How the Distribution and Consumption of Music Has Changed in the Digital Age

Before the turn on the century, music record sales had reached approximately one billion sales by the end of 1974, which then tripled by the end of the 1990’s. However, with the introduction of websites that allowed free streaming of music online, most infamously Napster, a ripple effect was created that has almost rendered the tradition sale of music in a physical medium obsolete. While illegal downloading and streaming is still used to this day, various companies such as Spotify, Soundcloud and YouTube have been able to capitalise on the convenience of streaming music online and ultimately developed new methods of distributing music for up and coming artists, as well as changing the consumption habits of music in the process.

As a semi-professional musician, I’ve come to terms with the fact that if anyone wants to ensure that as many people hear your music as possible, having a strong social media presence is absolutely quintessential in this pursuit. While the days of distributing flyers, tape trading, and physically distributing music are not as obsolete as most might think, they merely scratch the surface of what is required in today’s time to grow a larger audience and fan base. For this project, I want to do an in-depth exploration into the nuances needed to navigate digital mediums when it comes to promoting, distributing and selling music to people (the consumers). Through my 8 years of experience playing in bands, I’d like to think that I have a fairly sound knowledge of what is required to make sure my bands are seen and heard by as many people as possible, however, there is still a lot I don’t understand about the inner workings of manipulating social media and using those digital mediums to your advantage.

Ultimately I want achieve these goals through my research: Compare and contrast how consumption of music has changed with the introduction of social media and other digital media platforms (e.g. Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, etc.), what level of presence is required to guarantee the most possible engagement from an audience, what types of content besides the music itself invokes the most reactions from an audience, and how distribution of music has changed/what methods of distribution artists and bands prioritise in modern times.

Being a part of a local level music community, I am at an advantage where I can receive first-hand information or primary data via distribution of my own music on social media, as well as having personal connections to other people in the local community that have been performing in bands much longer than I have which will give me the opportunity to conduct interviews about what methods they have used for distribution of their music, what worked best for them, what they prefer to do and whether or not they noticed a change in how people decide to buy and listen to their music. The interview questions are the best fit for this research because the questions I intend to as are something that people within local music communities discuss on a regular and casual basis. Furthermore, the interview questions I intend to ask do not breach any ethical boundaries that are set by the MEAA.  Along with this, I will also be furthering my research through various news media, popular media and scholarly articles on the subject of distribution and consumption of music in the modern age. As a result, the information I will be gathering will be mostly comprised of qualitative data through the conducting of interviews as well as my own further individual research.

The stakeholders and collaborators for this topic are the musicians and artists that I will be interviewing to gather my information, local distributors of music, and the fans that make up these local music communities. What I aim to achieve through this project is to assist musicians and artists at the local level to push their works further out into the public, again, for the sake of garnering the most attention and growing a wider audience, as well as discovering on whether they should purely stick to promoting their works via social media purely, or whether there is a benefit of employing a mix of “traditional” distribution and social media.

The research model that I will be utilising for this project will most likely be the Interest-Driven learning design framework. I believe this will be the most beneficial for this project because it will best motivate me to undertake this research as this topic is something that directly affects me and my fellow peers in our mutual pursuit of growing our audiences and exposing our music to as many people as we possibly can.

The way I will convey the information I gathered from my research is not yet set in stone, however I will most likely lean towards doing a series of blog posts that address different parts of the topic. For example, one blog will be dedicated to the interviews that I conducted with other musicians, providing insight and a critical analysis of what the overall findings were, while another blog post will be mainly comprised of research that I did individually other than the interviews (information from scholarly texts, popular news media, etc.)


Gamal, E.L., 2012, ‘The Evolution of the Music Industry In the Post-Internet Era’, Claremont McKenna College,, accessed 10/10/19

Eiriz V. & Leite, F.P., 2017, ‘The digital distribution of music and its impact on the business models of independent musicians’, The Service Industries Journal,, accessed 10/10/19

Edelson, D.C., 2004, ‘The interest-driven learning design framework: Motivating learning through usefulness’, ResearchGate,, accessed 10/10/13


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