Assignment 7: The Rise and Fall of Music Albums

With the advent of new technologies, especially the Internet, our way of life has changed dramatically. Many once state of the art innovations (ex. the VHS player, or even the DVD player) now seem obsolete or on their way towards becoming obselete due to new technological advances. This new technology has especially turned the music industry — which was arguably one of the most established industries in the world in terms of how it worked — upside down over the past 10 years.

Music consumption habits have changed considerably since the turn of the 20th century. Radio has remained relatively constant, but the way in which people buy music has especially shifted. In the mid 1990s, the dominant way someone would acquire the music he or she wants to listen to at his or her leisure would be to buy a CD from a record store. He or she would then play the CD in a car or home stereo, or in a portable CD player.

But that all changed in the year 2003, when Apple debuted its iPod with iTunes. The staggering impact the digital music market had on the sales of albums is captured on this line-plus-bar chart:

As is evident, total album sales have dropped every year save for one since iTunes was launched, hitting a historic low last year. Meanwhile, digital track sales have steadily increased every year up until last, when they took a slight dip. This could possibly be attributed to the rise in music streaming services like Pandora or competitors like Spotify where you pay a flat rate instead of per song.

The future of how Americans buy music has yet to be determined. But what seems certain is that albums are on their way out of fashion, and the digital era is king — for now.

Data Source

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