Music has been a vital part of human culture since prehistoric times. In fact, some experts believe music to have emerged 30,000 to 60,000 years ago. As a result of this longstanding history, music consumption has changed so much over the years. Perhaps it is even almost impossible nowadays to leave your house and not see at least one person sporting Apple’s iconic white ear buds firmly planted in their ears. Yet, even if this is all too commonplace today, it hasn’t been like that just a decade ago.
Reality is – the way we listen to music has changed so much over the years. From the gramophone and the FM radio to buying cassette tapes and now simply streaming music online for free, the evolution of music consumption is just as fascinating as the evolution of music itself. Let’s take a look at the gadgets available to every music listener back in the 1950’s to the 1980s and marvel at how these lead to the next big innovation in the industry that allow us to enjoy music as we do today!
To gain a better appreciation of these technologies, let’s start from the beginning, shall we? The first device that really made personal music consumption happen started with Thomas Edison’s invention of the phonograph in 1877. It took many years before a next-generation device came into market, as it was only in the early 1950s when the record player started gaining popularity among households. The industry was quick to hop on this transition to vinyl, having released new formats that allowed for a much larger amount of music to be recorded on a single disc.
The next big innovation with regards to music consumption happened in 1958 when RCA first introduced a tape cartridge. This later on gave rise to compact cassette tapes in the early 1970s, whose players became a staple in automobiles. This led manufacturers to make smaller and more portable tape decks, therefore cementing the cassette’s place in the music industry. Yet an innovation that is possibly even more important than the cassette tape itself is the Sony Walkman, which was released in 1978. In fact, if one were to name only one device that fundamentally changed how people listen to music, it would be this tiny portable stereo tape player. That’s because it allowed people to literally take their music with them wherever they went. It totally foreshadowed the modern man’s needs, so much so that the Apple iPod that took the world by storm in the 2000s is simply a much-improved version of this gadget. To this day, the base functionality of the iPod remains the same as that of a Sony Walkman’s, but it simply has a monstrous storage space that could save a thousand songs from any genre you can think of!
In the end, isn’t it fascinating how the evolution of music consumption simply mirrors our own evolution too? And despite not knowing what technology or innovation is coming next, one thing is for sure: music is here to stay.