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How We Listen to Music

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The Evolution of Music Consumption: From Vinyl to Streaming

This has changed over the years. In my lifetime, vinyl records first yielded to the portability and durability of cassette tapes via the boombox and the Walkman. Suddenly, music was on the go, running mainly on the temporary power of AA, C, and even D batteries. This created the first real generation of folks used to tuning out the mundane noise of public space by ducking under their own pair of headphones.

That got us through the 1980s. Then CDs took us by storm, delivering pristine clarity and a reasonable amount of portability. Cassette Walkmen became CD Walkmen, and (by and large) record player consoles were replaced by CD changers. CDs could play in cars, as well, which basically spelled the end of the cassette era.

Then (and this part took a while, don't forget) mp3 players bridged the computer revolution with our listening habits. The dawn of the new century and the Internet era brought about a new way of sharing music, so much so that artists and record companies stopped making as much money on album and single sales. While the industry had long survived the common practice of friends passing around cassette tapes of albums, the ease with which digital music could be shared really brought up some new questions of ethics and music delivery.

Gradually, the public has been reined in and convinced to purchase downloads from time to time, but another interesting phenomenon has developed. While previous generations felt compelled to "own" songs and albums, that model has been somewhat replaced by services like Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, and others. Anyone with an Internet connection now has a vast collection of music available at the touch of a button.

And you can kick it under your Beats by Dre ... or whatever. Meanwhile, vinyl is back. Was this a cycle of some kind? What will the next era involve? Only time will tell.