The music industry is a relatively new invention, one which can be eternally grateful for the evolution of technology which has helped it grow, or has it?
Since the beginning of time, music has been documented as an integral part of cultural sharing and reinforcement of connection between people and the environments and situations they find themselves in.
The art and accomplishment of musical performance has always been highly praised and sought after, but due to the lack of communicative and sharing technologies, music was a difficult commodity to trade in, with only the upper class and royalty being able to afford payment to performances of operas and orchestras.
Those who could not afford this luxury were not without the benefit of music within their lives though. As soon as musical instruments became available for the general public to purchase, even the poorest of crowds could be lucky to have a rusty harmonica or a beaten up violin within the vicinity, played by curious and passionate enthusiasts who often taught themselves how to play.
Once instruments became even more accessible, musical creation was no longer a privilege reserved for the rich and powerful, but became something which the young and the poor began to dabble in to brighten up their dire circumstances. I mean, just look at how much fun they were having in the third class halls in Titanic.
These make-shift interpretations of how these instruments were meant to be played created the very different uses of the instruments resulting in sound which differed from the classically trained musicians. This diversity, in turn, became the spark that created what we know today as musical genre.
But arguably the most important inventive contribution to the evolution was that of the phonograph. Before the ability to record sound, music could only be enjoyed by seeing and hearing it being created live. This was a luxury reserved for theatres, music lounges and the basements and alleyways of any working class lucky enough to have access to musical instruments.
[Edison looking dapper with his second phonograph, not knowing how much money his invention would make in the creation of numerous industries]
As the years passed and performance became more accessible to the working class, the prestige of composers and writers of music began to be shadowed by the musical talent itself. With the availability of the audio itself within the home, the art of the immediate creation of music became more of a trading commodity than ever. Agents starting representing popular artists and booking gigs to sell records became the way the music industry flourished. Composers started collaborating and banding together to become the music production industry, a behind-the-scenes publishing network which still silently feeds its audiences what they want to hear to this day.
But that phonograph…evolved to vinyl record players, then cassette tapes, CD’s, MP3 to digital streaming. Not to mention the rise of the radio and the musical capacity it represents.
Just to give you an indication of how far we have come, in terms of recording quality and access, here is the clip of the oldest recorded music, made in 1888.
And in comparison, I present a single released just this week by Sam Smith, which features crystal clear vocals, and accompaniment from synthesized instruments in an age where lack of access or skill doesn’t stop the musician from achieving their sound goals.
The music industry has been a changing and growing one, which has brought in the rise of the musician to the status of super stardom. With the streaming capacities of the internet age, the privilege and class barriers of music enjoyment have been dismantled, allowing all individuals in range of a radio or smartphone to tune in to the universal rhythm.
But because of the freedom which the technology’s streaming access allows, the ability to freely access music, own or play it without paying for it is an increasingly easy process. Thus, the critical engagement with audience and performance of music has become a valued asset, with ticket sales for massive acts opening and selling out in a matter of minutes and with ticket and merchandise prices skyrocketing to maintain the industry.
The tastes and genres of music have been unleashed, the highbrow rules and exclusionary traditions of yesteryear are perhaps done away with, which opens the world up. A 14 year old goth can rock out to Bach on his IPod, or an 80 year old grandmother can play brand new, chart-topping tracks on vinyl (seeing as vinyl has come back into fashion, thanks to the hipsters of the world). The point is, more than ever before, music is limitless and free. All you have to do is reach out for it.
All images sourced from Google: No copyright. All videos sourced from YouTube. All Gifs sourced from Giphy.