The Digitalization of Music

by Amy Hoang

Short History of Music

1877 Edison's cylinder phonograph

1888 The first vinyl record

1962 Cassette tape invented by Phillips

1980 Phillips and Sony developed the CD

1987 First MP3 player was invented

2001 Steve Job revealed the Apple iPod

Now: Online music sites like Youtube, Spotify, Pandora

Characteristics of digitalization found in online music:

  1. Digital footprint
  2. Algorithmification
  3. Network of Positive Externalities

Digital Footprint

All music searches are saved by the music provider site, regardless of whether or not users have accounts. This information is usually used for providing more music recommendations (a form of algorithmification, to be continued later). Music that users like, share, listen to, etc. actions on these music sites are saved for the user's future reference, but is left much longer than we'd think. 


Online music sites often give suggestions of new artists and songs. Youtube has a “Recommended” list with related content to what the user is watching, Spotify has a “radio” based on music, and Pandora IS a radio already.

One way the algorithms determine the list of songs by using a general consensus of what other users (who listen to the same song) listen to. Another way is giving the music attributes (e.g. pop, rock, Kpop) and providing the user new music with the same attributes.

Network Externalities

Online music websites are positive network externalities, because the more people that use the sites, the more valuable they become. These sites earn money from ads that visitors need to watch/listen to as they listen to their own music. Also, for the algorithms to work well, having a lot of users helps provide more reliable similar music recommendations. Finally, Youtube especially  benefits from having more users because it has a community that allows users to interact through comments and PMs.


The online music industry is ever growing, but is currently ruled by several large companies, like Youtube, Spotify, and Pandora. They all use different means to share music, but the information of users' searches and liked music is kept for some time, potentially for purposes the users may not always know and approve of. Overall, these music services are used very commonly now, and gives users an easy way to access the music they love.

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Digitalization of Music

by amyhoang97


Public - 5/6/16, 1:26 PM