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Downloads - A Milestone In The Evolution Of Recorded Music
Ever since musicians first began to record their music, there has been a demand for a means by which these recordings can be accessed by listeners.
After supplanting phonograph cylinders, vinyl records were the dominant format for several decades. By the 1970's, vinyl shared the recording market with magnetic tape, before being caught and passed by compact discs.
The rapid rise of digital technology that brought CDs to prominence has evolved further, lessening their importance in the recording industry. Because so many consumers have internet access in their homes, more and more music is downloaded from the world wide web, rather than being purchased from traditional retail outlets.
Digital music downloads offer several advantages over hard-copy forms like vinyl, tape, and discs. Online stores are always open, allowing downloads at any hour of any day. Customers can find music without leaving their homes and are not limited to the inventory of the local record shop. Listeners can preview a sample of the music before making their purchase, something not always possible in conventional music stores. It is common to download only a song or two off of an album, even if those tracks were not featured with a release as a single. Costs are lower, because both the record packaging and the retail space are eliminated.
The benefits continue when playing the downloaded music. It is simple to find and select any given track. Listeners can construct their own playlists, omitting songs from an album, changing the order, and creating their own mix of artists. And thanks to mp3 players and mobile phones with similar capabilities, a fan's music library travels quite nicely. Even music videos can be downloaded and displayed on demand, at home or on the go.
Does all of this technical brilliance and convenience indicate that today's music downloads will be the ultimate delivery system of recording companies for many, many years? The answer to that question is almost certainly, "no".
Music subscription services exist that allow customers to listen to any song from vast music libraries on demand, although they are not allowed to download the music to their own systems and they don't truly own the songs. Clearly, such a model will be a good fit for fans who value variety above all else, rather than those who wish to listen to the same songs many times over a long period of time.
It is difficult to predict what the next technological breakthrough in recorded music will be, but history strongly suggests that there will be one, and sooner rather than later.