Music In A Digital Age

"The music industry has always been adapting to changes in technology but the advent of the social media age can only be described as a disruptive revolution."

Social media have led to a complete revolution within the music industry. It is almost unrecognizable from the business model followed for generations. An artist or band makes the art, it’s marketed and sold to the audience through a label which makes money for both the artist(s) and the business. With the emergence of web 2.0 however its adapted. Consumers listen and receive music online, artists have more power and can directly interact with audiences and the data we provide allow in depth and widespread marketing. It has allowed a conversation, a place to congregate and share as well as move away from the traditional business model.

Physical sales are no longer the main way in which artists make their income. Online streaming has taken over, especially in the past 6 years. Sites such as Spotify, Soundcloud or Deezer provide listeners with a larger library of music than ever before. Spotify has over 100 million active users and over 50 million paying subscribers, in 60 countries (Spotify Press). Streaming is fast becoming our main source of music with giants iTunes releasing Apple music in competition to this in 2015. One of the benefits of this revolution has been interaction. Artists have direct engagement with their audience across platforms. Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook allow interaction on a whole new level. Using these tools, artists can reach all corners of the globe. The biggest artists in the world have social media to credit to their wide success.

It is clear that in terms of the traditional music business model social media are fantastic tools. Perhaps the most interesting development though comes with artists remaining independent. Crowdfunding has led to a new way for artists to share their music. Artists don’t need a label behind them. Using sites such as Kickstarter, they are having their audiences fund projects. In return for perks audiences have a say in the future of these artists. Julia Nunes provides a perfect example of this. She has ran three crowdfunding campaigns using the site and each time surpassed her goal. Most recently this year she raised just over $71,000 of her $30,000 goal with the help of almost 2,500 backers. In 2015 for her release, “Some Feelings” she raised $40,000 in three days. The perks are varied depending on the amount donated but all give a level of direct interaction to an audience that appreciates the artists work. It is clearly an incredibly powerful tool and is erasing the idea that a major label has to be involved for music to reach an audience.

Ultimately however, this is an industry. There has been a lot of criticism around the use of social media and the reach if you are new artist. Email is still credited as being a major player in helping musicians. A study by ExactTarget states that 77% of consumers prefer to receive permission-based marketing in their inboxes over other advertising. Paying for social media reach is an option but email remains an effective tool. Social media presence is crucial but it may not be beneficial in the early stages. This level of interaction has also been described as a “double edged sword” for artists. Being able to speak their mind completely and have a conversation with fans has lead to controversy for many. The music industry has always been adapting to changes in technology but the advent of the social media age can only be described as a disruptive revolution.

Student Writer: Sarah Henderson is a University of Vermont student.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Rob Williams; University of Vermont; Media/Communications.


Evans, Zachary.

Gallagher, Darren.

Harrison, Lauren.

Hurst, Samantha.

Julia Nunes Kickstarter 2017.



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