Internet Age Redefines Music Industry, Encourages Interactivity

As the legendary Bob Dylan would attest, the times are a changin' in the music industry. In fact, they've already changed. Ever since the original Napster took the Internet by storm back in 1999, physical record sales have been slipping while music consumption has been growing. The RIAA has put up a vicious fight over the years to stop what it calls rampant online piracy, while artists at large seem to be benefiting from a larger audience and more expensive live shows.

Today, a full decade since Napster's birth, things are quite a bit different. The labels have finally learned that DRM simply isn't the way to do business, and even the online megastore that is iTunes has decided to sell music with no DRM restrictions attached. But aside from the process of acquiring music, something else is changing. More and more, consumers are turning to the world wide web to get updates on music, purchase/download music and find out about new artists and tunes. Live show portals such as JamBase and PollStar have seen record growth as fans look to link up with their favorite artists and consume real-time information about new live shows, new interviews, concert reviews and new albums/songs.

In short, the Internet age is redefining the music industry at large, and while the RIAA once felt that the web would be the death of music, maybe it's just the death of the CD. As we saw just a few weeks back, some 25% of all music sales now happen through iTunes. There's no denying that consumers are embracing the digital download, giving Apple reason to create its "Cocktail" music formula that will likely bring more interactivity to the process at its California press event next month. At a Bandwidth Conference this week, Gracenote vice president of product and content management Stephen White noted that the Web 2.0 technologies available now were really there to "empower the consumer and the artist," proving that the Internet is indeed an asset to both parties.

Gracenote is just one of the outfits looking to make music more interactive. For example, the company's recently release CarStars system enables consumers to generate playlists based on the moment, giving them songs that accompany a coastal road trip or the celebration of a birthday. White asserts that he's looking to to a future where music experiences are far better than today, and more importantly, more "holistic." Then there's Creative Allies, which hopes to let artists give fans the ability to design and create things like band posters and tee-shirts, not to mention music videos and biographies. It's about putting the power into the hands of the consumer, and by doing that, labels could generate more buzz about an artist to encourage online album sales and live show attendance.

There's little double that avenues such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace have transformed the way listeners interact with artists. In many cases, Twitter allows common fans to see exactly what their favorite artists are thinking/doing on a day-to-day basis. How's that for keeping someone's attention? We also think live shows have a long ways to go in the interactive department; imagine if you could text a vote at a show for the band's encore song. If you were a fan of any kind, you'd probably be inclined to show up just to see if your song was selected.