Streaming saved the music industry from the jaws of the Internet. But the complex picture of the last 20 years shows that surviving the online revolution is not the only difficult part. What comes next may be more difficult.
Music was one of the first industries to experience the sonic boom of the Internet, starting with song-sharing websites like Napster and later iTunes digital downloads in the late 1990’s. This was exciting for music lovers, but new ways of listening to music and buying (or not buying) pushed industry sales into a tailspin.
Now, thanks to people paying for pay-per-view music streaming services like Spotify, music is healthier and reaching more people than ever before. But not everything is perfect.
Even today, the music industry in the United States generates less revenue than CDs. There is a lot of discussion about how long the gravy train will last from streaming. And many musicians and others say they are not partners in the waste of digital transformation.
I want this newsletter to directly answer the question: Is the music industry a success story for the Internet? There is no simple answer, which shows how messy technology can be when it hits the industry, and it can take decades for all participants to feel like winners of the digital revolution – even if it is possible.
First of all, I would like to introduce the case that the music industry is doing a wonderful job. More than 500 million people worldwide pay for digital music, mostly in China for fees such as Spotify, Apple Music or Tencent Music. Those services have given the industry something it has never had before: a steady flow of cash every month.
The industry is also making money in a gazelle way. When you watch a music video on YouTube, money flows to those responsible for the song. TikTok pays record companies when their popular songs are featured in videos. Perhaps more than books, movies or other traditional entertainment sources, social media and music have been a powerful coexistence that has increased the popularity of both.
It would be difficult to predict when it seemed that the Internet was on the verge of plowing the industry. My colleague Ben Cesario, who covers the music industry for The New York Times, told me, “It’s crazy that music is now seen as a success.” “Now the question is, can growth continue?”
Ah yes. Black cloud. The music industry’s revenue has been growing steadily since 2015, but revenue from all sources – including royalties from streaming subscriptions, CDs and elevator music – is still lower than in 1999.
According to the Recording Industry Association of America, the industry’s total revenue at the time was adjusted to about $ 24 billion for inflation and revenue in 2021 was $ 15 billion. (Global sales data from different music trade groups show a similar path.)
There aren’t many people who are willing to pay $ 10 per month to access a whole bunch of songs on their phone through a service like Spotify. It worries the same people who believe that the digital success of the music industry has reached its peak.
Ben also told me that there is concern in the industry that even the biggest songs or albums are not as popular as hits. At our fingertips there can be so much music and other entertainment that not every fresh song is as catchy or as valuable as the music was a decade ago.
Benn also wrote that 99 percent of artists – who are not as popular as Beyonc – – tend to say that millions of streams of their songs could translate into money for them. If the music industry is successful, but many musicians feel they are missing out is it really a success?
Pessimists can be wrong. People have been saying for years that Netflix can’t continue to add paying customers, but it is, and now the entire entertainment industry is mimicking its strategy. Many musicians are excited about new ways to reach fans on their own terms, including website bandcamps and nonfungible tokens or NFTs, which are essentially a way to turn digital good into something.
But the combination of pride and concern in the music reflects the theme running in this newsletter. The days before the Internet were not so good, but the frustrations with the digital revolution are real.
Before we go
A dating app that was more for two refugees: After Anastasia Tishchenko fled Ukraine and reached the Romanian border, she opened the Tinder app for help. There she and her friend found a place to sleep. “It was very inspiring,” Tishchenko told my colleague Patricia Cohen.
Related: NBC News traces the online origins of a bogus theory about biological research laboratories in Ukraine, which Russia has used as false support for its war on Ukraine. (And here’s a fact check from The New York Times.)
California created the first government agency in the U.S. with the sole task of controlling online privacy. My colleague David McCabe writes that it was a challenge, and even the state horse racing regulator advised.
Toyota Corolla smartphone: In a review of the iPhone SE, Apple’s lowest priced new smartphone model, my colleague Brian X. Geoff Fowler, a columnist for Chen and the Washington Post, says the device is not for everyone, but many people can take advantage of the low-cost iPhone. Some features that are not used in most expensive models.
Take a closer look, It’s a long chain of wiggly, obscure and apparently quite venomous caterpillars. Don’t touch them!
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