How iTunes Shaped the Music Industry

by Dominique Williams

To some, iTunes was a great element of the digital era. And it really was. The iTunes music store was a catalyst for many new things such as phones, music players, and even cars, but what it really affected was the music artist and industry. Music was transformed from  cassettes, vinyl, and disks to a single entity that you can carry anywhere and everywhere. This did, however affect the music industry. From April 2003, when iTunes music store first opened, music sales dropped from $11.8 billion to $7.1 billion in 2013 (CNN Money). Singles began to be purchased instead of full albums through iTunes. Due to this change, music label ownership has dropped, and today there are more independent artists.

Musical artists are now finding new ways to get their music to their audience without a label because they are desperate for hits to make a profit. More artists now than ever are starting a new movement to work without a label and have creative freedom, but also they have to find new ways of distributing their music. Many have gone the digital route, but they also use mix tapes or EP’s (extended play single), which are like a feelers they send out before releasing an LP’s or long play album. This helps them be more in tune with the audience and  more persona,l and they can do this purely digitally so it costs them less money than if they were with a traditional big label. This also makes it so they don’t have to pay for as much for production of physical copies. Most artists only make physical copies during a tour for merchandise table purposes.

The biggest example of this I’ve seen recently is artists like Mackelemore and Ryan Lewis. People think that with the album The Heist, he just showed up on the rap scene, but that isn’t true. Macklemore released his first mixtape at 15, and he has obviously grown as an artist, but even during the growth he had to decide which route to take: traditional or the emerging indie route. He chose indie. This took 12 years, five mix tapes, many failed label meetings (which he even discusses in his lyrics on the current album) to get to the album success he has now, without a label. He used media like Twitter and Facebook to get a following and played small gigs to create buzz. This buzz led him and Ryan Lewis to 1,269,000 in album sales by January 2014. This shows that even though digital distribution and marketing  may have hurt the music industry,  it has helped artist like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis keep their creativity and make a profit. Yes, they did have to go through a bigger company for physical album distribution, but everyone has to work the system to their favor during the rise to fame.

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