THE WORLD OF MUSIC has changed dramatically. A half-century ago, we were listening to brand-new records by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Aretha Franklin. In the years that followed, technology advances and economic realities led to major shifts in how we listen to and think about music.
When my generation was growing up, we would do household chores, deliver newspapers, babysit, mow lawns, shovel snow-whatever it took to earn a few dollars that we could take to the local record store. In my case, the closest outlet to buy records was the Kmart just a mile up the street from where we lived. Between Kmart and the Sam Goody in the nearby mall, my sister and I gradually built up a sizable collection of 45s and LPs. Whenever a new song came on the radio, I would have to wait and wait for the DJ to play it again--that is, until I scraped up the money to buy the record.
Kids growing up today, however, thanks to streaming, can listen to any song they want-as often as they want and wherever they want --using nothing more than their ear buds and favorite electronic device, whether it be a cell phone, tablet, or desktop computer
Vinyl records, of course, were the first format the general public listened to pre-recorded music on. This began with the 78 RPM (revolutions per minute) record at the turn of the 20th century, which eventually were replaced by the 33-1/3 RPM album format (an LP, or long-playing record).
Then there was the 8-track tape. Rather than replace the vinyl format, 8-tracks provided the opportunity to listen to your favorite music while cruising down Main Street with the top down, although its popularity did not last long. (When I bought my first car at 18, it came with an 8-track player along with about 60,000 miles on it. I must have relied a lot on the radio, though, because I never owned more than a couple 8-track tapes and they probably were picked up at a yard sale.)
By the early 1970s, the new and smaller cassette tapes had improved in quality and began to offer a more portable alternative to 8-tracks. (Anybody remember the Walkman?) In addition to playing prerecorded tapes from our favorite artists, cassettes offered a way for us to create mix tapes with a customized play-list. Fast forward another decade and along came the CD (compact disc). Sturdy and hard, CDs were the most-popular medium for music for almost 20 years.
The next and perhaps most-significant change occurred when music recordings began to transition from a...