Week 3 Blog: Disruptive Technology

The Innovation of technologies and the Music industry (MI) seem to have a symbiotic relationship where both are fast evolving. Much as disruptive technology is embraced in music in keeping with the times it begs the question of how other tools, ideas, and products maintain the sustaining technology paradigm rooted in traditional ways of working and production common in large organisations for example.

By way of background, a disruptive technology displaces an established technology to the extent of shaking up an industry completely or significantly. It can even create a new industry. This is seen in many situations over time.

Christensen (1997) coined the term and showed how lack of refinement, performance problems due to newness, limited proven practical application and a limited audience or market share were the main markers of such technology innovations. This is how the telephone started when it was called the ‘electrical speech machine’ or the radio set and even the ‘television’.

In my opinion, the advancement and progression of sheet music, record, cassette, and Compact Disc Technology made perfect sense as tangible products that produced fair remunerations for the musicians and songwriters who are the creators of artistic work. However, with the introduction of downloads and streaming it has become incumbent to properly manage, the exploitation of artistic works with transparency and fair remuneration.

Tools and ideas that afford enhancement or may be complimentary in any given industry are seen in most cases as too fast, outmoding any present commodities to obsolescence. In some instances, these are evanescent before they can make a real impact as in the case of MP3s.

Baym (2015) argues that people have always responded to new media with confusion, however, new technologies eventually become ‘domesticated’. Nevertheless, the utility of these disruptive technologies also allows musicians to market themselves cheaply and to a wider audience nonetheless not inclined to purchase a whole album but instead listen to specific songs of choice.

Subramanian and Goodman, (2004) state peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing gained a meteoric growth in popularity enabling illegitimate distribution of musical content via Internet service providers (ISP) “…shared resources” (Oram, 2011) proves difficult to manage. Music economy has been changed drastically as people stopped buying physical music as a result of free file sharing sites. The plight of many musicians and composers got worse with similar issues of secondary ticketing through ‘bots’ selling concert tickets at exorbitant prices. This has taken a long time to eradicate.

McLuhan (1992), states sampling is fundamentally an art of transformation changing the moment it is relocated. Copyright, which underpins the industry, has a hard time keeping up due to its business model. In my opinion, a simple model where the disparity is minimal would be beneficial for all parties involved particularly the artists who create an array of areas for revenue streams within the MI.

According to Wikström (2013, p.103), Apple followed a clear strategy based on two principles: uniform pricing selling every song at the same price and system lock-in restricting consumers from playing music purchased on iTunes to Apple devices otherwise it would have to be purchased again. However, it was abandoned in 2009 after much pressure from competitors like Amazon, record labels, and other incumbents.

Memberships models:

  • Limited download quota where customers download specific number of tracks per month.
  • All-you-can-eat giving members on-demand access to a large music catalogue (Wikström, 2013)

All being said one persons/entity’s disruption could be one persons/entity’s evolution.



Baym, N. (2015). 2nd ed. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Christensen, C.M.(1997). The Innovators Dilemma. Harvard Business Review Press

Katz, M. (2004). Capturing sound. 1st ed. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press.

McLuhan, M. and McLuhan, E. (1992). Laws of Media: The New Science. 1st ed. London: University of Toronto Press.

Miller, P. (2008). Sound unbound. 1st ed. Cambridge, Mass. [u.a.]: MIT Press.

Oram, A. (2001). Peer-to-peer. Beijing [etc.]: O’Reilly.

Subramanian, R. and Goodman, B. (2004). Peer-to-peer computing. 1st ed.



1 thought on “Week 3 Blog: Disruptive Technology

  1. I see your point on ‘tangible’ products leading to musicians and songwriters being compensated accordingly, but unfortunately technology is rendering the consumption of music and culture in general more and more intangible. According to current research, the smartphone will soon be obsolete and things are going to get ‘weirder and weirder’ (http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/smartphone-iphone-die-fashion-technology-apps-trends-future-crazy-advancement-a7674991.html#r3z-addoor).
    This raises questions about materiality within music; we have already seen a rise in vinyl sales and an trend in bands selling cassettes as memorabilia at gigs. As we venture into an era of hands free based virtuality, will people want something ‘vintage’ to hold and ‘own’ that isn’t pixelated?


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