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Social Media And The Music Industry: How Is Online Sharing Changing The Game?

It’s no secret that digitization is proliferating into almost every corner of our lives. We can order our groceries delivered, communicate in an instant with someone halfway around the world, and yes — share a song with our Facebook friends and other social media followers whenever we want, introducing an entire audience to music they might never have experienced.

My brother is notorious for this. He manages the programs committee for our local arts council and as such, is responsible for digging through scores of YouTube artists to find acts that he can book. He’s brought singer/songwriters from Portland, California, Oregon and more to our little hometown of Wallburg, North Carolina. How has he done it? He’s found them online, then sent them a Facebook message to inquire about their tour schedule. This is a tactic he’s employed almost every single time, and to much success.

A proper conversation about social media and the music industry would be tome-length and likely too detailed for a blog post, but I’d like to talk for a second about how these platforms are changing the game — both for the artists themselves and the listeners who find them.

According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which follows and reports on worldwide trends surrounding the recording industry, streaming revenue jumped 60.4% last year. In the United States alone, it was up 16.5%, an interesting figure considering that physical sales were down 17.1%. 

What does this tell us, besides the fact that more people are hopping online to buy their music? It signifies a gradual, though significant shift, in consumer culture. Put simply, people aren’t going to big box stores, flipping through the alphabetical selection, and buying physical CDs with the same fervor they were a decade ago. Of course, this has ironically given rise to the rebirth of vinyl, with everyone from Kacey Musgraves to Fall Out Boy producing their new LPs in the throwback format. It’s now a more than $220 million industry, and doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon.

But, back to social media. With so many people hopping online to buy albums straight from their favorite artists’ website, through iTunes, or via myriad other digital means, the music is imported directly onto their smart device. That means that gone are the days when you’d have to go to the store and buy a CD, come home, pop that bad boy into your CPU and download it to your hard drive. 

The result? We literally carry our music in our pockets now, and that makes it infinitely easier to share it with someone we think would like it. Just last night, I sent Macklemore’s new song “Good Old Days” to my best friend a few cities away who was having a hard time with being in the stage of motherhood that she’s in. “Listen to this,” I told her as I sent the link via Facebook. “These will be your good old days soon.”

I don’t know exactly what the future of the industry looks like, though if the popularity of social media is any indicator, it’s a healthy one. Expert predictions reveal that by 2020, there will be almost half a billion more users on the various networking channels than there are today. For artists who want to gain exposure, build a following, and have their message heard, this comes as encouraging news. Even the most underground cover band isn’t limited to a following of one person who happens to come across their music at a garage sale. Instead, that one person can take those songs and give their friends and followers a listen, and the cycle continues.

At its core, music is meant to unite. It’s made to strike that chord (pun intended) in us that someone else knows what we’re going through and can express those feelings artistically. Isn’t that the intent of social media as well — to connect and find a community? If it is, then the two go hand-in-hand, and here’s to hoping someone sends me my new favorite song today.

Social Media And The Music Industry: How Is Online Sharing Changing The Game?

Reader Comments (1)

compliments for article is very nice

March 11 | Registered Commenterdjlamberto

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