Compact discs contain digital files that could be read ("played") as music, the sound was already a collection of ones and zeroes, the issue was the size. A team of German researchers, the Internet, a hacker, and a couple of entrepreneurs later, and music underwent a hell of a ride that took it to where we are today.
Converting music in a digital format was a success, compact discs sales were booming, and the market adoption was pretty much ubiquitous. Now the 1980s were here, and with them the Internet came along and served as the catalyst that prompted change this time.
Music started out free from any physical form until Edison managed to encapsulate it in a wax cylinder, which later evolved to shellac discs, and we got used to buying a thing that contained the music. Now music is digital, and since digital can be consumed in virtually any device with internet access, it is once again free. It’s a completed cycle that can hardly be called the end, with an uncertain future ahead.
How did we get here?
Ones, zeros, and compact discs
It all started, as is usual, in another field, seemingly unrelated to music: Telecommunications.
Transatlantic phone calls required cables, but they kept breaking because Earth moves and continents drift. It was an expensive but necessary endeavor, so they set out to make things cheaper, the first approach was to squeeze more simultaneous calls in the same cable, and thus, unknowingly, the race towards digital music began.
Labels and artists have access to the same tools. Why should an artist consider signing a deal with a label? It’s almost a philosophical question, and it depends on what they are trying to achieve, and how much of their time and resources they are willing to invest in the project. It’s a question of compromise.
This is by no means a comprehensive analysis, it’s a blog post intended to provide enough clarity to, at the very least, spike curiosity on the readers so they go dig deeper before engaging in any kind of record deal.
Do it yourself
The artist can, and oftentimes does, take care of his business entirely. Is it worth it? Is it effective? It depends, really. What does the artist want? And what are they willing to give in return?