The evolution of music consumption

Anyone riding the metro or a packed bus will likely witness a number of individuals with headphones on their heads and their phones linked to their streaming services, which are playing their favorite songs. It used to be that music was only available during concerts and live performances, but now it can be found everywhere.

But how did we go from classical music recitals to commodified Spotify playlists, from world-renowned performers to SoundCloud rappers? There is a brief history of music consumption in the following paragraphs.

The evolution of music

Live performance

According to historians, flute-like instruments were thought to have been made by prehistoric humans for hunting rituals and rudimentary cultural gatherings. This oldest form goes back roughly 35,000 years, according to current estimates.

There, live music was an integral component of various festivals and life events, such as weddings and religious rituals, as well as funerals. In this era, the Greeks are thought to have invented octaves as well as concepts like "scale" and "diatonic," which are still used today in music composition. Much of it was built in ancient Rome, where the Greeks enjoyed seeing live events in amphitheater-like settings.

Live performance

People began to record music by hand, which is what we now refer to as "sheet music," (music written out on paper). Written instructions on how to duplicate previously played pieces of music existed before the sound itself could be recorded mechanically. This technique is said to have originated in Babylonia about 1250–1200 B.C.

The phonograph

Our tale begins with Thomas Edison. Since music fans could only hear their favorite tunes when someone else played them, the development of the phonograph in 1877 changed everything. Humans have enjoyed music since prehistoric times (some scholars say it first appeared 30,000–60,000 years ago), but the invention of the phonograph marked a significant shift in how people heard it.

Some inventors had succeeded in recording music onto physical material before Edison, but Edison's invention in 1878 was the first gadget that could record music and play it again. Stylus-created grooves on a spherical cylinder were used to record sounds; the playback stylus retrieved and played back the recordings through a diaphragm and an emblematic horn.

The phonograph

The record store

Records business Spillers claims to be "the oldest record shop in the world" in Cardiff, the United Kingdom. "Sale of phonographs, wax-cylinder recordings, and shellac-disc recordings" was the stated purpose of the company, created in 1894, when phonograph parlours were in their infancy.

Despite the store's relocation, it is still open and operational. Bernie George's Song Shop in Pennsylvania, the country's first record store, opened in 1932 and is still going strong today, with two locations.

According to some, a song's sheet music may have been the primary source of inspiration for musical recordings. As stated in Vinylmint's documented history, "the music business was dominated by song publishers and enormous vaudeville and theatrical organisations.”

Listening to a recording of the music was virtually a consolation reward for those who desired to duplicate it for their own use. However, as record technology advanced and the number of businesses that sold them increased, they became more in demand.

The record store

Broadcast radio

The first commercial American radio station, KDKA, did not begin transmitting until the year 1920, even though radio technology had been around for a long time. Five million American households were expected to own broadcast radios during the following six years.

Prior to KDKA, total record sales grew two-fold between 1914 and 1921. However, by 1929, record sales had begun to plummet as a result of broadcast radio playing 66 percent of the music. It's worth mentioning, though, that the Great Depression began in the same year as the fall in record sales.

As a result, we now have radio stations that play the music that we love, thanks to an alliance between the recording and broadcasting industries. However, the history of music distribution indicates that music licensing may be difficult, with significant consequences for both the listener and the corporations behind it.

Vinyl and cassettes

Cassette tapes came first, although vinyl records were also invented during World War II due to a lack of manufacturing resources. According to the Record Collectors Guild, shellac resources were "very restricted," and "records were made on vinyl instead... for distribution to US troops”.

There were additional alternatives for listening to music in the 1960s, including the compact tape from Philips. The eight-track cassette, introduced by Bill Lear in 1964, may have been the real game-changer when it came to portable music listening. In 1979, Sony introduced the first big portable cassette player, the Walkman, which allowed people to listen to cassettes while driving.

Vinyl and cassettes

Compact disc

An important turning point occurred in 1981, when ABBA's "The Visitors" became the first pop album to be released on CD. CDs became the dominant music consumption medium in the next decade, and comparable portable devices, such as in-car players and the Discman, emerged.

Because of its ability to allow for "direct manipulation of the medium," vinyl hasn't gone extinct and is still highly appreciated by collectors, DJs, and an entire subculture known as hipsters, who place a premium on collecting antique objects. The sound quality of vinyl has long been hailed by audiophiles as superior to that of other media, especially as record pressing technology improves.

Record store alternatives

Businesses began giving alternatives to going to a record store or even leaving the house to get music around the time of the CD regulation. In 1995, the now-defunct 1-800-Music-Now, an order-music-by-phone hotline, was one of the earliest breakthroughs in this approach.

It didn't last long, though, as activities halted two years later. "Tremble, Everyone," a 1997 article in the Economist, warned of the internet's potential to cannibalise practically every sector, including music, with the introduction of online purchasing possibilities.

Today, that's almost weird to read, probably because many of us have difficulty remembering a world without digital music purchases. It wasn't until four years later that the iPod was introduced, which may have forever changed the way people listen to music.

Record store alternatives

Pandora leads the streaming revolution

Pandora is clearly the biggest early music streaming service, despite the fact that the title of "first music streaming service" isn't an easy one to win. It pioneered the sort of music suggestion service that would go on to become one of the major trends in modern music when it was launched in 2005.

The Music Genome Project was started in 2000 with the goal of "capturing the essence of music at its most fundamental level," five years before Pandora became a reality. As the "custodian" of this project, Pandora gives values to up to 450 musical qualities for every song, with 150 values for rock and pop, 350 values for rap, 400 values for jazz, and 450 values for other genres, such as world music and classical, depending on the kind of genre.

Some of the more notable characteristics include "unique instrumentation," "mixed minor and major key tonalities, hard rock roots, subtle use of strings, cymbals, dirty organ riff, thin ambient synth textures, epic buildup and breakdown, melodic songwriting, groove-based composition, high-synthetic sonority, and just about everything else you could possibly think of.”

The future of music - Conclusion

What will happen if streaming loses its position as the most popular way to listen to music? Simply put, we clueless. No one appears to have attempted the next step in total customisation of procedural music, even if several individuals are trying it.

If you liked this post and would want to read more general information about the music industry, please visit our blog section.

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Thanks for reading,
CalypsoRoom Team

#history #market #musiclovers #streamingmusic


Written by CalypsoRoom Editorial Team
The CalypsoRoom Editorial Team is a skilled and diverse group of writers, researchers, and industry specialists who have access to Calypso's data and information in order to give you broad knowledge about the music industry as well as helpful advice to help you manage your music and dancing career.

Updated January 2023

The evolution of music consumption

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