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Music formats in the past 50 years

Sounds have been produced since the beginning of the times, however, recording of it started only decades ago along with the development of the technology.

Music is being listen to everywhere from being in the car driving to work or travel around, to work, relaxing or partying. The consume of music has increased substantially lately, especially with the various storage formats and playback possibilities. We for sure enjoy going to concerts or listening to live music, yet we want to be able to listen to it anytime, anywhere we want too.

The storage and playback opportunities for music have increased since the '70s, and today we have the widest network ever for obtaining it. Let's see though some types of format having stored musical contents:


From their appearance in the '30s up until the late '80s, the vinyl was dominating the musical industry in terms of playback options. The sales were huge as of up to billions of dollars annually.

The preferences towards the vinyls was mainly due to its analog sound that reverberates and gives the warm notes and a feeling of a very similar live listening experience.


The car industry exploded as well with the expansion of technology and so being able to listen to music while using your car became quite important. Of course the vinyls were having quite impressive dimensions and required a pick-up system to be able to play it so a new device and musical format were to be produced.

The "Stereo 8", or a cartridge with 8-tracks, appeared on the scene. It had as well an analog sound and was using a magnetic tape that would allow a continuous of 90 minutes play time. This system supported big times the increase in selling cars in late '70s as the music listening feature was a great life changer.


Following a similar technology with the 8-Track, the cassettes appeared in early '80s. The size has decreased substantially that it could fit in a pocket and so were much more convenient in usage and storage.

It became world wide sold in less than 10 years, having brought revenues and world distribution of more than 3.5 billion dollars.


A CD, or Compact Disc, appeared on the market in '82 as a successor of the vinyl, simulating as well its round shaped, yet decreased in size. The technology was developed by Philips and Sony, and soon after being launched the portable CD players and other devices supporting it blew up the market by being available for houses and cars consume.

This new format brought sales of over 13 billion dollars only in '99 and 2000, a performance not yet reached by another format.

Digital Formats

With the advancement of technologies and of needs of the consumer, new formats were to appear for having a more convenient purchase, distribution and playback options. The digital formats have reduced tremendously the costs of production and supported massively the increase of sells all around the world.

With the usage of Internet, the digital music formats have been spread and reached much more areas than before. It was now possible to listen to it online or even download the music for later playback.

As of 2006, when Spotify launched its streaming platform, led to a severe drop of sales in the CD industry. The digital formats continued to evolve and once the mobile phone industry developed, so did the ringtones appeared, and so the download of digital music formats popped as well.

A great advantage of the digital formats is that due to its reduced costs of distribution (some platforms offer free hosting), it has given the possibility to be spread wider and gain recognition for the artists from a broader area.

No doubt the music consume will continue and increase in the following decades, regardless of its format, which gives the possibility for young musicians to penetrate the market in various ways. They just need to find their suitable one.

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