Music is an integral part of most people’s lives. The “music gene” can be traced back to thousands of years ago with biological roots pointing towards cultural events such as tribal dances across the world that led to the inception of singing, chanting or drumming.
There has been a world of a transformation from that era to the age when the phonograph was invented. Record stores came into being followed by vinyls and cassettes being introduced, and later compact discs gaining popularity. We shall skip delving into these areas and jump to the digital era of MP3s, internet radio, and ultimately music streaming.
If you listen to music on-the-go with popular apps such as Spotify or SoundCloud then you might have wondered about the evolution of music streaming.
We have put together a series of events which are believed to have led to the rise of music streaming.
So, how did it all start?
The story of music streaming unfolds with the inception of Internet Underground Music Archive (IUMA).
Launch of IUMA – 1993. IUMA was started in 1993 which provided a venue for unsigned artists (independent artists) to share their music and communicate with their audience. The purpose was to let them distribute their music via unconventional channels rather than distributing through a record company. IUMA.
IUMA was started in 1993 which provided a venue for unsigned artists (independent artists) to share their music and communicate with their audience. The purpose was to let them distribute their music via unconventional channels rather than distributing through a record company. IUMA.
Artists could register with a free URL and a web page to present music over the internet in streamable, downloadable, and internet radio format. It offered an easy-to-use web page for band members and enabled them to upload and distribute music with zero bandwidth fees.
It also allowed artists to communicate with their fans. In 1998, IUMA was sold to Emusic. Emusic changed the look and feel of the website and also offered three different formats including internet radio, live streaming feed or a download option where fans could download songs directly to their computer.
2) MP3 came into existence – 1993
The MP3 format came into existence the same year IUMA was established. It was a breakthrough in audio technology achieved by Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG). MP3 enabled compressing sound sequence into small file sizes for digital storage and transmission. Although this isn’t the only file format currently available, various forms of digital music transfer and consumption followed suit after its inception. There were various sites offering the ability to download music in MP3 format including Napster.
3) Napster was founded – late 1990s
Coming to the late 90s, Napster came into existence at the opportune time when digital music had become a big thing and people used to play digital music using a CD player. Most people connected to the internet using dial-up connection.
With Napster, you could essentially have an audio file which was way smaller than that of a CD, download it over a modem, and play it back on a computer. So a lot of people started copying music from CDs and sharing copyrighted music on peer-to-peer services such as Napster.
Even though the sound quality wasn’t always the best, MP3 file downloads in this manner become a rage due to the ease at which latest chartbusters could be shared. So, in a way Napster kind of pioneered the internet-downloaded MP3s which went on to become the future of music distribution.
4) The launch of iPod – 2001
iPod was born on 23rd October 2001. iPod was a Mac-only product when it was launched, which meant it was compatible with either Mac OS 9 or Mac OSX 10.1.
Due to its small size and ease of usage, it stood out from competition which resulted in higher sales. At the time of its launch, music could be added to an iPod from CDs and other online sources.
The initial success of the iPod and a line of Apple’s successive products fueled the explosive growth of this humongous company.
5) Last.fm introduction – 2002
Last Fm was founded in the United Kingdom in Jan 2002. It contains several social features and can recommend artists based on users’ favorites.
It used a music recommendation algorithm called “Audioscrobbler” which takes each user’s details and builds a detailed profile for them according to their musical taste. So it takes details of frequently played tracks either from Internet radio stations or the user’s computer or other portable music devices.
Once this information is obtained, it is added to Last.fm’s database either via the music player or via a plugin installed on the music player on the user’s device.
This data is then rendered on the user’s profile page in addition to a compiled list of reference pages for individual artists.
6) iTunes Store launch – 2003
Apple unveiled the iTunes Store in April 2003 when the realization dawned that music could otherwise be easily transferred from online sources and CD’s to iPods. So, the aim of introducing iTunes Store was to provide listeners with a legitimate source of accessing music by purchasing individual songs for as low as 99 cents per song without any subscription fees.
This became hugely popular since it not only enabled burning songs onto unlimited number of CDs for personal use, but also allowed listening to songs on an unlimited number of iPods. Users could also play songs on various Mac computers, and use songs in any application on the Mac, including iPhoto, iMovie, and iDVD.
7) Pandora Internet Radio launched – 2005
Pandora Internet Radio or Pandora Radio came into existence in September 2005 with the aim of having a separate, individualized radio station for each user to be able to access just “good” music without the “junk” that other users prefer.
So it was a first of its sorts in offering personalized music streaming experience. After its initial vision of producing customized radio stations, it repositioned itself as an online streaming website to offer free content/music to users albeit with advertisements.
So listeners could tune into preset genre stations or other users’ preferred stations or they could create their own.
8) SoundCloud launched – 2007
Just like Flickr was a service for images and YouTube for videos, there was nothing of that sort for audio or sounds in the mid-2000s. SoundCloud was founded in the later half of 2007 when the need for a platform for sound sharing among artists was identified.
It started as a project that let different artists around the world collaborate which was not possible before SoundCloud. So it has gained credibility based on the fact that it is a sound sharing portal for users all across the globe.
9) Bandcamp formed – 2007
Bandcamp offered an online music store which was launched in 2008 as well as a platform for promoting independent artists.
Its core feature is a customizable microsite where artists can upload music, and either share them for free or offer an option to purchase the track or album at their preferred price.
- Bandcamp had some interesting features such as:
- Free music download
- Option to donate to artists.
- Free track or album upon joining the artist’s email list.
- Purchase music and send it as a gift.
- A library of lyrics.
- Add to wish list.
10) Spotify introduced – 2008
Spotify was launched in October 2008 as a freemium service that offers music streaming with digital rights management (DRM) protected content from record labels and media companies.
Freemium refers to basic features that are free with advertisements, and premium features that are available upon paid subscriptions, which would also include improved streaming quality and offline music downloads. Spotify lets users create, edit, and share playlists; share tracks on social media and make playlists with other users. It provides access to more than 30 million songs.
Spotify is available in various parts of the world including Europe, Americas, Australia, and parts of Asia.
11) Entry of Apple Music – 2015
Apple Music was launched in June 2015 with the intention of becoming a “cultural platform” and a “one-stop shop for pop culture”. Users can select music to stream to their preferred device. They also have the option to listen to existing, curated playlists and access the entire iTunes library.
Beats 1 is its internet radio station that is broadcasted in over 100 countries, 24 hours a day. Apple Music offers paid-only service for new subscribers after the initial 3 months free trial period, which is one of the factors that sets it apart from other music streaming services.
With cloud based hybrid OTT platforms like Muvi, it’s easier than ever for content owners to launch an audio streaming service instantly. So the music industry can expect more audio streaming websites going forward.