[OC] The rise and fall of music formats

  1. Having lived through many of these transitions, I can remember the excitement that accompanied every new medium. First the portability of the tape, then the slickness of the CD, the earth shattering freedom of the MP3, and now the convenience of streaming. Thanks for putting this together.

  2. Having had my first records published around 2008 and being a small part of the business since, the current era is a double-edged sword. While streaming generates nowhere near the revenue cd's did for small bands such as mine, recording music has also gotten a lot cheaper. From around 2014 the only instruments we've actually played in studio have been drums and vocals. All strings and keyboards were recorded at home.

  3. Sadly, my experience with streaming isn't that smooth. It's convenient, but sometimes the publisher just removes some song, and even tho you have those other 1.5k songs, you might miss that one removed. I had to get back to downloading music in the end.

  4. Besides convenience, music was EXPENSIVE before streaming. Sure you could pirate, but you risked losing quality. Your only other option was to buy albums/songs at a relatively steep price. You'd go broke buying ALL your favorite music.

  5. For me the biggest thing was being about to jump right to the beginning of a track with a CD compared to the rewinding and fast forwarding of cassette. Was a huge quality of life improvement for teenage me.

  6. You forgot to mention the absolute shityness of the 8track (of which I had a lot). Songs cut in half by an annoying track change, tapes getting eaten by tape decks, stretched tapes creating warped sound, double tracking due to head misalignment, hours spent trying to rewind/restore broken tapes. My formidable music years began in the late 60's, so I had a small collection of records, then a collection of 8tracks, then cassettes, then CD's, and now a collection of over 2500 mp3s on YouTube music. Music was an intensive expensive hobby. The amount I spent on different players (record players, Tape decks, CD players, MP3 players, etc.) portable and for at home is outrageous. Not to mention the hours I spent putting together mixed tapes.

  7. And for vinyl it was the fact you could listen to it any time anywhere there was a turntable, portable music without an orchestra was an absolute game changer

  8. I have to say, I am still baffled by the vinyl revival. It was always a bad format that we tolerated because the alternatives had bad sound quality (cassettes), were awkward and expensive (reel-to-reel), or just plain goofy (8-tracks that included long dead spaces, didn't allow song selection, and broke up songs from one tape section to another). There really is no good reason to use a format that is so delicate and has such low fidelity today, unless you just really love hearing hissing, popping, and skipping in your favorite songs.

  9. I wish I had discovered the joy that was high-bias cassettes (Denon HD8 for life) on a well-calibrated, bias-adjusted deck earlier than 1997. They really rivaled CDs. In fact I'd go so far as to say that most people still wouldn't be able to tell the difference in a blind test between a good high-bias cassette recording and a CD.

  10. CD was great, but had the downside of being an issue in your car without the right player. ESP became a household name until players became standard in cars.

  11. It's hard to imagine anything more revolutionary, cheap, or convenient than streaming. But then again, I thought that of previous formats too.

  12. wild man, there was a period of time where ring tones for cell phones was a fucken BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY.

  13. This was the real blast from the past for me. I remember browsing phones/carriers based on ringtone availability as a teenager to try and convince my parents. Only to then have texting rise up and have my phone perpetually on vibrate.

  14. I was honestly expecting more. Ringtone commercials were fucking everywhere at some point. The more annoying the more successful.

  15. Ring Tones legitimately changed the music industry with a lot of songs getting big because they made for cool ring tones. It was the Tik Tok of its day where songs would get big because people enjoyed 15 seconds of it. “This is why I’m hot” and other ring tone rap was the biggest example

  16. Those little plastic boxes that would play 5 seconds of a Brittney Spears song they gave out at McDonald's

  17. Given that 'other' is the current #2 I'm unsatisfied by the answers so far. Suspect that minidisc and blue ray are not currently outselling vinyl.

  18. Licensing for commercials, TV, and film. Charging venues like bars and restaurants for playing recorded or live music.

  19. Some other guesses:CD-ROMs. I've got one somewhere with a disc that has everything as part of an executable rather stored normally. It was a 'bonus disc', but still aggravating

  20. Must be, before they figured out a viable way (streaming services) that was cheap enough to stop people pirating.

  21. I’d say Napster and Limewire. They were way more popular than Bittorrent at the time. Napster practically upended the music industry over night. Then iTunes / iPod dropped and people could buy singles again, or entire albums for 10 bucks!! Things changed really fast.

  22. I think it was also hard for a lot of people to embrace buying digital music. I think that's why downloads never really took off. I think the game changer was streaming. It has proved very scalable and potential more profitable than even the CD format.

  23. It could also be the result of the dotcom bubble popping in 01, starting to recover and then continuing the free fall through the 08 crisis.

  24. I could imagine that since there is probably moving from the physical medium saved costs and that savings are transfered to the customer, thus lowering revenue. Couldn't that have been a good thing?

  25. I'm 31 and I never bought a cd. It was torrents and other p2p sharing until 2008 when Spotify came out.

  26. The massive cd sales in the early 90s were also driven by affluent boomers rebuying their entire vinyl collection on cd.

  27. Partially that and partially that downloads were priced below CDs. New CDs were often $15-$20, plus with downloads you could buy one song at a time. So albums were not only significantly cheaper at usually $10, but someone could buy the few songs they know from the album for $3 instead.

  28. Some can definitely be attributed to torrent downloads, yes. But in 2001, the iPod was released, and became a mainstream success in the years after. The accompanying iTunes Store was seen to be a cheaper way to listen to music (since singles were $0.99, and most albums went for $9.99 there). Even if you didn't buy an iPod, you probably had a similar MP3 player back then.

  29. Some might say it wouldn't be required if it was a still image... I don't understand this trend of making videos out of graphs. There are some cases where it makes sense, as it allows to display extra information or show different dimensions, but in this case the only extra value is the best selling album of the year. Not worth the extra 2 minutes in my opinion.

  30. Really cool. So streaming just reached peak CD revenue so just based off inflation streaming peak has a way to go. The bigger question though, is what is the next frontier/format after streaming.

  31. Not just inflation, based on global population increase compared to 20 years ago and general access to digital media around the globe (or media in general), the per capita figure probably looks different

  32. No, with streaming the total revenue reached the same value as when CD reached it peak. The streaming part is still smaller than the CD part at it's peak.

  33. One thing to remember is that CDs had the benefit of everyone having to rebuild their library after records and tapes were no longer listenable on new equipment.

  34. Whatever the more efficient data carrier is. It probably won't be physical media, but in the future we might make a distinction of 'streaming to phone', 'streaming directly to headphones' etc.

  35. Streaming and downloading just improve. Apple was the first streaming service to allow customers to listen to music in lossless format(this happened recently.) Next step is to allow people to buy and download lossless files. As of right now, people like myself, buy CDs because that’s the only way to get a lossless copy of a song.

  36. I blame the fact that you couldn't get much for single in the CD format. You were stuck spending ~15-20 bucks(depending on your currency) for a new album just for one song. I feel like there were a lot of clunker albums I bought in the 90s just so that I could get that one song, then you never listened to the rest of the album except maybe once. You don't run into that with streaming, which is nice.

  37. I can't be the only idiot who saw that title and watched the video thinking stuff like .mp3 and .flac will pop up.

  38. Vinyl is actually coming back in a huge way. Right now new records have huge waiting lines for production and they are building NEW Vinyl factories to handle current demand and future growth.

  39. Even as CDs took over the mainstream, vinyl never truly went away; it was the preferred format in a lot of genres, notably punk, hip hop, and various dance/techno sub genres like drum and bass and jungle. For punk it was mostly a “fuck CDs and the industry behind them” kind of thing, while for the other genres it was because the DJ culture behind them still relied on equipment that used vinyl to play the music (and sort of gave CDs and cassettes a pass since they were less hard to mix and play for club purposes).

  40. I can't imagine anything more convenient than grabbing your device and playing whatever the hell you want from almost any band in the world. It could possibly fragment like streaming movies/tv but I would suggest that would push people back to piracy.

  41. In like 2007 I thought the final format would be distributing on SD cards, I thought of them as "pure data". Streaming came along and... yeah that's way more of pure data.

  42. I'm not a futurist but I doubt it. At peak cd, no one was predicting streaming. In all things, we have a tendency to think the present will carry on forever while at the same time past changes appear blindingly obvious with hindsight

  43. The next thing is AI-generated music, like DALL-E or Stable Diffusion but for sound. Why wait for a band to release a new single when you can generate an entire playlist of songs that perfectly match their sound/style (or a mashup of any combination you want) in a matter of seconds?

  44. I predict AI-based realtime remixing and recomposition. Making songs longer, shorter, heavier, instrumental, more danceable, suitable for workout listening, etc. Want an EDM version of Comfortably Numb? You got it.

  45. Yeah, but the industry spent 12 years fighting streaming and digital distribution in order to keep their archaic business model. They very easily could have embraced it early and not had that 12 year substantial dip.

  46. I created this to show the process of creative destruction in the music format industry. Music formats also show the shift from analogue to digital. They even demonstrate the move from physical to intangible.This data visualisation was inspired by a piece in Visual Capitalist produced about 4 years ago:

  47. Vinyls comeback is 100% not “people still prefer physical”. It’s akin to a collectors item, a way to feel and show your support for an artist. Nothing wrong with that.

  48. I thought the way this was created was great! Adding in the symbols over the data was a great touch, and that super long pause at the end was perfect, so many just abruptly end and if you want to see the final state you have to pause. Bravo!

  49. A lot of submissions on this sub are not particularly beautiful or informative, but this one I like a lot. Good work OP!

  50. They should really make a note for that. I mean it's more than vinyl and downloads. I'm thinking maybe things like the revival of cassettes, DVDs, royalties, licensing for things like peloton, etc.

  51. I’m also surprised cassettes were so short lived, seems like they got popular then got taken over by CDs within a few years. I somehow remember cassettes being the dominant media for a long time growing up.

  52. Vinyl is a collectors item now, has a high degree of fidelity, and has a ritual associated with it's use. For people into physical media and enjoy listening to music as its own activity, it makes sense.

  53. I didn't realize it took that long for streaming to take over i thought it would've started in like 2008-10 with youtube and spotify

  54. I listened to music on YT exclusively since about 2010 but we had data caps on internet back then and it was a little slow, just more reliable to download it from YT with a third party tool. MP3 players and iPods were still a thing up until 2013 or so

  55. I’ve had the chorus of “Call It What You Want” by Foster the People set as my ringtone for almost 10 years now.

  56. I do think the whole legend should have remained present the whole time, it's kinda hard to read unless you're only looking at the rightmost data

  57. Really? That's surprising, that was all the rage back when I was in late high school lol. People paying a dollar or less for little snippets of songs and stuff

  58. Ringtones were HUGE when I got my Motorola Razr in middle school. Every kid in school that had a phone was downloading tons of ringtones for like $1.99 and pissing their parents off when the monthly bill came.

  59. As shown on the graph, it was a pretty short period - I would characterize it as the "flip phone" era when cell phones were widespread. But it was a serious phenomenon.

  60. That huge gulf in revenues was a real thing and I think people sometimes forget that an industry is not made up of its profits alone — when your entire industry’s revenue drops by 50%, that will be felt by not just the “greedy bigwigs” but also by regular people with regular jobs in that industry.

  61. Dude, do you see the huge dip of the 2000s? :D I’m sure billions were lost there. We didn’t pay for music, games and movies for like a decade.

  62. People act like copying didn't happen before Napster. I used to borrow a CD from a friend and initially tape a copy and then later on I could rip it to my computer. Obviously Napster made things more widespread but people have been copying music for decades.

  63. Obviously piracy didn’t destroy much, but look at that drop in CD sales from 1999 to 2004, before streaming & downloads arrive on the chart.

  64. I think it's just the severe amount if people that in no way worked on the music taking cuts that is destroying everything.

  65. So streaming makes the entire industry double/triple their profits and yet Spotify can't pay artists jack shit.

  66. Haha, the valley of piracy where they made downloads crap (drm) and also didn't get their shit together for streaming (had to be forced by spotify as a 3rd party monopoly instead of building a label owned common streaming platform).

  67. The industry collapse was due to record labels refusing to adapt from 1997 to 2007 when the public went away from physical media. The public got used to unauthorised downloading and took a while to be weaned onto streaming.

  68. Cool! Can you adjust for inflation? Would be interesting to see how music revenue today compares with other dates.

  69. Afaik that's a lie and artists never got paid huge amounts by their labels. It's worse now with streaming, but it was never good. That artists lose a lot of money because of pirating was an over exaggeration by the music labels to guilt people into buying again (obviously they lost money too due to pirating, but it was mostly pushed by labels because they didn't make as much money as before). Artists always made most of their money from tours and merchandise and the music labels always squeezed their artists out of their money from record sales.

  70. They got pennies on cds sold. It was like the book industry where half goes to the retailer and the rest to the publisher. They would be happy getting 5% on a cd sale.

  71. There’s like one pixel in there for me and my minidisc player. That thing rocked for the brief time until mp3 players had decent storage space.

  72. I really like how Vinyls held up for so long and even breaking into the billions after all these years. It really has a special place in the music world.

  73. That first CD dip was when all the grunge and alternative acts that got signed a few years earlier were contractually obligated to pump out a second and third album which in turn produced very few hits. The second dip was when the Nu Metal and Hip Hop artists had to do the same but the labels also started raising prices and doing $29 special editions. The industry likes to blame piracy for the crash but they also pushed people to it by pumping out expensive garbage.

  74. What‘s the benefit of making this animated? Also why do you remove parts of the legend during animation? Just leave the last frame with complete legend - delivers same story in a fraction of the time..

  75. Agreed. Hated how the legend kept changing and worst of all, keys disappeared from it. Also took me forever to figure out what the Y axis was

  76. Streaming is the future.. it stops production of physical media.. I never have missed any of my CDs or books or tapes or any of my physical media at all.. I still have it all but it's in thebloft.. now I stream and have an ebook... 2 devices and no space taken up.

  77. It's an interesting graph. Although, despite knowing it's not the goal or the scope of what the graph wants to capture, I'd also be interested in how it would look if it took inflation into account as well.

  78. Why can't any of the big streaming platforms figure out how to make a good UI for library organization?

  79. Fucking ringtones. Spend $2.99 for a 15 second song clip, and get a random verse instead of the chorus that you wanted. No way to preview the clip, so sometimes you'd have to drop 10 bucks to get that 15 seconds ringtone the way you wanted. And hopefully the sound quality would be close to decent.

  80. For 5 beautiful years there from about 2010-2015 we could listen to as much music as we wanted to for free. Now they've found a way to make the same money as before piracy.

  81. While I appreciate this, I think the rolling bar graph would be a much better experience for the viewer. Something like this:

  82. This is illegible to me, and I'm really curious - what's that bright pink option in the beginning that disappears entirely by the mid 80s?

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