Even though some mainstream artists have recently decided to release their music on LP's, I'm guessing for nostalgia reasons only, they still know that the digital format is what people really want. A few years ago digital music saw a boost in popularity because of a site like Napster. Today, the list of digital music sites is growing, and for good reason. Everybody has a digital music player, also known as an mp3 player. Compact discs are still popular because people like the idea of having something tangible in their hands, probably for the same reasons that we don't yet live in a paperless society. However, music downloads are quickly becoming the popular medium for obtaining music. The process is fast, as in instant. If you pay a fee for it, it's legal, and the best part is, its digital. You get a high sound quality in a small sized file because of the recording format. Although people like sound engineers may or may not be able to tell a difference between an mp3 and a CD file, the average person will never hear the difference.
Sites like MySpace and companies like Apple with iTunes have given bands that might not ever see their music encased in a CD wrapper the chance to showcase their talent via the Internet. Just about every band you can think of has a MySpace page, and if they don't, they could be slightly missing out on the power of the web 2.0 era. The Internet can reach far more people than a tank of gas and a dream. Its smart marketing, at a fairly cheap cost. If you go and see an unknown band perform in a club or bar, chances are they have a MySpace page and, they'll be happy to tell you about it so you'll tell other people too. The Internet can do more for a band who wants you to download songs from their CD than the typical music promotion model. It's the word of mouth activity about an artist that spreads faster than anything.
Major artists rely heavily on marketing and distribution through their major record label to get their music out to the masses. If they are an established artist, their name and music can speak for itself. Independent musicians may have a harder time building a base if they just tour in their hometown or play the occasional state fair. The Internet has changed the way we listen to and buy music. If a band wants to be noticed beyond the zip code they reside in, on a shoestring budget, then they've got to use the Internet to get their music heard by as many people as possible, and build their 'buzz'.
New social music sites such as JamBuzzer help artists not only build their buzz by helping them spread their music virally to potential fans all over the world, but also help fans find quality music that is becoming harder to find in the major industry roster of artists.
Many independent artists and bands are self-produced and self-funded, so they rely completely on their talent, and their knowledge of the Internet to be heard. The great thing about sitest like JamBuzzer and MySpace is that an artist can release individual singles or a few songs from their CD for you to listen to; and get feedback quickly as well as have the potential to build an army of fans who will tell others about their music. It is similar to the days when cassette singles were popular. If you liked the one song that was offered, you might go buy the rest of the album. The same strategy applies today with music downloads; give the potential fans a teaser, let them hear it for free so maybe they'll like it and buy the whole collection. It's a gamble that's paying off for some artists, and the future of the music business could potentially be one where artists make more money by giving their songs away fro free than by the standard model. This new model however, will take strategic planning, and although it's a risk, the potential reward is quite high.
In today's digital music world, downloaded songs are a great indication to an artist that their music is popular. Some tracking tools can even show where the majority of their songs are being downloaded, as well as from what cities. This gives the artist a chance to possibly tour that area and promote their music live, and even sell merchandise. Newer bands that just don't have the money to pay for a tour realize that the internet is the best vehicle they have to get their music heard locally as well as around the world.
Truly, music downloads have changed the way music is heard, so much that it is creating a stir to the 'elephant in the room' major record companies.. Many of the major labels are fighting the digital age because the old way of doing things allowed them more control over an artist.. Today's up and coming artists have the ability to do what they want, on their own terms. Self-produced free agents of music are revolutionizing the way you hear about a new artist. Because the major labels are losing the creative control in the industry, the artists have more freedom to really express their talents without being 'too risky' for the labels. As a result, it's possible that in the years to come, we will get better, true music, and there may even be a battle of the Internet bands with all of the new technologies that sites such as JamBuzzer are developing.