Vinyl records, cassettes, CDs and mp3s: next stop, the future!

Image | stuartpilbrow

Your birthday is coming and, like every year, your family asks you what you’re most excited about. Do you remember when what you asked for was the latest Bruce Springsteen, Madonna or Rolling Stones CD? It seems like a million years have passed since then, and it’s not because you’ve aged overnight: that sensation of “antiquity” is a result of the fact that the music industry has changed a lot in a very short period of time. And we’re not talking about bands, soloists and melodies, but rather the way in which today we get music, play it, and listen to it.

A few years ago buying a vinyl album or CD required some legwork. You would go to the store, look through the shelves, and spend a while choosing: comparing prices, checking out the information on the record, going up and down the aisle, etc. A time came when you could listen to songs for free, when music stores decided to let customers listen to CDs before buying them. In short, the process could take hours. Later, at home you would put the CD into your player and listen, with calm and attention, to 8, 12, or 15 songs, before reaching a final verdict: was the trip to the store worth it? Was it money well spent, or did I pay for just one good song?

The advent of the Internet shook the music industry and turned it upside down. It was no longer necessary to choose one CD or another, or to go to the store, wandering the aisles in search of the best quality. With the Internet, the possibilities became endless.

Image | bixentro

First there was the emergence of peer-to-peer (P2P) programs, through which users who did not know each other exchanged music. In 1999 Napster was the first major program that squared off against the music industry, taking advantage of a legal loophole. It was followed by others like AudioGalaxy and SoulSeek. The popularity of the mp3 format spread and users, thanks to tools like Nero Burning ROM, began to make their own CDs, featuring songs by different groups – advanced replicas of what people had done with cassettes in the 80s.

With the release of the first mp3 players CDs slid forever into obsolescence. Apple’s iPod hit the market in 2001 like a wrecking ball, with every music fan wanting to get their hands on one. From this point on the changes came fast and furious, as the market was suddenly flooded with products designed to play digital music, as products like the Discman became archaic contraptions; once the ultimate, they were now considered heavy and awkward.

To top it all off, between 2007 and 2008 the first smartphones ended up laying the foundations of what would become the future of playing music. With smartphones one could make calls, take photos, read email and, of course, download, play and listen to music. Lose your iPod? It didn´t matter anymore: your smartphone had that need covered – along with many others that you didn’t even know you had until then.

Vinyl records, cassettes, CDs and mp3s: next stop, the future!

Vinyl records, cassettes, CDs and mp3s: next stop, the future!

Image | Kai Hendry

A new twist came with streaming programs like Spotify (2006), Grooveshark (2007), and Deezer (2007), which made access to music easier than ever, as it was not necessary to save files anywhere. According to Sam Tarantino, founder and CEO of Grooveshark, “The immediacy of mobile and the availability of digital music libraries is a perfect fit. With an expected growth of 136 percent over the next five years (Transparency Market Research 2014), the market for mobile digital music listeners is going to grow quite a bit.”, Not only did users’ way of consuming music change, but the whole concept of distribution in the minds of the artists, spurring them to adapt to the new times. When your fans are just a click away, why not make the most of the situation? About the next step that users will make regarding digital music, Tarantino adds, “the radio stations our grandkids listen to will not be terrestrial, algorithmic or geo-constrained; they will be digital, social and worldwide — broadcasting live by genre experts and launching artists at a scale never before possible.”

Today it’s almost unthinkable to go to a store to buy a CD. The ritual has changed, and will continue to change with the passage of the years. Events like the Future Music Forum 2014 (FMF) are proof of this; through the exchange of points of view among leaders in the music industry, this international conference explores the sector’s technological advances in the digital age. On September 17 the first FMF hackathon will take place at Mobile World Centre to explore ideas related to the future of music.

This future exists, and it’s being built right now.

Mobile World Centre is a public/private initiative created by Mobile World Capital Barcelona (MWCB) and Telefónica to educate citizens about the world of mobile telephone technologies and the Internet. The Centre is a facility open to citizens, with a permanent exhibition and offering a lineup of activities related to current events and projects focused on the social, cultural, technological and economic transformations driven by mobile technology.

Mobile World Capital presents a global vision that effectively integrates mobile technologies into the fabric of the industries transforming our lives. Committed to expanding the mobile experience throughout Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain with strong support of the public and private sector.

Mobile World Capital is leading mobile transformation through commitments in Competence Centres, local Industry Development, and Entrepreneurship and Innovation programmes.

MWCapital offers an open platform and exhibition showroom where citizens can understand and experience how mobile is enhancing our lives: The Mobile World Centre, located in the heart of Barcelona on Plaza Catalunya.

More information: