I think everyone would agree that in the last decade or so, the internet has vastly changed the ways people consume. One can have a Google search yield literally thousands of results for almost anything one types in. Online superstores, like Amazon, have made easy work of finding and buying obscure or foreign merchandise. With so much so easily available now, people's concepts of music consumption have changed significantly.
Through my research, it occurred to me that new methods of music production and distribution are directly related to the effects the internet has had on modern culture and consumer ideals. So far, it seems that consumers and artists are benefitting the most from these methods while the record companies and music stores are struggling to find their place. As we all know, over the last few years, the internet has allowed for the widespread practice of illegal music downloading. Why should people pay for an overpriced CD when they can download it for free? Obviously, the industry and the artists cannot make music free. Soon, there would be no more new material and no professional musicians in the world. That being said, you can imagine the shock felt by record companies when both Prince and Radiohead released their latest albums, essentially, for nothing.
TIME Magazine published articles about both album releases. Each of the articles, "Why Prince's Free CD Ploy Worked" and "Radiohead Says: Pay What You Want", cited recording company executives who sounded stunned and depressed by the unprecedented freebies. A European executive talking about Radiohead said: "If the best band in the world doesn't want a part of us, I'm not sure what's left for this business." As it stands, he may be right. After their respective album releases, both Prince and Radiohead sold out every one of their concerts. Their decision to give away free music has certainly endeared them even more to their fans. Could it be that artists are finally breaking free from the greedy, oppressive recording companies? When asked about their decision to take such a risk, Radiohead's Thom Yorke replied: "I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say 'F___ you' to this decaying business model." Even so, artists cannot and will not continue giving their music away for nothing. Doing so would quickly clear the world of professional musicians.
I believe these freebies came about as a result of how the internet has changed artists' and consumers' ideas about the music business. Prince, Radiohead and other top selling, established bands may be able to afford the occasional freebie, but the vast majority of artists cannot. It will be a while yet before record companies and music dealerships disappear; in fact a while might mean never. Whatever becomes of the industry, it is obvious that we are at the beginning of a huge shift in how music will be consumed.