The music industry is one of the most exciting markets out there as it’s constantly changing and adapting with each new technology. Artists have always embraced new methods for connecting with their audience, but smartphones have had an especially large impact on modernising the way that songs are marketed, released, and streamed.
The proliferation of apps like Spotify, which lets users discover music from all over the world without needing to care about physical media or CD’s, has made most sales of physical goods obsolete in this day and age. As traditional album releases continue to trend downwards in favour of singles-focused digital releases, streaming has become a bigger part of the market as well. The adoption of digital services have also caused record labels to seek out ways of monetizing free streams or streams on subscription based services as opposed to traditional revenue sources such as radio airplay.
The music industry is just one of many industries that have been revolutionised by smartphones. The new ways to access both music and the internet through smartphones has led to not just different listening experiences, but also new levels of creativity — from DIY musicians in their bedrooms, to remix competitions that have blown up social media.
How Smartphones are Transforming the Music Industry
If you love music and technology, it’s hard to imagine how much the world has changed for musicians since smartphones became mainstream. Prior to smartphones, musicians had to be signed by a record label to get their music heard. Artists had to pay for studio time, produce the recording and pay for marketing as well. If they could not afford these costs, artists were often reliant on a record label to finance their work.
The music industry was also much more vertically integrated. Record labels controlled the release of new material and the placement of music in various media outlets – they even owned radio stations in some instances. However, technological advances have changed much of this over the past years.
Firstly, in the early days of the smartphone, there were only a few providers. In fact, if you wanted to listen to music on your phone for free, you could only do so via radio. This really changed when Apple launched iTunes and introduced a subscription model for audio streaming while having access to it from their Apple handsets. This was followed by the launch of Spotify and record labels began to realise that artists needed to have control of their own distribution strategies.
(Image indicates share of time spent listening to music on selected device worldwide as of May 2019- Statista)
Secondly, although there were limited payment methods before this time, music consumption on smartphones has radically transformed thanks to apps like Spotify. With these apps you can listen for free but if you want more freedom and control then you can pay for premium subscriptions. These apps have completely changed the music industry and the way that people listen to music. In fact, more than 60% of people who use music streaming services like Spotify, Pandora or Apple Music say that their favourite feature is the ability to download music for offline listening.
In addition to this, smartphones also enable artists to share their music directly with followers (like with Snapchat’s Discover page) and they’re also a great platform for self-promotion and live streaming (like on Instagram or Facebook). For instance one of the most popular apps was Periscope. This is an app that allows you to share live content with your followers and the platform was used to broadcast over 10,000 hours of live content. If these artists had been signed by a record label, they would have faced many hurdles in being discovered. In a recent blog post, Alex Soojung Kim wrote about the impact that smartphones have had on his career as an artist:
“I wouldn’t be performing for tens of thousands of people if it weren’t for technology… I’ve seen apps like Periscope allow independent musicians to break free from traditional promotional models and release massive music projects, completely independently. The power of this is profound, as there’s no gatekeepers to give your music a thumbs down. You can get a fanbase without the need for a record label.”
In summary, smartphones have completely changed the music industry and have enabled artists to reach their fans directly. This has created huge benefits for both listeners and artists alike.