Internet and music have gone hand-in-hand for the past two decades. And while this link has remarkably evolved the relationships between fans and their favorite artists, recent criticisms have argued that the role of the internet—socially media specifically—has now fragmented the business model of the music industry. Social media has had pervasive effects on music; it has changed the way we interact with our favorite artists, discover new artists, hear music, and hear about music.
Music and social media had their first romantic encounter in 1999 with Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker’s creation of Napster, the first ever music streaming service. Napster allowed their customers to bypass the radio or CD store and access their favorite songs online. Not only that, but customers were able to share those songs with their friends, therefore providing an artist with an alternative route to gaining popularity. This sort-of instant exposure is possibly the greatest benefit that social media offers to popular artists. These advancements, however, became a double edged sword for music as a business. From Napster grew WinMX and Limewire, then more and more people became engaged in illegal downloading and torrenting, drastically cutting the music industry’s profits.
Fast forward a decade later to a time when new platforms of social media are at an all-time high, and each of those platform is dominated by musicians. With the exception of the Kardashian sisters, music icons dominate every aspect of social media—from Instagram to LinkedIn. Read more about this, here. At this point, sites like Twitter and Instagram have become the only way artists release news about their new albums. Artists like Beyoncé, Rihanna, Kehlani, and Frank Ocean use twitter almost exclusively to promote the releases of their new music, and it has paid off for them in spades.
Slowly but surely, the music industry has become its own form of social media. Music subscription services like Tidal and Apple Music create profiles for their artists, count the number of streams their songs get and followers their profiles have, then compare those numbers against other artists within that genre. Apple Music will also create personalized stations based off of artists you’ve listened to and artists it thinks you’ll like. Because of that, it both consciously and unconsciously connects you with some of the most popular artists to-date and creates a system of para-social interaction between the two. Because of that, social media and the music industry are intersecting and creating their own form of a social media.