Own or stream ? Music now

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By Fenella Henderson-Zuel & Samantha Bulloch:

There is rising popularity among young people to stream their music via digital platforms such as Spotify, Pandora, and the newcomer, Apple Music. The ease of use, convenience and portability of these digital music libraries are some of the many factors contributing to their success.

Social media sites are continuing to have a strong online presence and consume much of our time. We’re in the digital age of sharing and reposting, both of which can be done so easily. Twitter and Facebook make sharing new music discoveries very simple, particularly through the use of hyperlinks. If you find something you love, all you have to do is post the link so that others can enjoy it too.

Apple Music has recently entered the crowded streaming music market, but how does it compare?  It certainly has more music tracks than its competitors, Spotify and Pandora. The newly launched streamer is currently online and available to iOS users in over 100 countries, with plans to make it available to Android and Windows later during the year.

We all have our own different relationship with music. Some listen to it, some create it and others download it. But do people still consider owning it, or have digital streaming services changed the way we obtain and consume music forever? That’s what digital streaming services would have us believe. In our current age of convenience, anything that cannot be invisibly purchased and stored on an ever-shrinking digital device is virtually obsolete. But is that really the case?

First we had vinyl records, then we had CDs. Records were supposed to destroy radio music broadcasts, while CDs in turn were expected to obliterate the larger and more cumbersome vinyls. For a while that was true, until digital music reared its precocious head.

By the early 2000s, music consumers were being offered a rather novel choice: pay $20 or more for a physical album which could deteriorate with use, or less than $2 for an individual digital song, ready to use on multiple devices. Which would you have chosen?

Experts from multiple fields predicted the same outcome. As digital music could be bought and received on a computer without leaving the house, there was surely no real competition from physical discs. And those commentators were right. Digital sales did eventually overtake physical sales. It was timing that needed adjusting. Digital music sales didn’t surpass those of physical music in Australia until late 2013. Far from being the downfall of physical music, it began to be suggested that digital music might hasten the end of commercial music sales altogether.

Between 2012 and 2013, music sales as a whole decreased by more than 11%, with digital sales surpassing digital by only 5%. However, most surprising of all was the contender almost no one had predicted – vinyl record sales in Australia during the same period went up by 77%. The hipster and indie music consumers are making their presence known once more.

Only time will really be able to tell on whether Apple Music has a firm stake in the digital music consumption industry, or whether it will have to admit defeat to the already strong contender, Spotify.

Fenella Henderson-Zuel & Samantha Bulloch

Fenella Henderson-Zuel & Samantha Bulloch

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