by Jared Glassman
From buying albums on iTunes to streaming them on Spotify, the way we listen to music is constantly changing. New sites like SoundCloud and Tidal give listeners the instant access to music that they’ve always dreamed of. Because of the success of this streaming industry, many new sites develop each day, hoping to be the next big hit while leaving downloading services like iTunes behind.
When Apple CEO Steve Jobs publicized the digital storage of music in 2001, he revolutionized the business. People now had instant access to a variety of music for prices ranging from $.69 to $1.29 per song. Putting in those Apple earbuds and shuffling our iTunes library was a way of life in the early 2000s, and from there Apple had hoped to continue its extreme success and never look back.
However, Tim Westergren had something else in mind when, in 2011, he and his team released Pandora Radio. This instant hit was the first widely successful music streaming platform, as users could choose any radio station and customize it to their preferences. Pandora paved the way for other services such as SoundCloud, Spotify and most recently, Tidal, that threatened big-name companies and their competitors.
This new way of consuming music comes with heavy consequences, as many new artists are suffering from decreased royalties—although it may not look like it when the Forbes reports come out. Musician Rosanne Cash explained this developing problem. “It’s changed how artists and musicians make a living,” she said. She’s not wrong. In 1999, the music industry was worth $14 billion; today, it’s half that, according to pbs.org.
That’s why many people, ranging from artists such as Taylor Swift, to WHS students such as senior Bobby Abbott, disagree with these new services. “It doesn’t respect the artist,” Abbott said.
But of course, at the other end of the spectrum, many consumers really enjoy streaming services due to their “instant accessibility and variety,” as senior and avid Spotify listener Matt McIlroy said.
With nearly the same monthly price for ad-free listening and the same number of songs in their collections, today’s musical streaming services make a compelling case for why this is now the best way to listen to music. While the musicians are creating the content, the record industry is in a state of uncertainty.
Ultimately, listeners have decided that this new medium is here to stay.