Music and Technology

Assistant Professor, Department of Music

Sikkim University, Sikkim



This review article aims to contextualize the role of technology in music while elucidating its effects on the music industry, music, and artists in the digital age (where online music streaming, online artist promotion via social media, and online music download sites have gained popularity). Since technology has had an impact on music and artists from its inception in the late 19th century to its advancement and structural changes in the traditional music industry over time, this paper examines those effects while attempting to contextualize social media’s role in music and present a scenario in which social media acts as a platform for artists. This study is significant because it explores the evolution of musical technologies, the customs and practises of the conventional music industry, and the role that artists played in the pre-digital period and its transition to the digital one. This article explores and makes the case for whether or not the essence of music in the digital age has persisted in the twenty-first century, based on an understanding of the historicity of technological advancement of music. Finally, some closing thoughts on the study done and its relevance to the digital age are included in this paper.

Keywords: Digital music, music and technology, historical advancement, online music, portable music

How to cite this paper:

Kumar, Santosh. 2024. “Music and Technology.” Sangeet Galaxy 13(1): 200-206.


Since the invention of the first sound-producing and recording equipment, the phonograph, in 1877, music and its technologies have evolved.  Phonographs were popular until the gramophone was invented with higher sound quality, which by the mid-1930s could be widely purchased at low prices, and with the introduction of portable gramophones, its use grew even more popular among the youthful and working-class people. However, the gramophone was not the sole source; in early 1920, commercial radio began broadcasting in the United States and Europe, gaining popularity on a bigger scale. Music had already begun to be widely employed by that time, as Laughey (2007) points out, with music being found in public venues such as cinemas, shops, and restaurants since the 1930s[i]. As a result, music could be found practically anywhere. In 1969, stereo systems were widely used, and practically everyone owned a record player and a vinyl record. Now, at the time, vinyl records were the primary source from which people could listen to music and songs, as well as the only type of music-playing technology. Music as a consumable product was widely distributed in the form of vinyl records, and later with the introduction of tape cassettes in the the music industry grew commercially. As the demand for cassettes and later CDs grew over time, it paved the way for new innovation, which became known as the ‘walkman’ in 1979 as the first ever portable audio player that required cassettes and later around 1982 as a new ‘audio player’ that used CD format, both first invented by Sony, a Japanese electronics company. According to Franzen (2016), Sony was able to sell 400 million Walkmans with its first ever release of portable music until the advent of new and more advanced kinds of music players such as MP3 players and Walkman apps in 2010[ii]. As a hobby or a passion, people began investing in CD and cassette collections of their favourite singers, bands, and genres. The debut of CDs to the market signalled the availability of an improved type of music technology comprised of magnetic records with multi-track recording capabilities.

With time, musical technology transitioned and evolved into more complex, user-friendly, mobile, and portable forms. The late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries saw the introduction of mobile and portable music that could be taken and carried anywhere, challenging the prior traditional formats in which music was available for consumption. For example, the debut of Napster in early 1999 enabled free music file sharing in the form of digital audio files or songs via the Internet. Similarly, the availability of multimedia formats such as visual media, social media, and the internet has contributed significantly to the demise of conventional formats, music practices, and technologies. Social media, in particular, has opened up new dimensions within the realm of music. On the one hand, it gave opportunities for emerging musicians, while on the other, it made music freely accessible through internet streaming, distribution of free music samples, free downloading and uploading of music, and music sharing. Another key breakthrough in Social Media that challenged traditional formats of music (CDs, DVDs, Vinyls, Cassettes, Walkman) was music sharing sites, music blogs and news, band sites, and interactive discussion forums on music.

As a result, in the digital era, music can be perceived as mobile, extensively consumed, and easily accessible. With the advent of social media and the internet, many apps such as Spotify, SoundCloud, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Wynk Music App, and Gaana App have made music and its consumption as simple as a tap away. No surprise, there are no restrictions on who can share and listen to music on an open-source social media platform.

Social media, which began as a computer/smartphone-based technology in the early 2000s, opened up possibilities for social networking and the (virtual) sharing of information and ideas. As more social media applications emerged in the years that followed, social media began to play a significant role in people’s lives. In the modern day, social media is utilised for quick worldwide connection and contact, but it’s also a platform for sharing art and music, promoting businesses, and making the same possible. This is primarily due to the widespread use of social media platforms. According to a survey more than two-thirds of internet users and one in three people worldwide use social media. These days, social media’s pervasive use has affected and changed practically every aspect of peoples’ lives and activities. And in this sense, the music business is hardly an exception. Since the introduction of several music-focused online services like Napster in 1999, social media has played a significant role in the domain of music and musicians/artists, and numerous advancements have occurred in this regard. Spotify, YouTube, SoulDcloud, Wynk Music, and many others are just a few examples. As a result, there are many ways in which the emergence of social media and music has affected the music industry, musicians, and artists, in addition to the music itself.


The music industry as a whole as well as musicians and artists have had plenty of room to grow thanks to social media. Social media has given musicians and artists more visibility and a larger audience, but it has also created a platform for simple access, free learning, and discovery. That being said, there are a lot of difficulties that accompany it. According to Albert (2015), in addition to the many benefits of social media use, musicians and artists also have to deal with its drawbacks, which include inappropriate comments, humiliation, and personal attacks, privacy concerns, the digital divide based on socioeconomic status, and discomfort with using technologies on a personal level[iii].

Conversely, the introduction of social media during the past ten years has had a significant impact on the music industry, as it has opened up new avenues for music creation, consumption, and publication. For example, podcasts, music blogs, internet music streaming, and digitization have made music easily accessible, requiring little to no money to download. Due to the ease of access to music, the conventional structure of the music industry began to shift. Individual musicians began to get recognition through social media, replacing the functions of record labels, artist promotion, and music distribution. According to Zoesaunderson (2017), the rise of social media has diminished the influence of record labels, giving rise to the power of the artists themselves in the current situation[iv]. In the same way, LeDoux (2017) contends that the advent of social media in the modern digital age has rendered the production house and its functions obsolete[v].

Assuming so, there is no denying that social media has supplanted more conventional music distribution methods including CDs, DVDs, cassettes, and MP3 players. Numerous studies, such as Ramprasad and Dewan’s (Social Media, Traditional Media and Music Sales, 2014), have shown that while social media makes it possible to access, download, and share music for free, it has also resulted in a decline in music sales[vi]. Naturally, on the other hand, social media has contributed to the public’s obsession with digital music downloading and streaming, which has changed the nature of music from a “product-based business” to a “service-based business” (LeDoux, 2017)[vii]. This is because the music industry’s and production companies’ historically important roles in selling music as a product have diminished. Having said that, one would wonder how the music industry, and professional musicians in particular, are making ends meet in light of the collapse of the traditional music industry and sales. In general, the music industry has not entirely collapsed; rather, in the modern digital era of social media, it has changed and flourished. To support this, musicians and artists now need to sell themselves and their music to customers who use social media, as a result of the rise of these platforms and the role that music plays in them. Although artists are now fully independent and have the responsibility to produce and promote their music, it is undeniable that the old system of “middlemen” between the artist and his or her music has not been eliminated. In the digital age, production media plays a significant role in the music industry.

Social media’s reach has contributed to the commercialization of music by offering opportunities for marketing exposure, and in the digital age, music is now accessible to businesses and endorsements. Today’s music is easily accessible to companies that may or may not have anything to do with music; still, these brands give artists good visibility and commercial value, which helps to commercialise music in the digital age where consumers are downloading free digital music. In exchange, the brands look to boost the consumerist values of their products and obtain artist endorsements. The “new normal” (Merier, 2019) in the music industry is mostly the result of the interaction that companies have with music or the partnership that brands have with artists/musicians that was developed through social media in the digital era. But even with this “new normal,” there is still a gap that frequently arises when discussing the creative potential of music about companies. Artist deals are almost always predicated on music that follows the brand’s promotional guidelines. As a result, a musician whose music deviates from a brand’s paradigm may never be given the opportunity or may face limitations[viii].

Additionally, the connection between music and social media is purely exploratory. If social media has given up-and-coming artists a platform to share their work and abilities, then it has also fueled rivalry and conflict among them since an artist cannot advance in their career or make money unless they become well-known and respected on these platforms. Similar to how social media has facilitated the widespread use of music, free streaming, simple downloads, and sharing of music, it has also made it more challenging to track down the usage of music, which could result in copyright issues related to piracy. Thus, in light of this conversation, we can make the case that social media has a significant impact on music, musicians, and the music industry as a whole. This impact offers a wealth of research opportunities and cannot be discounted despite the substantial body of work that has been done in this area.

Subsequent Impact on Traditional Music

Since ancient times, the music industry has been a significant part of culture. The conventional music industry held sway since they were the only ones in charge of producing, distributing, regulating, and commercialising newly created music. Envision a market overrun with record stores selling DVDs, CDs, cassettes, and vinyl, with customers frequenting the establishments to purchase their favoured or most recent releases. When music wasn’t digitalized, this was a reality in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, but in the twenty-first century, it’s no more than a fantasy. The entire foundation of the music industry’s traditional structure is under threat from digitization.

The printed sheet music, which was the first musical product the music industry produced in the middle of the 19th century and was widely advertised, led to several subsequent advances. According to Wikstrom (2014), the music industry had grown by 1999, given that in 1974, almost one billion recordings were sold worldwide[ix]. There was a big part played by the music industry, especially by the executives of record labels. The ability to regulate the release of recorded music and the growth of sales revenue was the music industry’s primary strength. Conversely, a record label was crucial to an artist’s ability to succeed and prosper in the music industry. As long as that was the case, the music industry also had the authority to licence music, allowing them to get payment whenever a song was played in public. More significantly, though, the conventional music industry was the only way for musicians to perform live throughout the pre-digital age. Thus, the three primary and significant sectors that comprised the music industry were: i) music recording and the distribution/sale of those albums; ii) music licencing; and iii) live concerts.

But as social media emerged in the latter half of the 20th century and its uses grew over time, the music industry’s power and profits were in threat. Social media, which got its start with Napster, elevated the experience of finding, downloading, and sharing music while serving as a platform that offered budding musicians an open-source environment. Consequently, there was a fall in the sales of analogue music formats such as CDs, DVDs, cassettes, vinyl, and others, which disrupted the music industry as a whole. Since the 1970s, the music business has seen several technological advancements that have threatened its influence and continued survival. In the 1990s, the public began to use computers and smartphones at tolerable rates, which had a significant impact on the traditional music industry’s structure and exposed people to digital records. Additionally, as social media emerged and became widely popular in the 20th century, the music industry faced an existential crisis as the era of digitization undercut the industry’s roots and digital supplanted analogue.

As a result, in the modern, digital age, record labels have become much less common. CDs and DVDs are still available, but the amount of music that is purchased in these analogue formats is very low. Numerous music establishments that were unable to handle their losses have closed their doors as a result of the rise of home studios and simple access to studio equipment in the marketplace. Even though some people still prefer their music in physical form in the twenty-first century, the availability of blank CDs, DVDs, and cassettes at lower prices gave consumers more freedom to choose their music, which was more of a challenge to the established music industries because people started purchasing blank CDs and DVDs instead of albums, instead storing their many favourite tracks on them. Conversely, social media allowed indie labels to flourish through social media channels. LeDoux (2017) notes that digital music platforms, including Spotify, Google Music, iTunes, and Pandora, generated over 50% of their revenue from online music streaming, outpacing the traditional music industry. In 2016, over 90% of music was streamed online, and over 104 million individuals paid for subscriptions to services like Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music. Thus, it would not be incorrect to say that the traditional music industry suffered greatly from the digitalization of music and that social media in the digital age undermined and altered the industry’s traditional business model[x].

The Position of Artists in the Digital Era:

The progress of technology and digitization has created opportunities for artists to innovate, be creative, and enhance their careers. The internet age has given many underappreciated musicians who battled to gain fame in the traditional music industry the opportunity to share their work via social media platforms. As a result, a lot of websites were made specifically for musicians to sell their albums. For example, “Fiverr” offers a platform for musicians to collaborate on musical projects and connect. In addition to websites, a plethora of applications were developed for usage on cell phones and personal computers. Examples of these applications include Garage Band (available on iPhone/iPad and Apple laptops), Audio Lab, n-track, studio DAW, and Studio DAW, which enabled artists and aspiring artists to record at home. Even while these apps might not seem to offer the same recording quality as a professional studio, they are nonetheless frequently utilised for primary recording purposes. Because technology is constantly evolving in the digital age, artists have received various benefits in addition to originality and independence. One of them is the prior power of the music industries placed in the hands of the artists themselves. Through social media, musicians may now maintain a connection with their followers or the wider music-consuming audience. It was not necessary for them to go through the laborious procedure of applying record labels. In addition to giving them a platform to succeed, social media gave them the ability to market their music and themselves, reach a wider audience, and make money (through sales of their music, online buzz, and brand-artist partnerships). As a result, the status of artists in the business began to gain traction. In the digital age, social media has become an important tool for musicians who want to thrive in the music business.

Meier (2019) contends, however, that while the dominant digital era altered and expanded the breadth of an artist’s work, it also brought about unequal chances for professional advancement and resource distribution[xi]. For example, an artist who produces unique and imaginative music and deserves respect but does not adhere to the industry’s and the brand’s promotional paradigm or does not have consumerist value based on populist choice is unlikely to be given a chance or be regarded as a wise investment. Additionally, the problems associated with copyright and piracy were embraced by the growing usage of music in the digital age due to simple availability. Controlling the usage of music that is not authorised becomes extremely challenging, much like unrestricted free digital music streaming. On the other side, social media, as is well known, provides a platform for artists. However, when aspiring artists are involved, they frequently have to go through the process of becoming well-known and recognised before they can start to benefit from the platform. According to Albert (2015), social media can also present several difficulties, including cyberbullying, the digital divide caused by socioeconomic status (since not everyone can afford the newest, most sophisticated technology), problems with piracy, and discomfort when using technology.

It makes sense that, despite several obstacles and benefits, the 21st-century music industry’s digitization and technological advancement system thrives at the expense of musicians’ desires to use, create, and share their music, as well as music fans’ desires to listen to and share their favourite tracks and the newest digital songs for free.


A series of technological advancements in the field of music and most importantly introduction of social media as a platform for music in the 21st Century has brought about the digital revolution in music. In the wake of this digital revolution music has been digitalized as well as the structure and function of the traditional music industry has been transformed and changed drastically from its core. Starting from the initial phase, the digital era claimed innovation, advancement as well and development in the field of music which is supposed to be easier, convenient and advanced. And although, music in the digital era has become much more convenient, advanced and easier to access through digitalization but this had its impact on music starting from declining rates in sales of analogue/physical records to the challenges imposed on the traditional music industry by the coming up of open-source platforms for music like social media which made the roles of record labels, music industry almost insignificant. Therefore, taking this background this study has attempted to highlight and analyze the impact that technology has on music by tracing how music was in the past and how it is today in the digital era.

[i] Laughey, D. (2007)  Music Media in Young People’s Everyday Lives, In Music, Sound and Multimedia: From the Live to the Virtual (pp. 172-187). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

[ii] Franzen, R. (2016) Europeana Sounds: an interface into European sound archives, Sound

Studies, 2(1), pp. 103–106.

[iii] Albert, D.J.  (2015) ‘Social Media in Music Education: Extending Learning to Where Students Live. Vol.102, No. 2, pp.31-38. Music Educators Journals. Sage Publication ltd.

[iv] Zoesaunderson. (2017) ‘Social Media Platforms and its effect on the Music Industry’. Available as:

[v] LeDoux, T.S. (2017) ‘How Social Media is Killing the Music Industry’. A Medium Corporation. Available as:

[vi] Ramprasad and Dewan. 2014. ‘Social Media, Traditional Media, and Music Sales’. Vol 38 No.1, pp.101-122. Management Information System Research Center.

[vii] LeDoux, T.S. (2017) ‘How Social Media is Killing the Music Industry’. A Medium Corporation. Available as:

[viii] Meier, L. (2019) ‘Popular Music, Streaming, and Promotional Media: Enduring and Emerging Industrial Logics’. Making Media. Chapter 24, pp.321-334. Ammsterdam University Press.

[ix] Wikstom, P. (2014) ‘The Music Industry in an Age of Digital Distribution’. Queensland University of Technology. Birsbane, Australia

[x] LeDoux, T.S. (2017) ‘How Social Media is Killing the Music Industry’. A Medium Corporation. Available as:

[xi] Meier, Lesie. (2019). ‘Popular Music, Streaming, and Promotional Media: Enduring and Emerging Industrial Logics’. Making Media. Chapter 24, pp.321-334. Ammsterdam University Press.