“Music that gentlier on the spirit lies Than tired eyelids upon tired eyes”. The act of finding a recluse with your inner-self listening away to the tunes of your favourite maestro has evolved from the archaic vinyl record album to the compact disc and finally the ubiquitous iPods and mp3 players of today. Music is the opium of the listener’s state of mind, thus the same tune could possibly be felt in a million different awe-inspiring ways to represent mind’s momentary fusion of the ambience. With the advent of digital music and effervescent mode of internet distribution, the mp3 players and the iPods have given us this freedom of choice – free from the constraints of listening to what the music industry chooses to limit within the bounds of the magnetic/optico-magnetic media. It’s been a fascinating metamorphosis.
The mechanism of how people listen to music has evolved over the generations with the prevailing discoveries in the technology. In 1978, Sony introduced the portable, easy-to-carry along reliable Walkman, making it a hot-favorite trendy gadget for the younger people. CDs and CD players became a reality in 1983, with the advent of the capability of reading small discs by laser beams. Never before had the music aficionado access to such clarity and distortion-free listening experience. The rapid adoption rate of CDs caused the disappearance of LPs and vinyl single records from the industry. The introduction of iPod and similar mp3 players in November, 2001, revolutionized the archetypal distribution of digital music for the millions of music lovers. With the new audio compression technology and widespread acceptance of the world-wide-web, mp3 or wma files could be created and archived in the virtual world, without the fear of wearing out a cassette or scratching a CD. As these hi-tech gadgets have evolved over the years, you could carry along 100’s of CDs worth of music in a device slightly bigger than a deck of cards. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, CD sales fell 22.3 percent by January 2003, and internet music-downloading services such as Apple’s iTunes are expected to have 23 percent of the market by 2008. In October 2004, Apple announced that consumers had so far purchased 150 million songs from iTunes and the company sells about 4 million songs every week.
The advent of online music has been the music lover’s boon, but has caused a serious disruption of art-form in the creation of cover art and liner notes for the music industry. The popular art-form of composing an album is probably losing ground as individuals may pick and choose the songs to download and play from the internet. Another significant devious impact of online digital music has been the explosion of illegal distribution of music resulting in loss of royalties for the musicians. If we, the music lovers, can join hands to protect the interests of the artists, digital music has caused the first sprout of music in an organic life-form, freeing this wonderful work of art from the bounds of human control!