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How Mobile Has Changed The Music Industry [Video]

Mobile devices have completely changed the way we consume music. It wasn't so long ago that I would physically go to a store to browse for an album. Today, I can stream pretty much any song ever recorded on my smartphone, for free, anywhere I have access to the Internet.

This much we know: The rise of digital music has completely changed the music industry. "It's upside down," says Dan Teree, a former Vice President of Ticketmaster. "Nobody buys music anymore. That whole recorded revenue stream is being gutted and it's accelerating." The downfall of a once-prosperous music recording industry has been much publicized, but what's less often discussed is the massive opportunity to add value to the mobile music experience.

"Smartphones have created new distribution channels, and the ability to reach targeted or wider audiences," says David Tisch, Investor and Managing Director of TechStars NYC. In the last year we have seen an explosion of startups taking advantage of this opportunity, namely subscription services like Rdio and Spotify that are changing the entire notion of your music "collection."

But the opportunity is much larger than simply distributing music. In the era of Social Mobile Location, music has become a platform for a next generation of apps. Tech-darling has given users the ability to take turns DJing music in an online shared-experience environment. Though I don't use the product, I'm extremely impressed with Soundtracking, an app that merges music with mobile location, letting users pinpoint the exact place and experience they had while listening to a song and share it with their social graph. Music has the potential to become an entirely new layer in the mobile ecosystem.

I've singled out the opportunity in music because I truly believe we can, and will, do better. Consumers are just getting used to the unlimited access to music provided by the mobile web, and the industry establishment is decades behind the early tech startups. The convergence of technology and music is moving so fast that even successful innovations are getting left in the dust in a matter of a few years. Remember when you used to download music in the iTunes store? Or use Pandora? Rhapsody?

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[Images from RouteNote, Flickr user disaster_area]

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  • Gamal Hennessy

    There is a ripple effect that digital music is having on nightlife that is just as profound as the direct effect on the music industry. Digital DJ systems and cloud based jukeboxes are changing the way people interact with music when they go out. There is less of an emphasis on live music and less willingness for people to listen to new music that a DJ might play. At the same time, a new crop of performers (who are more marketing entrepreneurs than musicians) are taking advantage of the new technology from the creation of music to its distribution and promotion. Creativity isn't being stifled by digital music, but often that creativity is being put into marketing and exploiting the finished product not in actually creating good music.   

    Have fun.

  • Michael D. Austin

    So, Mr Lindzon, conspicuously absent from this FastCompany piece are ethics about how artists should get paid for their efforts. If FastCompany would prefer to have a society where artists are paid for their inspirations, instead of allowing everyone to consistently steal from them, then it must be mentioned with integrity instead of tip-toeing around it or ignoring it in the interests of exciting, capitalistic piracies. Making music or the artist's efforts a commodity with zero value kills inspiration and change, just as if your writing, or FastCompany's publication were distributed for free, without any compensation. You deserved to be paid on your efforts, right? And, of course, I use iTunes and Pandora. I've declined using services where artists aren't paid.