The eighties and nineties of the twentieth century were perhaps the best decades for the music business industry in the history of music. Sales were booming, new stars were discovered everywhere, New Romantics movement and Synth Pop were suddenly popular, then there was Grunge, Rock was in then it was out, but whatever was currently the trend, it sold records and then compact discs galore. Huge music studios were booked out and major record companies ruled who you would get to like next. Independent music was limited, also dominated by the wide distribution, which was again controlled by the majors. Then Napster happened and the whole world of music got turned upside down.
The switch from analog to digital, from records and cassettes to CDs and DVDs did not go smoothly. There was huge opposition to the digital world, mainly by the Hi-Fidelity aficionados, who believed that digital conversion sucked the life out of the music. While major record companies tried to enforce domination over the music world, the regular folks already decided that mp3 is the future and shared any and all music they had over the Napster networks. The major record companies slept the whole development through and when they woke up, instead of taking advantage of the new platform, they did everything in their power to kill it. It will take the companies almost 15 years to catch up with the trend.
The first to take advantage of the new trend was Steve Jobs, who immediately saw the prospective monetary gain available from such a digital sales model. Apple introduced the iTunes about two years after Napster saw the light of day. Actually, Apple purchased an existing platform called SoundJam MP that started out approximately at the same time as Napster, but struggled to be legitimate. iTunes developed into the huge music and video content streaming and purchase behemoth we have today and served as an idea for Amazon, MySpace and dozens of other similar sales outlets.
The end of record stores
Due to the home delivery systems introduced by internet outlets such as Amazon.com, but also increasingly by major record companies, the record stores selling CDs have had significant drops in sales, leading to smaller chains and individual stores closing or specializing into providing vinyl records for audio aficionados and DJs or going out of business.
The capability to provide music to internet outlets such as Amazon.com and iTunes and advertising over Vimeo and YouTube allowed unknown artists to release their own music without the exploiting attitude of major record companies. Some of the big names in music have opted to sign on to online distribution companies, truly independent labels, sometimes owned by bands themselves or musicians who switched to the business side of music. Mostly former major rock music stars such as Whitesnake, Toto and Robert Plant opted for independent distribution of their new music efforts, relying on their good name, marketability and fame to sell records, rather than doing elaborate PR campaigns.
Money schemes left over
Major record companies still push their own agenda without paying much attention to what independents are doing. Because of newly developed vehicles such as American Idol, the X-factor and the Voice, major record companies still manage to gain exposure and find new talents that people do want to buy, yet are because of the incredible inertness and refusal to adapt incapable to hold on to serious talent and many newly discovered talents simply disappear after the three-year contract initially offered. Furthermore, since that the big music business is mostly run by bankers and public relation people, the real music suffers and most of the published music is simply put bad. Real quality composers are rare and major companies are unwilling and unable to offer them proper contracts to retain and keep them, which does not leave any truly worthwhile songs available for new artists.