The end of a decade: How we now listen to and interact with music

Phone headphones
The way we listen to music has changed significantly over the last 10 years. Photo: Informedmag via Flickr

Less ownership

Physical ownership of music is a rarity now. At the turn of the decade, iPods and other MP3 players were increasingly popular. Smartphones were still in their infancy and even though they could play music, the storage space had room for improvement. Nonetheless, as digital downloads increased, CD sales continued to plummet.

Statista reports that in 2010, there were just under 200 million CDs sold in the United States. However, in 2018, there were only 52 million units sold in the whole year. Despite CDs heading towards being a distant memory, vinyl has had somewhat of a comeback.

With music connoisseurs and audiophiles appreciating the features that the media type offers, sales have been seeing an upward trend this decade. Moreover, Rolling Stone predicts that vinyl records will soon outsell CDs.

Altogether, downloading had replaced the long-term trend of owning physical forms of music. Platforms such as the App Store and Google Play continued to make it easier for consumers to hear their favorite artists.

Streams of success

However, even digital ownership of music is becoming a thing of the past. This is because streaming is now the most popular form of music consumption. Apps such as Spotify, Pandora, and Tidal had seen great progress this decade for their ease to use on smart devices.

Furthermore, in 2015, Apple jumped on the music streaming bandwagon with the launch of Apple Music. This move also highlights an advancement in the hardware that we use to listen to music. As part of the move to launch Apple Music, the tech giant purchased audio electronics brand Beats Electronics for $3 billion.

Beats had helped headphones further become a fashion accessory rather than just a device to listen to music on. With superproducer Dr. Dre behind the brand, music fans flocked to buy the headphones.

Beats by Dre
Beats placed more of an importance on headphones for the general public this decade. Photo: J. H. via Flickr

With the brand making waves in the industry, other firms specializing in electronics revolutionized their approach to headphones. In the last few years, we have seen breakthroughs in wireless and noise-canceling technology.

Easier to consume

Streaming caused a major shift to the way music is produced today. Listeners are becoming more passive with their listening as there is less of an investment in the product. Before, it was an experience to wait and buy a physical form of media and listen to it intently. Now, there is no particular purchase for one track, meaning that it is more disposable.

Spotify inside office
Services such as Spotify have altered the way both producers and listeners behave when it comes to music. Photo: Johan Larsson via Flickr.

Many record labels and producers are aware of this and have been favoring the creation of easy to digest, catchy music. Furthermore, artists don’t have to go through traditional channels distribution to sell their music, which was a costly process.

Now, they can release the music directly to a streaming platform, with minimal investment. This has also had an impact on the quality of production as artists have less of a risk with their releases so they can upload something abruptly.

Industry overhaul

With individual sales of music dying, Billboard has been forced to overhaul its charting system. Therefore, it now counts 1250 streams of a song as one sale.

Furthermore, YouTube streams will soon have a greater role in contributing to sales records. Artists have also been able to already capitalize on revenue from video streams with their advertising systems.

Altogether, there have been a major shift in technology this decade, which has affected our relationship with music. In the next decade, there will undoubtedly be more revolutions, allowing us to adapt even further. VR and 3D audio technologies may play a greater role in the way we consume music in the 2020s.

What do you think about how music technology has changed in the last 10 years? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.

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