iTunes rocked the industry, but streaming may represent another seachange
Music Downloads Top the Charts
Yes, sales of vinyl records are surging — nearly 10 million old-fashioned platters were sold in 2013, the most since 1997. Who’s buying records? Mostly hipsters into indie-rock, and diehard audiophiles who contend vinyl recordings sound better than digital (among recent bestsellers on vinyl: Jack White’s Lazaretto and Beck’s Morning Phase). While it’s nice for old times’ sake to see vinyl win a battle, the war over how we listen to music may be over, and if digital hasn’t already won, the others may be down for the count.
One need not look further than the music business and Apple’s iTunes Music Store for an example of how innovation can transform an industry. After decades of distributing music to consumers in essentially the same fashion, with the launch of iTunes, everything changed in 2003. Since then, music sales have dropped from about $12 billion to $7 billion in 2013. But during that same time, people have been buying more music than ever, but in the form of the digital singles popularized by iTunes. The low cost and ease of downloading digital singles may have been a blessing for music fans, but it’s caused massive disruption in the music industry.
Little more than a decade after iTunes revolutionized the music world, the industry is undergoing what may be an even more radical, digital transition — streaming. Many listeners are moving away from CDs and downloads to streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and YouTube. The music industry may be in for yet another seachange.