I grew up in the age of vinyl and the single, album and EP – words that probably mean nothing to current teenagers, but rather defines my age group. At college we all shared music by recording each others albums onto cassette (which got surprisingly good before its demise). We then embraced the CD and the start of the age of digital music. I was still happy with the CD, it gave me a ‘hard copy’ of the music that I could do with as I wished. It is probably an age thing, but I still can’t bring myself to download music from iTunes (unless it’s free) – partly because of the lack of a ‘hard copy’ and partly due to the sample rate – the quality is really not as good.
I do however accept that I am a dying breed – the download generation is with us – and it is even a religion now!
So perhaps it’s surprising that 2011 was the first year that digital music sales surpassed physical media sales. But, it’s finally happened. Mark it down: 2011 was the year that the world is officially a digital music consumer – and I am consigned to the ‘has been’ consumer for music!
A report by Billboard has revealed that 50.3 percent of all music sales in 2011 were digitally purchased, up 8 percent from last year. Sure, it was only a matter of time, but if I am honest I had assumed that the digital music revolution toppled sales of CDs years ago.
The major influence in all this? It is clear that Apple, Steve Jobs, and the revolutionary iPod completely turned the industry on its head. Napster may have started the revolution, but Apple’s iPod was the death knell for physical media. But I would suggest that this evolution in music consumption is far from over. Streaming music through applications like Spotify and iCloud, potentially, could really take us into a period where we finally have access to history’s entire library of music for a monthly fee – something we accept for TV access already.
That’s still a big leap for me – I still love my CD’s, but it is the start of a trend that will without doubt slowly envelop even me.