Brief History of Music Consumption


How did we get from the traditional instruments to modern electronic devices? How did the way people enjoy music change with the span of time? Let’s take a quick look at the history of music consumption and explore its key milestones in this article.

When Did it Start?

In 1877, Thomas Edison was known for inventing the lightbulb, but we often forget to shine a light (pun intended) on his other creative innovations. They’re responsible for getting us where we are today.

One example is the phonograph, which happens to be the first instrument that was capable of playing back a recorded audio. From then on, music consumption started to evolve.

Vinyl records appeared after the photograph, and are known as collectors’ items to this day. They were widely recognized as the ideal way to listen to music back in the day. Eventually, we transitioned into using CDs.

After their dominance in the music industry, we entered the digital age of mp3’s.

The Radio

The radio, an indispensable invention invented in 1894, is still around today. We have come to rely on radio broadcasts to receive news, our favorite tunes, and more. They were prominent in media consumption before TVs – and they are still around today.

Who Remembers the Audio Tape?

The audiotape, a cartridge that became portable, was the next big hit on the music consumption scene. They appeared in 1866, and eventually grew small enough to fit easily into music players. These players eventually became 2-in-1 or 3-in-1 models that could work with CDs and tapes, or double as a radio as well.

The tape cartridge player was also the first rendition of a portable music player. All you needed was a miniature player, known as a walkman, and the music followed you wherever you went. 

Going Digital

The digital age spans from CDs until this very day, and will continue to evolve. The CD was a digital version of vinyl records and used lasers that bounced off the surface to create the music we love. 

CDs led to the creation of LDs, DVDs, and eventually Blu Rays, which we use today for high resolution images .

We then moved on to the mp3, which was more of an intangible source for music. It paired with computers, and music could eventually be transferred onto a physical CD for transport. The digital boom in the late 90s to early 2000s was all about integrating computers with various elements in our lives, music being one of them.

Slowly, as the music industry changed, there was no longer a need to “burn” mp3s onto a physical CD for portable music. This is because the mp3 player started to develop, and we eventually moved on to the iPod. These were players that were made to accommodate music files, and they could store hundreds of your favorite tunes.

Speaking of tunes, Apple’s iPod technology gave way to iTunes, which is a digital store for music. From there, it pioneered a whole new era for music consumption and sales. It made buying music digitally possible.

Streaming Services

After a brief overview in music history, we arrive to the 21st century. Streaming services revolutionized the entertainment industry and continue to do so today. We have the ability to subscribe to a service, which gives us access to hundreds, if not thousands of visual and auditory entertainment. 

Some of the most popular music streaming services we see are:

  • Spotify
  • Pandora 
  • Tidal
  • Deezer
  • Amazon Music
  • Apple Music

Music became available at our fingertips, and compatible across all media devices. These services provided access to music from our favorite mainstream artists to more obscure ones breaking into the scene.

Streaming services offered subscription form purchases, which meant users paid a certain amount for a specific plan and enjoyed what their tier offered them. This is a good deal for users, but the same can’t be said for artists on some of these streaming giants.

Today, we also have free music websites that provide us with stock audio. You can browse thousands of songs, and even find music and sound effects for your personal use. 

What Does the Future Hold?

Many of you might be wondering how music consumption will evolve in the future, and your guess is as good as ours. Will music become something we can see and touch? Will we be able to customize music to suit our preferences? We already see evidence of that in certain technologies, such as soundbars and speakers, which give users EQ adjustments and sound modes.

Whatever ends up happening, one thing is for sure – the possibilities are endless, but music is here to stay. 


It’s interesting to see how far we have come in such a short span of time. Music consumption has become extremely convenient. We’re able to listen on-the-go, and have unlimited access to our favorite tunes. But let’s not forget about the joys of listening to music at concerts and music festivals. Hopefully, these forms of live music consumption are here to stay.

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