The Evolution of Music Technology

A look back at how music and technology have become linked.

By Brian Malina on May 2, 2013

Music and technology are inextricably linked. From the time phonograph records became available to the public in 1930, to the vinyl LP (long play) record’s debut in 1948, to the introduction of CDs (compact discs) in the mid-1980s, technology has allowed music fans to experience their favorite songs and artists with greater clarity.

That link between music and technology took a huge leap forward with the introduction of MP3s and eventually the first MP3 player in 1998, which brought music into the digital age. These portable MP3 players, and later, smartphones, allowed users to buy and store thousands of songs on one device.

Today, the majority of music purchases are made online. Digital downloads surpassed physical sales for the first time in 2011, claiming 50.3 percent of all music purchases. Streaming services like Pandora and Spotify give users access to millions of songs over the Internet from home or on the go with 4G LTE technology.

Today, social media technology has allowed musicians to reach more listeners with their music and videos to build broader fan bases, while democratizing music and allowing people from all corners of the world to develop, mix and share their creations.

Platforms like SoundCloud, which also has a smartphone and tablet app, allow anyone to record and post original music to a social community, their personal websites and social media accounts. Musicians can now stream live performances around the world with Google+ Hangouts on Air and post acts to YouTube with the hopes of being discovered like musical-duo Karmin, whose success on YouTube lead to a record deal in 2011.

Music would not be what it is today if not for technological innovations throughout history.