From neighborhood record shops that sold vinyl LPs, to mall outlets and chain stores that offered CDs, the means of distribution that have been used by the music industry have often undergone dramatic shifts, with wide reaching implications for music industry labels, artists, and fans. One phenomenon that has been appeared time and again in the history of the commercial production of popular music, from the era when vinyl records represented the most up-to-date kind of technology, to the current era of music downloads, is the ingrained resistance on the part of the business leaders who dictate the industry’s marketing and distribution practices to adopting the newly available forms of technical dissemination. One increasingly urgent impetus behind this kind of stubbornness is the ease in the ability to download music which has been afforded from the move away from analogue formats for music delivery technology, beginning with CDs, which could be easily “burned” by consumers, to the new era in which the increasingly dominant format for accessing music in the form of music downloads. The widespread tendency and social acceptability among recent generations of music fans to download music without legal permission and in many repercussions. The music industry and its allies in government legislatures have tended to respond to these trends in the means for music downloads by adopting punitive measures which some music industry commentators have suggested have served mainly to alienate the music world’s fan base from its business leadership.
As pertaining to the methods that enable people to download music, one of the earliest phenomenons to make a major impact on the business and entertainment world as a whole and impress on many people the difficulty of dealing with the issues raised by high speed Internet technology was the online service Napster.com, which offered an easy means for large scale music downloads without financial compensation to the artists or record companies. Though the founders of the company received widespread attention for their innovations, the business attracted too much negative attention from the music industry and its allies to function successfully, and was eventually crippled in a prolonged legal network, which at its conclusion, achieved after much legal wrangling, as a forum for the ability to download music that could operate with the consent of the record companies. This occurred, however, at the cost of Napster’s popularity as a way to download music, and Napster descended from its former notoriety to a position of obscurity in the highly fast-moving online market.
New illegal forums for music downloads were offered in the subsequent Internet era in the form of peer to peer networks such as bittorrent technology, which could be accessed through large and comprehensive web sites but existed on a decentralized basis that made it harder for the music industry. In the meantime, the Apple service iTunes attained widespread popularity as a legal music site. Another model is offered by the site eMusic.com, which offers music downloads on a subscription basis, in the manner of old-fashioned record clubs.