By Babatunde Victor

The music industry has experienced dramatic shocks that will ultimately transform its structure. The transformations have been sparked by new technologies and Internet use distributing music as a digital good. The MP3 audio format and the wide distribution network that has become available via the Internet are driving changes in the recorded music market structure and, thus, are simultaneously having significant impacts on the players in the traditional recorded music value chain (Bockstedt, Kauffman and Riggins, 2005). Therefore, it is becoming apparent that the digital distribution of music is inevitable. Consumers clearly want it – just witness the huge proliferation of MP3 audio files over the internet in recent years. As it was noted in a recent article on the front page of the Washington Post, “millions of Americans are making a daily habit of an emerging Internet music technology that is threatening to upset the entire structure of the popular music business” (Czerwinski, Fromm and Hodes, n.d.).
This discourse focuses on assessing how the internet is affecting music distribution in our contemporary times.

This seminar presentation has the basic aim of examining the effect of the Internet on music distribution.
INTERNET – This is, according to the Encyclopedia Americana, referred to as an electronic conduit through which individuals, organizations, and businesses across the globe view and exchange data in the form of text, graphics, audio and video. It is the world’s largest computer network.
MUSIC – Music is the art by which a composer, through a performer as intermediary, communicates to a listener certain ideas, feelings, or states of mind.
This research work is best explained based on the assumptions of the Mediamorphosis Theory propounded by Roger Fidler in 1997.
Fidler (1997) cited in Anaeto, Onabajo and Osifeso (2008:191), defines mediamorphosis as the transformation of communication media, usually brought about by the complex interplay of perceived needs, competitive and political pressures , and social and technological innovations. The essence of mediamorphosis, as Anaeto et al notes, is the idea that the media are complex adaptive systems. In other words, the media as other systems, respond to external pressures with a spontaneous process of self-reorganization. Fidler argues that new media do not arise spontaneously and independently; rather, they emerged gradually from the metamorphosis of older media. Like McLuhan, Fidler also suggests that emerging forms of communication media propagate dominant traits from earlier forms.
To Smudits (2002) cited in Baltzis (2004:8), mediamorphosis signifies the major phases in the development of artistic creation distinguished by major changes of the media used to record, reproduce and disseminate symbolic forms.
Despite reservations this term may invoke, it may be applied to artistic communication in general, especially if we take under consideration that from the typography to photography and from the electro-magnetic to digital recording every major change of this kind is related to major changes of the art – as a social practice and a form of communication (Baltzis, 2004).

The Internet’s origin dates back to the early 1960s, when the U.S. government began considering the building of a communications system capable of withstanding large-scale disruptions, even in the event of a nuclear war. It was reasoned that the system have no central control or authority, so that were any single part of it destroyed, the rest of the system could continue functioning. Moreover, it was agreed that the system be designed so that even if large portions of it were knocked out of service, the remnants could keep working and that any damaged sections, once repaired, could be quickly returned to service. Ideas formed in response to these requirements focused primarily on packet switching (breaking an electronic data file into smaller units, or packets, and transmitting them separately over the system) and the automatic routing of data (Encyclopedia Americana).
Typically, people who access a medium are regarded as audience members, but the internet has users not audience members. At anytime – or even at the same time – a person may be both reading internet content and creating content. E-mails and chat rooms are obvious examples of online users being both audience and creators, but others exist as well. For example, multiple user domains (MUDs) enable entire alternative realities to be simultaneously constructed and engaged, and computer screens that have multiple open windows enable users to “read” one site while creating another, sometimes using the just read material with ease we can access the web, link from site to site or page to page, and even build our own sites (Baran, 2004).

The advent of the Internet has brought innovation into the distribution of music across the globe in this contemporary time. Therefore, is the birth of the Internet a blessing or a curse to music distribution? This is a pertinent question that this discourse seeks to answer.
The music industry often benefited from technological innovations such as the (digital) CD format. However, the emergence of the Internet and the availability of peer-to-peer (P2P) file transfer are supposed to have caused a decline in global music sales at the turn of the millennium. The illegal copying and distribution of music (“piracy”) through the Internet is often blamed for the recession of the music industry in recent years (Premkumar, 2003; Becker & Clement, 2006; IFIPI, 2005 cited in Jockel, Will and Nawrath, 2007).
In conjunction with the above argument, music distribution through the internet is creating a good market for pirates because of the ease of downloading music by Internet users. Hence unscrupulous persons find it easy to make a living out of piracy thereby breaching the intellectual property rights of artists or performers. Similar to this, the distribution of music via the Internet has crumbled the business fortunes of several marketers or sales executives in the music industry. This is because they are no longer serving as interface between original copyright owners and final consumers.
One major arena where the Internet would find a home is music distribution. Digital technology enables information, software, text, pictures and, importantly, music, to be copied millions of times without the loss of quality, downloaded without the knowledge of the copyright holder and transmitted around the world instantly over networks. It was clear that traditional models for music distribution were about to be overturned (Gower, n.d.).
Therefore, the distribution of music via the Internet has removed the age long barrier of accessibility to recorded music posed by promoters of musical artists. Hence digital technology enables music to be copied millions of times without the lost of quality and transmitted around the world instantly over networks, as mentioned earlier. To this end, the Internet has made it easy for musical artists to place their work online without much ado. This has to an appreciable extent reduced the burden created by the traditional models for music distribution.
In the same vein, the use of the Internet reduces the search cost for both buyers and sellers. With few mouse-clicks, a buyer can search a CD of his favorite artist from a database of millions of CDs. The buyer can also hop from one e-retailer to another to find a lower price. He can sample the music using streaming audio technology before buying the CD. And all these can be done in the comforts of home or office without the hassles of going to a physical store and standing in the checkout lines. On the other end, sellers can also easily track music tastes of each buyer and
provide customized information and better service (Parikh, 1999). This has seriously reduced transaction cost by bringing efficiencies in many aspects of music retailing.
In addition, the use of the Internet for music distribution has greatly helped in promoting artists that are not economically buoyant to seek the service(s) of promoters. The Internet also affords them the opportunity of showcasing their talents with little or no cost.
From the foregoing, it can be concluded that the use of the Internet for music distribution is more of a blessing than a curse in our contemporary time. This is because it has brought efficiencies in many aspects such as: music retailing, distribution, reproduction and promotion. However, the distribution of music through the Internet has slightly promoted piracy. This is because the Internet has greatly removed the barrier of easy accessibly to many works of art, especially music.

Anaeto, S. G.; Onabajo, O. S. and Osifeso, J. B. (2008). Models and Theories of Communications. Maryland: African Renaissance Books Incorporated.

Baltzis, A. G. (2004). The Mediamorphosis of the Artistic Communication (Reproduction, Broadcast Internet). Lecture Delivered at the International Seminar of the European research Network. London. Retrieved September 28, 2011 from

Baran, S. J. (2004). Introduction to Mass Communication: Media Literacy and Culture (3rd Edition). New York: McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.

Bockstedt, J. C.; Kauffman, R. J. and Riggins (2005). The Move to Artist-Led Online Music Distribution: Explaining Structural Changes in the Digital Music Market. Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Big Island, Hawaii.

Czerwinski, S.; Fromm, R. and Hodes, T. (n.d.). Digital Music Distribution and Audio Watermarking. Computer Science Division, University of California, Berkeley.

Encyclopedia Americana (International Edition). Vol. 15.

Gower, A. S. (n.d.). Music Distribution and the Internet: A Legal Guide for the Music Business. Retrieved September 23rd, 2011 from

Jockel, S.; Will, A. and Nawrath, U. (2007). “Consumer Preferences towards Commercial Music Downloads”. In Journal of Media Business Studies. 4(3): 1-19. Retrieved September 23rd, 2011 from

Parikh, M. (1999). The Music Industry in the Digital World: Waves of Changes. Institute for Technology and Enterprise. Retrieved September 23rd, 2011 from

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