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Music Industry and Information Technology


For starters, the word ‘music’ can be defined as an art form involving organized sounds and silence, expressed in terms of pitch, quality, and rhythm.

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Since time immemorial, music has been used as the medium of choice by many to “calm the soul of the wounded beast’, as it were…

Melodic works are useful to many for myriads of reasons; communication, serving an aesthetic or artistic role, ceremonial and/or religious purposes, relaxation and/or meditation, inspiration, capturing particular situations (more so on the part of the musician him/herself), but in this given context, such are employed with the objective of providing daily bread, as many-a-people are actively involved in the now-thriving Music Industry, a term used to describe a wide range of music-related businesses and/or organizations, including the musicians themselves who are engaged in not only composing but also performing songs, chiefly for commercial gain. This definition is as per the International Standard Industrial Classification (ISIC) that includes sound recording and music publishing activities (J-59) (Ideas for Dozens: A brief history of the Music Industry).

Additionally, being quite diverse in nature, other sets of workers earn their livelihood via music-related activities, inclusive of record producers, talent managers, entertainment lawyers, journalists, promoters, instrument manufacturers, to name but a few.

General meaning

When applied in a broader sense, the term ‘Music Industry’ encompasses a wide array of sub-industries that conglomerate from several industrial classifications, such as Information and Communication, which deals with all matters sound-recording and music-publishing, programming, and broadcasting activities (for instance, radio stations), Arts, Recreation and entertainment, Manufacturing and Retail Sales-including that of music instruments, and also the Educational aspect of the same, including activities carried out in Music Training Schools and assorted Disc Jockey (DJ) Academies. In the same breath, the terminology also denotes an affiliation with various non-profit-motivated bodies, including Performance Rights Organizations, Musicians’ Unions, and Writers’ Copyrights Collectives.

Evolution of the Industry

The development of the music industry can be traced back to the early 1700s when the Church was at the core of facilitating the growth of the same through the provision of patronage. However, towards the end of that century, various performers began seeking commercial markets for their work, a relevant example of such being one Wolfgang Mozart, hence initiating the paradigm shift to fostering the uprise of the industry.

In the early 1900s, sheet music publishers dominated the industry, which refers to a printed or hand-written form of musical notation that utilized paper or parchment as the principal medium. The cylinder machine was in use before gradual technological advancements were made into records, gramophone, radio, stereo, audiocassettes, and finally, the Compact Disc, largely regarded as the finest available carrier of music for that point in time, evidenced by high sales during the latter part of the 1980s, hence replacing Vinyl use. The technological advancements did not stop at this. There have always existed people who due to their desire to embrace the unembraceable strive for perfection and make unbelievable innovations. Driven by the immense desire to obtain something even more convenient than a CD, to run their computer music libraries, and to listen to the music selected by them alone, people ended up inventing MP3 format.

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Situational/Customer/Industrial Analysis

Introducing innovation after innovation was what ruined the music industry. In 2006 the CD was the main product of the record industry. It accounted for more than 80% of total global sales. In 2007 the sales reduced by 19% and it became evident that there would never be any changes for the better. With the availability of MP3 music, the CD format was no longer accepted.

Industrial situation

Several changes in the music industry have been documented, not only regarding the distribution of the music itself but also the actual production process. The state of affairs towards the end of the 1990s decade was that professional recording studios record a variety of music genres catering for different audiences on Compact Disc (CD) format, including hip hop/rap, rock, jazz, and pop, as dictated by the market demand, and consequently, the afore-mentioned record labels step in to play the distributive role. Competition among the Big Four was rife, with each battling for a larger pool of musicians to be honed ‘under their belt’, proverbially speaking, not to mention the turf wars that are the order of the day.

In 1999, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), a regulatory body, was formed among these super-companies, with the major aim of representing their interests in the corridors of justice. Violation of copyright laws served as the main bone of contention, with several bodies being sued for infringement of the same, including the infamous Napster.

Production and Distribution Strategy

An elaborate policy for producing and subsequently distributing recorded music is adhered to in the industry, involving the initial creative process coordinated by a record producer. Once the finished song(s) is/are recorded on CD, record distributor companies arrange for the shipping of the CDs to department and music stores. As the sale kicks off, whether in these stores or via the Internet, the individual performers earn royalties, either for a defined period or in the case of popular recordings, perpetually. (A New Day for Music? Digital Technologies in Contemporary Music Making)

Discernible costs

This has been the operative system over the years, which is characteristically quite lengthy and tedious. Also, unprecedented increases in cases of piracy have dogged the music industry. Bootleg (fake versions) CDs were once, and in many regions, still are, on heavy rotation.

Benefits accrued

On the other hand, it fosters transparency, accountability and accords the entire process with a definitive sense of direction. Benefits derived from this blueprint include the provision of employment opportunities to the multitude of workers directly and/or indirectly involved in the entire process, inclusive of travel agents, tour managers, the record producers, musicians themselves, among others.

Also, one may argue the case for the efficiency of the system in place, seeing that a very diverse market is usually served satisfactorily, based upon the interaction of the forces of demand and supply.

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The emergence of Electronic Commerce

The face of digital distribution was altered towards the late 1990s, initially following the onset of ‘Napster’, the first peer-to-peer file-trading system, which primarily covered the college jurisdiction. The underlying concept was that a user had to avail a given portion of his/her digital music library for purposes of being available for anyone to download, and in return, the same user received ready and free access to download anything else that had been availed by anyone else. Resultantly, a quantitatively large database was created, at the disposal of every other college student. Consequently, several bands and recording labels filed suit against the company, which was eventually shut down.

However, a Pandora’s Box had been opened, and a host of related services came into the limelight, all making extensive use of the distributive architecture, for instance, the popular Bit Torrent. (Everything you need to know About the Music Business)

A key development was that unsuccessful attempts had been made to set up a centralized system, from whence monetization would be facilitated, hence coming up with a concrete business model.

Yet another landmark event in this industry was the entry of the Apple brand into the market in the year 2001.

The introduction of the iPod gadget, which was geared to play music ‘on-the-go’, as well as the iTunes software, allowed users to easily transfer digitally-recorded music from CDs, which were purchased from the various recording labels, onto their computers, from which they could either ‘burn’ onto CDs or directly transfer to their portable iPods.

A notable impact of the onset of these developments was the emphasis on single songs over an entire album, whereby maximization of individual songs was sought, as was facilitated by the random mode of playing songs on the iPod.

The year 2003 witnessed the release of the iTunes Music Store, an endeavor that sought to avail a wide array of music digitally, all retailing at a given, indiscriminate price. Deals had been struck with the major labels to provide the music catalog, and ‘Digital Rights Management’ were included with each purchased file (song), being software that was to play the role of limiting the user from making unwarranted copies of a single file, or to use the same on alien gadgets/devices, especially those manufactured by competitor firms. This informational system venture served as both a deterrent and control mechanism, seeing that it aimed to regulate. Quite notable is the fact that the artists themselves barely get monetary compensation from this venture, and it is mainly the labels that get the best deal, accountable for about 70% of the stakes (Ideas for Dozens: A brief history of the Music Industry, 2006).

Other online music distributors have also followed suit, and huge rewards are being reaped, left, right and center. Thus, it can be deduced that the onset of Information technology has served as a sort of double-edged sword, cutting both ways, since, on one hand, it facilitates the effective distribution of and access to digital music, while the other side of the coin reveals that unauthorized/illegal downloads largely undermine efforts to adequately reap benefits of this intellectual property.

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Roles of Information Technology

Information technology refers to the management and subsequent use of information via computer-oriented and/or based tools. In the music industry, digitally recorded music is stored online on computers, which saves an organization a lot of space for secondary storage.

Air, road, and railway networks are all connected by the use of information technology, for instance, in the banking industry; online purchases are facilitated through the use of credit and debit cards. At the click of a mouse, it is possible to acquire items via the internet, including intellectual property.

Originally informational technologies were used for the purposes of business and commerce and were, as a rule, applied at plats or in banks. Then some modern corporations started using communication means but only in recent years did the true potential of informational technologies found its realization in other aspects of people’s lives. The usage of informational technologies in all the spheres of everyday life, not only in the business sphere, showed that the era of revolutionary changes was getting closer. The greatest changes made by informational technologies occurred in the spheres not related to the traditional spheres of informational technologies application.

Informational technologies are of great necessity for a proper social development of each country of the world. Day after day they become a part of every person’s life, just like using water or electricity. The usage of informational technologies is a sign of the county’s level of development. Moreover, the country’s competitiveness and productivity are closely related to its use of informational technologies.

Information technology impacts multiple facets of today’s trade industries and businesses, increasingly becoming a basic factor. Informational technologies have a perceptible impact on different industries including film industry, television and radio, media, publishing industry and, one of the most tangible, music industry.

Informational technologies could not but touched the music industry resulting in significant changes and altering the former ideas of music distribution. With time more and more people start listening the music by means of digital technologies having a possibility to record the music by themselves and to alter the music tracks in a way that they consider necessary. There is no wonder that new informational technologies applied in this industry involved serious changes in music production. Spirited discussions of the affect of these technologies on further development of the industry have been led on a regular basis but never was the legislation able to restrain the development of technologies. This is why what can be observed now is a real revolution in using portable devices which are able to meet the requirements of each user.

The current status in the organization as regards information technology is that it has established a separate arm within it, tasked with the duty of harnessing electronic commerce initiatives, deciphering untapped technological business opportunities around the world, as well as coming up with a variety of ways to make full use of the internet. Staff of this arm, christened ‘eLabs’, technically support the e-business initiatives undertaken, including web-casting, interactive radio, digital downloads and subscription to the same, not forgetting the new phenomena of “pay-per-play” through digital modes of purchase.

Benefits attributable to information technology (IT) include: A sharp decline in synchronization costs, resulting to new, concentrated business structures, which go a long way in enabling the business to respond to competitive forces, through provision of effective management of interdependence; technological improvements enable the control of spatially-dispersed business units; and long-distance communication is heightened through the outlay of the technological hardware.

Closely related to informational technologies is the aspect of the internet, the globally-connective village. Information systems generally facilitate various administrative functions, such as finance, resource management and accounting. Marketing and sales also fall under this categorization. The main function of any information system is storage, processing, search, development and transfer of information.

Internet serves to provide an electronic market place, whereby buyers (music enthusiasts) and sellers (the distributing organization) may engage each other for the purpose of trade (in digital music). Additionally, there is a wealth of information that can be sought online, which in this case may involve artist background or even information pertaining to the recorded music itself. Jobseekers may also search for vacancies online, hence facilitating the building of a human pool of resources for the organization. A discussion forum can also be set up via the web, within which the technical staff may liaise with customers regarding provision of goods and/or services. Today, there even exists an opportunity of obtaining higher education via the Internet which is useful for those who are deprived of the possibility to attend classes daily. Earning money via the internet is very common these days and most of people have internet-based businesses gaining profits daily. Internet chats and special sites can help in getting medical and juridical assistance or at least find people with common problems and interests.

The use of Internet for the study process cannot be overestimated. It helps the students acquire necessary basic skills in word processing, working with different databases, gives them a possibility to study educational programs and communicate with their fellow-students sharing knowledge and experience. Internet databases help in search of any kind of information thus giving the students a possibility to study and entertain at one and the same time. Different web-sits offer a variety of educational programs for teachers as well as method-guides which can be used in class. In other words, Internet makes studying process easier and more absorbing.

Implications from the case study

There is an increasing tendency for the movers and shakers in the music industry to lean more towards embracing technological changes. All and sundry do contend that the age of bulky operations involving exchange of tangible/hard cash for music compact discs (CDs) is coming to an end, instead being replaced by the onset of digital music and electronic banking. A paradigm shift is thus in the offing, and within the next few years, the entire industry will be streamlined to enhance operations. This being the case, there is a ready demand for qualified personnel, more so in the line of managing the afore-mentioned information technology resources. Practitioners will also come in handy during the roll-out of the technological framework, and will subsequently be tasked with supervising and/or implementing the entire sale and distribution process.


Overall productivity acceleration can only be achieved through incorporating the timely innovations in the field of information technology. This area is yet to be fully exploited, and adequate steps should be taken to ensure that healthy competition among the key firms dominant in the industry is maintained, if only to encourage further deliberations into alternative ways of delivering the required goods to the end user.

Reference List

  1. Cohen, S. (1991) Popular Music and Urban regeneration: The Music Industries of Merseyside. London: UCL Press
  2. Durant, A. (1990).A New Day for Music? Digital Technologies in Contemporary Music Making. New York, Touchstone
  3. Passman D., (1997).Everything You Need to Know About the Music Business. New York; Simon and Schuster,
  4. Clarke, G.E, (2006). Ideas for Dozens: A brief history of the Music Industry. Westport: Greenwood,
  5. Cagle, V.M, “Music”, In Stanley (Ed), (1990). The Postmodern Moment: A Handbook of Contemporary Innovation in the Arts. London and New York: Routledge
  6. Cunningham, H., (1998).Digital Diversions: Youth Culture in the Age of Multimedia. London: UCL Press
  7. James, L. (1992). Popular Music and Communication: An Introduction.Newbury Park, Calif: Sage.

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