anything like intangible products and it can be said that the technology, despite its advantages has caused major problems and confusion among people. These problems are what have led to a great war between the music producers, the software providers and the consumers who have resulted in obtaining duplicate copies of music. It has actually become so easy to make a copy of a TV show or a favorite song that people no longer find the need to buy original copies (Alexander p. 265).

When the Sony Company made its first invention of the VCR player, most broadcast TV and radio stations were worried that the player would affect the value of their movies and other shows. The introduction of the VCR player was followed closely by the digital era, which has enabled people to produce movies and music in the digital form with the desire to preserve the quality of their songs. The digital era has made duplication of songs and movies easier than even producing an original CD and only by using a modern computer it is now very easy to copy a CD or a DVD. The major challenge is that even by making a duplicate CD or a song, the quality of the CD or the music is hardly lost and therefore it is not possible to distinguish between the original and the duplicate (Heath, 2008).

According to Heath (2008), the invention of the internet has an even greater impact such that one no longer needs to buy the original CD or make a copy. Any song that is released into the market takes only a few seconds to reach all people around the globe through their friends by the use of the internet. Each time an album is released, millions of internet users get access to it and the idea of producing CDs and DVDs become meaningless as not major sales will be made. The idea of file sharing became more renowned when one Computer Science student, Shawn Fanning, developed the Peer to Peer file swapping program. The program enabled people all over the world to be able to share out their computer files with every one and the music industry became the worst hit by this. The music industry points out that, “internet theft has taken over the music industry, from the production house down to the song writers.”

Studies have shown that the sale of music in the global market dropped by approximately 6.5% in 2001, a decline of approximately $3 billion, and this has become worse in recent years. The top ten albums in the world in 2001 sold a total of 40million copies, while the previous year the sales were 60million copies. Of these ten most popular hits, none had sold more than 5million copies each and this shows that fewer customers are going for their CDs, DVDs, tapes or even the minidisks (Alexander, 2004).

Is there evidence that technology has actually affected the music industry?

Various researches have been carried out regarding the relationship between the introduction of the internet and the sale of music. According to one research carried out by a Harvard University professor, Felix Oberholzer, it is clear that file swapping does not have a major effect on the sale of music in form of CDs or DVDs. Despite the fact that people engage in downloading music, Heath (2008) argues that, these people would not have bought the original albums even if there was nothing like file swapping. A study by Felix and his counterpart in the University of Carolina, Koleman Strumpf, states that it would take a download of about 5,000 songs to be able to displace the sale of one physical CD and therefore, even with the high number of downloading of music, the impact on the sale of albums is not significant.

According to Wilson (2004), the music industries and other recording companies like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has responded to this issue brought out by the scholars by portraying how the sales have continued to decline as more technology is being implemented through internet and as more people are able to access the downloaded files. It is, however clear that the increase in the price of CD and DVDs would also have led to the decline in its sales. As the music industries desire to increase their revenues, they have, over the past few years, increased the selling price per album and this has resulted to most people going for the downloaded music that is much cheaper and of similar quality. Hence, despite the fact that the internet and other forms of technology have affected the growth of the music industry, it may also be caused by other factors, which may have then led to people going for pirated music as a result.

Another factor that may be related to the decline in the sales and subsequent rise in the use of technology to retrieve music is the fact that the music industry has failed in creating proper labels for its digital music. According to the Music Bill of Rights, there is the need to ensure the best quality music is provided to customers and every producer should ensure that their music is well labeled and satisfies the needs of its customers. However, the original digital music has not seen much progress and this has resulted in the greater majority going for the downloaded music due to the proper implementation of music rights (Heath, 2008).

But on the other hand, according to Schwabach (2005), the internet has not had a totally negative impact on the music industry. It has in a way promoted the sale of music by creating awareness to a large number of people. Despite the great hardships experienced, there is a positive side of the technology. The music industry should, however, come up with ways of overcoming the challenges that come with technology and this is to enable it to get back to gaining trust from its customers and increasing its sales.

The major issues that have come up in the music industry since the invention of technology

The major issue affecting the music industry is the greed for wealth that has taken up the minds of most musicians. The musicians are trying to compete very hard with the internet service providers to ensure that they also benefit from their music and this way, they neglect the main idea of producing good quality music. They are more focused on making money from their business and they try to gain markets from all over the world without taking into consideration the response it is likely to get from its customers. This is the reason why the Music Rights have not been observed in producing music, all because of the desire to be better than the internet providers (Gross, 2003).

The technology has also led to a larger number of people gaining independence for the production of music, whether it is copyrighted or not. With the ability to have access to all kinds of music through the internet, individual producers have had the freedom to make money independent of the music industry. More and more people are producing albums on their own and creating their own markets and this having a negative impact on the amount of revenue obtained because few customers are able to gain their trust (Gross, 2003).

The invention of digital music has also resulted in the Apple music company dominating the digital music market. It has become the greatest provider of iTunes music that has overtaken every other music. The internet has enabled more people to download the iTunes into their phones and computers and this has made them lack the need to use other kinds of music. The Apple Company has therefore led to the traditional music dropping their music and adopting the digital music distribution to compete with the other producers.

What the music industry is doing to overcome the downfall

According to Alexander (p. 223), it is clear that technology has had an adverse impact on the music industry and despite efforts to incorporate technology into the industry, there is need also to look into the major solutions that can be implemented to help overcome the major downfall that has been experienced. The technology may not change its impact on the music industry, but the industry may try to enhance suitable correlations with technology so that it may promote its sales while at the same time improving the quality of music produced.

The music industry may re-define its regulations so that they cater for the needs of its customers. This may be through establishing means of cutting down the high prices while still maintaining sufficient revenues (Alexander p.222). One reason why people opt for the downloaded music is because it is cheap to obtain it rather than having to buy the CDs or the DVDs. Hence, if the prices were lowered the music industry would thrive and maybe outdo the technology companies. Weissman (2003) notes that, the music industry also needs to take into consideration the fact that technology will keep on advancing and it is upon the industry to enhance the quality of its music and take advantage of the technology to enhance the talent of the musicians. The musicians should learn that quality is more important than just the number of songs that they produce.


The advent of information technology has dealt a tough blow to the music industry. This is because today, there are several sites from which one may download music online, free of charge. These online companies such as Ipods by Apple are proving to be a real threat to the conventional CD sales companies, with the effect that their sales have plummeted extensively in recent years. The fact that a federal court last year fined some online companies a whopping $ 100 M as a back payment following the streaming of music by a number of artists, goes on to show that the future looks bleak for music artists. Given that technology is here to stay, what the players in the music industry should now be focused on is trying to identify ways through which they may work together to ensure that technology doesn’t in the long-term escalate the downfall that is already being felt in the music industry (Bricklin 2002).Rather, what the players in the music industry should be looking out fro is a harnessing this technology to augment their sales while at the same time giving customers a value for their money.

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