Digital music sales surpass physical counterparts

By Jerene-Elise Nall

While it has arguably been a long time coming, digital music sales have officially surpassed physical media music sales, according to a CNN report.

Students feel the benefits of MP3s far outweigh any costs that digitalization may have on music.

“It’s just easier to do it online,” said senior sociology major Steven Kast. “It takes up less space.”

Indeed, making instant MP3s are more agreeable to apartment and dorm living than their bulkier ancestors, the CD and the vinyl.

Besides taking up less space, making online purchases are often more cost efficient to students.

“I do find digital music to be convenient, as you can buy just one song rather than a whole album,” said Kristen Allen, graduate student in electrical engineering.

John Ugolini of Kickstand Productions said being able to buy one or two songs has its advantages for some artists and their consumers, but may have its drawbacks for others.

“[Music consumers] hear one or two songs, and they buy the single, but they don’t necessarily buy the album,” he said. “It can be more challenging for an artist to get their whole album heard.”

But taking in songs on a case-by-case basis might just be the newest incarnation of music consumerism.

“People are discovering music in different ways now because of the Internet,” Ugolini said. “Because we’re evolving, and we’re past the era of the album; the majority of people hear music completely out of context. Gone are the days of putting on a Pink Floyd album and sitting by candlelight and listening to the whole album straight through. You download one or two, and you hear the album that way. A lot of people don’t even download the whole album.”

While more and more artists have come to depend on their singles to make a name for themselves, Ugolini further points out that there are still those artists who strive to create a cohesive album.

“If you’re listening to a pop artist … that’s fine. But then there’s artists that create albums that are meant to be heard as an album,” he said. “When you start to hear a song from an album like that out of its context, I feel that you’re not hearing it as the artist meant you to hear it, and I feel like philosophically, I’m not incredibly excited about it.”

While there are certain costs involved with digitalization to non-mainstream artists who aren’t able or willing to create chart-topping singles, there are also certain benefits.

“The great plus is that now you have bands that are easily able to get their music online, onto iTunes and onto Spotify, and get their music heard without having to jump through those old hoops of needing a major label or major distribution,” Ugolini said.

One thing is certain: for both consumers and producers of today’s music, the digitalization of the industry has both its costs and its benefits, and only time will tell where it might lead today’s music consumers, artists and producers.