Music Downloads Are Officially Dying – Why This Is A Good Thing For DJs

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 2 mins
Last updated 16 May, 2018

Forbes reports today that interactive streaming music services – Spotify, Apple Music, Napster, Deezer, Tidal and so on — now account for the majority of recorded music industry revenue and are growing at better than 50% per year. The numbers, they report, say that the download era is likely to go down in history as “a brief glitch – a transitional phase between physical products and cloud-based music”.

Downloads had a short, unhappy existence as we switched from analogue to digital and ownership to rental. The figures show that now we’re entering a new format of streaming for the masses, CD/vinyl ownership for those “special recordings” – and downloads all-but disappearing for mainstream users.Pic: Giantsteps Media Technology Strategies

Downloads lasted for only four years as the leading source of revenue in the recorded music industry – the shortest era in the industry’s history. And while DJs are one of the last bastions of download users out there (and will continue to use them for the foreseeable future, of course), actually their death in the wider world needn’t be a bad thing overall for us. Let’s look at why…

In the Forbes piece, Bill Rosenblatt of Media Technology Strategies wrote: “[A] factor that turned people away from commercial downloads was the growing sense that when you bought them, you didn’t really ‘own’ anything. The idea of building a ‘library’ of digital files didn’t turn out to be so appealing when you couldn’t hold anything in your hands or point to shelves full of music, there wasn’t anything special about owning things that could be copied so freely, and it became a hassle to keep all those files synced across all your devices.

“Ultimately, interactive streaming services dispensed with the veneer of ownership entirely.”

• Read the original article on Forbes

Why does all this matter to DJs?

But who cares? Us DJs are likely to always want downloads for our own niche reasons, and even when iTunes closes its download store, there will always be someone to sell them to us – so why should any of this matter to us?

The main reason is that downloads were very bad indeed for the music industry. Of course Napster et al and the ensuing Wild West piracy era kicked it all off, and the numbers couldn’t be clearer. Again, a graph from Giantsteps Media Technology Strategies lays it bare:

The truth about music downloads is that they coincided with the biggest drop in profits the record industry has ever seen – and the recovery since streaming (and the modest resurgence of vinyl, and the stabilising of CD sales) is actually very good news for DJs. Pic: Giantsteps Media Technology Strategies

“At the end of the day,” says Rosenblatt, “neither the industry nor consumers have valued downloads very much. Downloads were a convenient stopgap during a time when internet access was slow, not pervasive and not continuous; and the more complex streaming technology had yet to be fully developed.”

With the music industry recovering its profits in a new era where the vast majority of consumers are happy with streaming (and when they want to actually “own” music, they buy it on vinyl or CD), there is more money around, which encourages new artists and helps the labels to develop existing ones. Result? More and better quality music for us DJs to choose from. And more opportunities for producers to get their sounds out there.

Downloads may be all-but dead, at least for the masses (they’ll always be there for niche users – DJs, producers, creators etc, of course). But the music industry is as healthy as its been in a long time – and as we can see, that is actually likely to turn out to be rather a good thing for DJs and producers.

What do you think? Will DJs end up having their own variations of streaming to save needing to download music any more? What is your feeling towards downloaded files? What is your favourite format? Let us know in the comments…

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