Assess the impact of new technologies on the music industry – Discuss the significance and implications of the developments
During the last ten years the development of new technologies has impacted dramatically on the music industry both negatively and positively causing dips in sales figures, which equals loss of profits, but also more freedom for audiences in the way they organise/listen to their music creating obstacles and opportunities for the BPI (British Phonographic industry) and the RIAA (Record Industry Association of America).
These developments include, digital signalling for television and radio, the Internet and new types of audio players and recorders.
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Although the last ten years has seen most of the rapid impact of new technologies on the music industry it has been happening since the 1970’s when cassette tapes were invented to replace records and it was said that people will no longer buy records as they can record songs from the radio for free but it was also said that this encourages active audience intake of music as people can record from records and customize their own albums.
The development of digital television has impacted positively on the music industry. Sky digital, NTL digital and Telewest digital television offer twenty-three music channels. These music channels help promote artists, people have the chance to watch artists videos and familiarise themselves with artists. They also promote artists singles, as people are able to watch the video for music singles before they come out in the stores, therefore people are aware of songs and are more likely to buy them. This means that more money is going into the music industry.
It can be said that with music television channels audiences are fragmented because many channels adopt specialist styles to appeal to specific audiences, for example, MTV Base appeals to audiences who prefer urban music, Karrang appeals to audiences who prefer rock music and Smash Hits appeals to people who enjoy pop music. Although it is contradictory as it can be said that the range of music channels available are homogenised, as there are more pop channels aimed at older children to younger teens, than any other type. For example, out of the twenty-three channels available ten are dedicated to pop music.
Along with the development of digital television has come digital radio. Digital radio offers many more stations than analogue radio and has no regional restrictions, for example, Capital Radio which airs in the London region on analogue radio can be listened to in Manchester on digital radio. Digital radio offers many more stations than analogue radio as it can receive radio stations from all over the country and special digital radio stations such as BBC 6 and Core hits. Both Digital and analogue radio audiences are fragmented as many stations adopt specialist styles to appeal to specific audiences so they do not alienate people and have a fixed, constant number of listeners. For example, Xfm is an alternative radio station which plays rock and indie music. It targets a specific audience and appeals only to people with that particular preference of music.
Radio airplay usually reflects the chart success of a song and nowadays songs tend to appear on playlists up to a month before their release date, this is because the more audiences hear a song the more they familiarize themselves with it and are more likey to buy the song when it is released in the shops.
The Internet is a major development of the last ten years and has had a huge impact on the music industry. Through the Internet you can receive radio stations from all over the world this encourages people to listen to a wider range of music and to buy it from the Internet, as this is the only place they may be able to buy it from, encouraging active audience intake.
The last ten years has seen a definite decrease in chart music single sales. This has caused record companies to loose money, therefore take less risks when investing in new artists, causing them to sign more artists with a sound that they know sells, ultimately causing music in the charts to become homogenised and for consumers to become bored with charts.
The Internet is a huge means of promotion for artists through band sites and advertising on music sites such as Dot Music.
Consumers also have the means to buy music from the Internet, this was seen as part of the cause of the decrease in single sales as consumers are unable to browse as freely as they can in shops and tend to only choose the music they enjoy rather than chart music. This was not the case because more younger people buy singles than older people and younger people do not have the means to buy music from the Internet, as they do not own credit cards so they go to the shops.
The main technological development to blame for the decrease in chart music single sales is MP3. MP3 is an audio file format, which is compressed to one tenth of its size, without deterioration in sound quality, in order for it to be downloaded on to PC via the Internet. WinMX and Kazza are the two biggest public MP3 file-sharing systems in which millions of users share MP3 files for free, through systems which work like search engines. People are also able to share music for free via buddy lists and Instant Messages, through ISPs such as AOL and messenger services such as MSN and Yahoo. When people have downloaded music they burn it onto CD with the use of CD Re-writers or download to MP3 players. This is illegal but because of the many millions of people currently doing this the RIAA and the BPI cannot stop it. Although in 1999 legal action was taken by the RIAA and may free music sites were shut down. This was ineffective as one was shut down, three more started up.
There are both good and bad arguments for the downloading of MP3s. The bad argument is that it deprives artists of royalties, therefore artists do not earn any money and stop making music. If record company’s loose profits they will take less risks and music will become predictable and formulaic with less choice for consumers.
The good argument is that MP3 allows people access to music at little or no cost. Why should people buy music when they can download it for free? Not all Mp3 downloading is illegal some artists record directly to MP3 format, e.g. David Bowie, Beastie Boys. Is it stealing to download something that someone is freely uploading?
The RIAA claim that soon everyone who downloads music will be searched out for prosecution. But can they really do this to millions of people?
New technologies have a significant affect on the music industry from the negative loss of profits due to MP3 downloading to the positive promotion of artists on music television. This has been happening since the 1970’s and will continue to happen as more and more new technologies are developed.