Did iTunes Re-establish the Musical Industry’s Control?
Did you remember when, I know I may be dating myself here but do you remember Napster? Do you remember peer-to-peer music sharing? If you’re a little older, you would know about these concepts because they were all the rage in the early 2000s.
The old music industry was shaking in its boots because they saw the handwriting on the wall. They saw that the Internet is basically destroying their old business model. It’s so easy to see why they were so scared and so anxious about the future because for the longest time, making money in the music industry was fairly predictable and straightforward because the record producers and labels owned the media. They owned the CD that the music is on, and people had to buy a physical product.
Well, all bets were turned off when the Internet hit the scene because with the Internet, you can just download files to your computer and burn it to a CD. Today, you don’t even need to do that. You simply load it on your USB, and you can take your USB and enjoy your music wherever you are. It has taken the industry and repositioned it.
Back in the day, the industry, by controlling the physical media the music was on, had a tremendous amount of control. They can manipulate prices. They can manipulate distribution. They can promote certain acts or others. They can do all sorts of things, and this all boils down to tremendous centralized control.
That centralized control is gone because of downloadable music. Well, in the past decade, however, iTunes has a system where people have to pay per song, and on top of that, there are now the streaming mobile apps represented by Spotify. The result of this is a reshifting of power and creative control and access from the masses or all music lovers from all over the world back to content distributors.
This is the key difference between the old music industry model and today’s model. We are looking at a technology platform like iTunes and Spotify. They’re the gatekeepers. They are the ones who give people access to content. They are the ones who charge money for that access.
Record labels, producers and other industry bigwigs are basically shoved to the side and, by and large, they have to take whatever fees these gatekeepers charge. This is a problem because the face of the enemy hasn’t really gone away. There’s still somebody who’s trying to centralize this information, but instead of record labels and other industry corporations and bigwigs that have gone the way of the dinosaur, we now have these platforms.
To paraphrase the old The Who song, say hello to the new boss exactly like the old boss. We still have a boss, and that’s the issue. That’s what people have a big cow over. The good news is that as technology has shifted power to the user base of music, we can use this technology to keep this power. By focusing on free music, we can still shift the balance of power to our favor.