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Weathering the Storm: the Music Industry's Triumph over Technology

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Weathering the Storm: The Music Industry's Triumph Over Technology

The late 20th century brought many new technological advances to the American people. Technological advancement is an ever-present field; it never stops and is not confined to laboratories or development centers. Every time someone realizes a flaw in a product and reviews sensible ways to fix it, they too are partaking in the expansion of technology. These technological advances have been beneficial and sometimes harmful--not only have they affected the American people as individuals, but have also affected American industries and institutions. The effect of technological advance on the music industry is an prime example of development that can be both beneficial and counterproductive. Because we are still going through the process of innovation in the music industry, it is too early to tell exactly what the results will be. However drastic the results are, the subsequent technological progressions have the power to create new, unimaginable markets of revenue for an already thriving music market; although at this point in time it may appear that the giant music industry may be slain, it will ultimately grow stronger as a result of technological breakthroughs.

There have been obvious advancements that have lead to benefits in the music industry. The less than subtle transitions from record to 8-track to cassette tape to compact disc (CD) each marked a milestone in personal listening. Every new product allowed for a clearer sound, more efficient storage, and overall more efficient and enjoyable listening experience. In addition, compact discs were relatively cheap to produce without the financial backing of a record company; therefore, there was a rise in musicians entering into the music industry independently. Consequently, there was a rise in overall revenue in the music industry. The arrival of Music Television (MTV) allowed for syndication of music videos, something unheard of in the music industry until MTV, to be the main form of marketing. During the early stages of technological advancement the music industry utilized new products as beneficial tools to promote artists, increase the circulation and personal listening of music, and overall increase total revenue.

This strictly beneficial relationship with technology all changed with the creation of the personal computer. In the early stages of the internet computers could not share files easily due to low connection speed. As computers became more complex and connection speed became quicker, a new era of personal listening was born. Peer to peer (P2P) file sharing allows people to easily transfer popular music from a personal computer to literally millions of other computers. Personal listening is no longer confined to waiting for a song to be played on the radio or purchasing a CD. Through a personal computer and a file sharing program, notable ones being Napster, Kazaa, Bearshare, and Gorkster, a person could quickly download and listen to any song they please. Most importantly, it is cheap. At the peak these programs became the preferred method of acquiring music for many people. Within the first few months top labels suffered reduced sales as a result of the downloading, and after a year sales dropped so low they decided to take action.

The era of worry free P2P sharing is over now. Napster, the first and leading P2P software system, was sued for copyright infringement and illegal piracy. This case was taken to the Supreme Court--ultimately the Supreme Court stated that P2P sharing was illegal and infringed upon the intellectual copyrights of musicians. Once Napster was dethroned, top labels in the music industry were quick to follow and filed suits against other downloading programs. As a result, the Electronic Copyright Advisory Committee (ECAC) was created to strictly monitor file transferring. After the Supreme Court's ruling, top labels issued over 1000 subpoenas to people who pirated music using P2P software. The most important ramification of the court ruling is fear. People who want to listen to a song generally do not want it bad enough to risk a federal trial or few-thousand-dollar fine. After the rulings P2P transfers began to decrease steadily--the majority of people have began to explore legal ways of acquiring song digitally. This



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