How the Internet has Impacted the Music Industry

The Internet has had a huge impact on the people side of the music industry and the record side of the music industry. The way people’s experience with the music industry has been changed by the Internet is by creating means of instant connection between artist and fans. The Internet has also created more pathways for a musician’s career through creating a community online, rather than the traditional approach of working for a record label. The Internet has impacted the digital side of the music industry by creating more methods of airplay, and by changing the value of records through the development of instant downloads.
Through social media, especially Twitter, there is the possibility of instant and direct connection between an artist and their supporters. “Gone are the days of the rock star mystique. We have arrived at an age where anyone in the world can send a message to their favorite star’s pocket,” (Herstand, 2014, para. 8). Herstand states that both the way artists are viewed, and the relationship between them and their fans has changed dramatically due to the development of the internet and social media. The internet has impacted the accessibility of musicians and mainstream artists, changing them from being held on a metaphorical pedestal, and untouchable to being easily contactable. Fans can now easily thank the musicians for their music, or to tell them what they ate for breakfast. The way musicians and mainstream artists are viewed has changed through more people being able to reach them, it is no longer through a letter to their agent, but with twitter, one can essentially text message them in an instant.
The artists’ too have this ability to share with their fans, because of the internet and social media, and it is mostly expected that artists will show aspects of their personal life with the public. “It's become second nature to type in the name of the artist on our phones, to see if we can find a YouTube video, to hear what the band sounds like or a Twitter account to get the relevant updates. If we can't find anything, it gets instantly forgotten,” (Helgadóttir, 2015, para. 6). Social media is a great way to increase a profile’s search engine optimization, but this only comes with frequent, regular activity. The best thing a musician can do to grow engagement with their audience is to make mock talk show style, videos and put them on YouTube. This creates an open conversation where supporters can give considerable value, for the video maker by picking up the other side of the conversation. Law explains why adding vlogs, with conversation, rather than merely music, was received so well as an addition to his channel. “They were no longer buying music from a random guy on the street, the thought was then ‘oh, we know him, we have a relationship with him, we can interact with him’,” says Tom Law, (Cook, 2013). The use of social media can do good for both the artists and their fans by connecting them to allow for a closer relationship. This is a positive way the internet has impacted the music industry.
    Following the newly developed closeness of musicians and their fans, the internet has also changed the relationship between musicians and labels. “The internet has dramatically altered the relationship between the sound recording industry and the manufacture, distribution and consumption of music,” (Shuker, 2008, p. 137). Shuker posits that the internet has opened and closed different pathways between what a musician needs from a label and other means of gaining marketing, income, and publication. Musicians can now easily notify their twitter followers that a new album has been released and still get the same amount of sales that they would if a label had organized the promotions and advertisements. This too means that by ‘cutting out the middleman,’ more of the profit goes directly back to the musician's bank account. Again, the dissemination of their music can now remain in the musicians’ control, by uploading it to YouTube or using other music purchasing websites such as Bandcamp or iTunes. “Just imagine releasing a new single on the internet and being able to promote it on a YouTube channel with [500’000] subscribers. If you wanted that kind of power and reach 15 years ago, it definitely meant signing with a major label,” (Thorn, 2014, para. 9). Now musicians can make a living for themselves without anyone but their audience members to help. "Record labels are definitely dying out and I think we’re making a lot more money than they think we are," Brian O’Reilly adds, (Cook, 2013). This is the power of creating a community through YouTube and other social media. With the instant connection between artist and follower, it diminishes the requirement for partnership with a record label.  For indepentant musicians this is an encoraging change brought by the world wide web.
The internet has opened new career pathways, and redused others. "YouTube is a really good platform for musicians who want to have a career doing music but don’t necessarily want or need to get into the mainstream music industry," (Cook, 2013). Charlie McDonald posits, as he, Tom Law, Brian O’Reilly, and Alex Day, are examples of making this work for themselves. The expansion of the internet allows for musicians to be successful and make a good income, without ‘selling-out’ to the mainstream media. The internet has changed the definition of ‘musician,’ and made it easier to be successful as an independent artist. The creation of new career pathways and the opportunities through community with one’s online audience is a significant way that the internet has impacted the music industry, and in fact grown the music industry.
Another aspect of the music industry impacted by the internet is airplay. Methods of listening to music have branched out after the turn of the 21st century, and it is no longer only with radio and what records people have bought copies of for themselves. Online music streaming became available with the recent development of the internet, allowing people to upload and download data in the masses. It the case of listening to music on the streaming application, Spotify; “the service is responsible for literally 10-percent of all U.S. record label revenue in the first quarter of 2015” (Kennelty, 2015). Kennelty enlightens that online streaming is used by a large number of music consumers, and it has a large impact on where people find new music to listen to and often purchase.
The airplay, and world music charts have also become more accurate as a result of online music streaming. The question of who receives the most airplay within the different genres, artists, and records, are answered more honestly with the public having more influence on what is played through the ability to select and the music that they most desire, rather than record labels having all of the influence over what is played, (legally or not). “Payola emerged pretty much alongside radio. …payola was criminalized, and it’s been illegal to induce a station to play a song in exchange for money, without disclosing that money has changed hands, ever since” (Howard, 2011). Howard explains that if the station has been given money to play a song, the listeners must be told that it is paid airtime or for sponsorship. And despite payola being illegal it is still hard to believe that it goes by unpractised. It should be understood that it only takes a few stations to break the payola restrictions, to give a song recognition, leading other stations into playing it freely and without being payed, because it is supposedly so popular. This is why streaming and youtube being introduced to the collection of airplay records has made the airplay charts more honest. “YouTube data is now factored into the chart's ranking, enhancing a formula that includes Nielsen's digital download track sales and physical singles sales, as well as terrestrial radio airplay, on-demand audio streaming and online radio streaming,” (Billboard, 2013, para. 1). YouTube views on music videos also count towards making the record charts more accurate. YouTube in particular gives the listeners the most control over what music they listen to, and subsequently support in the charts as they almost always directly select the tracks they wish to listen to. The internet has impacted the music industry by creating more methods of listening to music, and by making the record charts, including the Billboard Hot 100, more accurate in showing what music is really the peoples’ choice as most popular.
The internet has not only changed  the industry for good by allowing anyone who does the work for themselves to gain support from a community of social media followers, and by creating new methods of music exposure. The industry has also made huge losses because of music piracy. Peer-to-peer sharing cuts out the musician from a sale, but because of file sharing abilities through torrent websites to emailing a copy of a track, it has unfortunately been made entirely possible. “Illegally downloading music has had a significant impact on the music industry resulting in a loss of profits and jobs, and changing how music is delivered to the masses,” (Adkins, n.d, para. 1).  Adkins says that through opting to illegally download music, digital piracy lost the industry almost half of all potential sales since 1999. There are many services that listeners may even pay a subscription for access to, but this fee does not account for all of the music they can potentially download into their own devices. These are services such as Spotify, Napster, and countless other websites, and even searching with google the name of a song and the words “free mp3 download” will usually come up with the song. But as the Recording Industry Association of America puts it, “just because advances in technology make it possible to copy music doesn’t mean it’s legal to do so,” (RIAA, n.d. para. 5).
As long as there are people going against copyright and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (D.M.C.A.), there are jobs for those who pick out copyright infringement to have the music and opportunities for legitimate download, taken down. Examples of people who have been persecuted for these copyright infringements include Jole Tenenbaum “ordered by a jury to pay damages amounting to $675,000 to be split between four major record labels, for illegally downloading and sharing 30 songs online”, (McMillan, 2013, para 1.), “Thomas-Rasset's owed damages to $54,000 from $1.5m”, (Holpuch, 2012), and 21-year-old Mark Shumaker was given a fine of a quarter million dollars and five years in prison for his offences. The music industry is not going down without a fight. Infringements of copyright, although they happen more than honest sales of music, are not getting by without serious charges or the users being told to remove the unauthorized downloads from their websites.
In conclusion, the internet has had a huge impact on the music industry, and from every angle, it has either been a significant benefit or a nearly irreversible loss. These areas that have been mentioned in this essay may only be the tip of the iceberg, and the industry is not as it was before the internet, from the relationships between artists and their supporters to the way a musician can make their living and their own success, to airplay and the accuracy of the world music charts, to the way people can now break the law, and listen to or download records.


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Howard, G. (2011, September 15). How To Get Your Song On Commercial Radio [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

Holpuch, A. (2012, October 22). Minnesota woman to pay $220,000 fine for 24 illegally downloaded songs [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Kennelty, G. (2015, May 18). Metal Injection [Blog post]. Retrieved from

McMillan, G. (2013, June 27). Appeals court approves $675k fine for student who pirated 30 songs | Digital Trends [Blog post]. Retrieved from

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Salmon [Cyber PR] (2015, July 15) Facebook for Musicians (1 of 2): Social Media House Part 3

Shuker, R. (2008). Understanding Popular Music Culture (3rd ed.). Abingdon, Oxon, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Thorn, P. (2014, May 22). Tone Tips: The Business of Music, Circa 2014 [Web log post]. Retrieved from


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