On October 23, 2001, Apple launched the iPod — a transportable media participant that promised to overshadow the clunky design and low storage capability of MP3 gamers launched within the mid-Nineteen Nineties.

The iPod boasted the power to “maintain 1,000 songs in your pocket”. Its personalised listening format revolutionised the best way we eat music. And with greater than 400 million models offered since its launch, there’s little doubt it was a hit.

But, 20 years later, the digital music panorama continues to quickly evolve.

Steve Jobs, then-chief govt of Apple, introducing the iPod in 2001.

A market success

The iPod expanded listening past the constraints of the house stereo system, permitting the person to plug into not solely their headphones, but additionally their automotive radio, their laptop at work, or their hi-fi system at residence. It made it simpler to entwine these disparate areas right into a single personalised soundtrack all through the day.

There have been a number of preconditions that led to the iPod’s success. For one, it contributed to the tip of an period by which individuals listened to comparatively fastened music collections, similar to mixtapes, or albums of their working order. The iPod (and MP3 gamers extra typically) normalised having random collections of particular person tracks.

It might sound clunky now, however the authentic iPod was a lot sleeker than older transportable cassette gadgets such because the Sony Walkman.

Then through the Nineteen Nineties, an MP3 encoding algorithm developed on the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany allowed unprecedented audio information compression ratios. In easy phrases, this made music information a lot smaller than earlier than, massively growing the amount of music that could possibly be saved on a tool.

Then got here peer-to-peer file-sharing providers similar to Napster, Limewire and BitTorrent, launched in 1999, 2000 and 2001, respectively. These furthered the democratisation of the web for the tip person (with Napster garnering 80 million customers in three years). The end result was a fast-changing digital panorama the place music piracy ran rife.

The accessibility of music considerably modified the connection between listener and musician. In 2003, Apple responded to the music piracy disaster by launching its iTunes retailer, creating a horny mannequin for copyright-protected content material.

In the meantime, the iPod continued to promote, yr after yr. It was designed to do one factor, and did it properly. However this may change round 2007 with the discharge of the touchscreen iPhone and Android smartphones.

Learn extra:
Stream weavers: the musicians’ dilemma in Spotify’s pay-to-play plan

Laptop in your pocket

The rise of touchscreen smartphones in the end led to the iPod’s downfall. Apparently, the music app on the unique iPhone was referred to as “iPod”.

The iPod’s capabilities have been primarily reappropriated and absorbed into the iPhone. The iPhone was a versatile and multifunctional machine: an iPod, a cellphone and an web communicator multi functional — a pc in your pocket.

And by making the event instruments for his or her merchandise freely obtainable, Apple and Google allowed third-party builders to create apps for his or her new platforms within the hundreds.

It was a game-changer for the cellular trade. And the long run line of tablets, similar to Apple’s iPad launched in 2010, continued this pattern. In 2011, iPhone gross sales overtook the iPod, and in 2014 the iPod Traditional was discontinued.

In contrast to the Apple Watch, which serves as a companion to smartphones, single-purpose gadgets such because the iPod Traditional at the moment are seen as antiquated and out of date.

Music streaming and the function of the net

As of this yr, cellular gadgets are answerable for 54.8% of net visitors worldwide. And whereas music piracy nonetheless exists, its affect has been considerably decreased by the arrival of streaming providers similar to Spotify and YouTube.

These platforms have had a profound impact on how we interact with music as lively and passive listeners. Spotify helps an internet community-based strategy to music sharing, with curated playlists.

Primarily based on our listening habits, it makes use of our exercise information and a spread of machine-learning methods to generate computerized suggestions for us. Each Spotify and YouTube have additionally embraced sponsored content material, which boosts the visibility of sure labels and artists.

And whereas we might need to bypass fashionable music suggestions — particularly to assist new generations of musicians who lack visibility — the truth is we’re confronted with a amount of music we will’t probably take care of. As of February this yr, greater than 60,000 tracks have been being uploaded to Spotify every day.

In keeping with Statista, Spotify had 165 million premium subscribers worldwide as of the second quarter of 2021.

What’s subsequent?

The expertise of listening to music will turn out to be more and more immersive with time, and we’ll solely discover extra methods to seamlessly combine it into our lives. Some indicators of this embrace:

  • Gen Z’s rising obsession with platforms similar to TikTok, which is a big promotional software for artists fortunate sufficient to have their observe hooked up to a viral pattern

  • new interactive instruments for music exploration, similar to Radio Backyard (which helps you to tune into radio stations from throughout the globe), the Everlasting Jukebox for Spotify and Instrudive

  • the usage of wearables, similar to Bose’s audio sun shades and bone-conduction headphones, which let you take heed to music whereas interacting with the world fairly than being closed off, and

  • the surge in digital music performances through the COVID pandemic, which suggests digital actuality, augmented actuality and combined actuality will turn out to be more and more accepted as areas for experiencing music performances.

The trade can be more and more adopting immersive audio. Apple has included Dolby Atmos 3D spatial audio into each its Logic Professional music manufacturing software program and music on the iTunes retailer. With spatial audio capabilities, the listener can expertise encompass sound with the comfort of transportable headphones.

As for algorithms, we will assume extra refined machine studying will emerge. Sooner or later, it could suggest music based mostly on our emotions. For instance, MoodPlay is a music advice system that lets customers discover music by means of mood-based filtering.

Some superior listening gadgets even adapt to our physiology. The Australian-designed Nura headphones can decide up details about how a particular listener’s ears reply to completely different sound frequencies. They purport to routinely regulate the sound to completely go well with that listener.

Such applied sciences are taking “personalised listening” to an entire new stage, and advances on this house are set to proceed. If the digital music panorama has modified so quickly inside the previous 20 years, we will solely assume it’ll proceed to vary over the subsequent 20 years, too.

Learn extra:
Goodbye iPod Traditional