Home Top Internet Trends of 2000-2009: Online Music

Top Internet Trends of 2000-2009: Online Music

It’s November 2009 and we’re nearing the end of a decade. It’s been a tumultuous time of change for many industries, much of it driven by the Internet. With that in mind, over the coming weeks ReadWriteWeb will look back on the defining Web trends of the past 10 years. From the dot com boom, to the nuclear winter after, to the passion and enthusiasm of the pre-Web 2.0 innovations (such as RSS and podcasting), to the highs and hype of Web 2.0, to the current era of the real-time Web, to the near future of the Internet of Things. We’ll explore all of this and more.

We’re starting with online music. No industry, except arguably the newspaper one, has been rocked (pardon the pun) more by the Internet than the music industry.

Napster & Kazaa: Online File Sharing

The online music decade started with Napster, a music file sharing service created by Shawn Fanning that operated between June 1999 and July 2001. Napster enabled people to freely share MP3 files over the Internet; however it quickly ran into major legal trouble. Napster was the subject of lawsuits in 2000 by touchy metal band Metallica and others. It was eventually shut down by court order, after several major record labels went after the service.

After Napster’s demise, a P2P application called Kazaa became the most popular service for music file sharing. But it too eventually succumbed to record industry attacks.

Curiously, both Napster and Kazaa were recently reincarnated as law-abiding services. After years of re-launch attempts, Napster was acquired by Best Buy in September 2008 and was born again in May 2009. Meanwhile Kazaa turned into a legit music subscription service in July this year.

iTunes / iPod: Digital Music Goes Commercial

While Napster and Kazaa tried to skirt around the commercial imperatives of music, like paying artists, Apple took on the record industry in an entirely legal way. In January 2001, Apple launched a digital music player for music called iTunes. Then in April 2003, the iTunes Store was launched. It offered the ability to buy songs for 99 cents each, which had a major impact on the music industry.

Soon after Napster’s demise in 2001, Apple launched what was to become a revolutionary device in the music industry. The iPod was launched in October 2001 and it became the most popular portable music player since the Sony Walkman in the 1980s.

Fast forward to 2009 and iTunes continues to evolve. In January Apple announced that iTunes would go DRM-free. In September 2009 Apple launched version 9 of iTunes, which included a Genius-like recommendation feature for apps and ‘iTunes LPs’ – a feature that brings liner notes and artwork to digital albums.

MySpace: Music & Social Networking

MySpace was launched in August 2003 and soon became a popular hangout for local bands, especially indie rockers. MySpace provided a way for those bands to promote their music and reach a wide network through social networking.

As ReadWriteWeb’s Sarah Perez wrote last month, it was a virtuous circle for MySpace. The bands’ presence on MySpace “began to attract a young, hip crowd of users who were interested in following pop culture, and, in particular, the up-and-coming artists they discovered while browsing through the network. Only eight months after its launch, MySpace began to experience exponential growth, as its users created profiles and friended others who would then, in turn, invite more users to join the social network. Thanks to the “network effect,” MySpace soon became the place to be online. Everyone was there.”

However by 2008, MySpace had ceded the social networking crown to Facebook. In 2009, MySpace is once again trying to reclaim its heritage as a music service. In October MySpace launched “Artist Dashboards” and integrated its music video vault with recent acquisition iLike.

Pandora & last.fm: Online Music Discovery

Online music services have flourished in the ‘web 2.0’ era, when the ability to find new music and share it with others via the Web became increasingly sophisticated.

Two services in particular stand out. One is Pandora, a free online music discovery service. Pandora was founded in 2000 and continues to grow, despite various legal issues over the years. As ReadWriteWeb’s Frederic Lardinois noted earlier this year, Pandora derives its revenue from targeted audio advertising in its music streams and affiliate sales through Amazon’s MP3 store and iTunes.

Last.fm is another online music discovery service. It was founded in 2002 and was sold to CBS in 2007. It continues to innovate in 2009, for example in May this year last.fm announced combo stations, allowing a user to create a station with up to three artists or tags.


This post and series was inspired by one of my favorite blogs and podcasts, NPR’s All Songs Considered. They’re currently looking back at the decade in music and much of the discussion is about how the Internet helped define it.

And it’s true, when you think of music at the end of 2009 you think of iTunes, Pandora and last.fm – MySpace even. The record industry is still coming to terms with these and other changes.

Tell us your online music memories of the past 10 years. What’s been your favorite online music product or service during that time?

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