The Evolution of the Music Industry


In 1952, the founding of a trade organization called the Recording Industry Association of America, (RIAA), was formed to represent the United States recording industries. Their original responsibilities with regard to a quickly growing music industry included:

  • administration of recording copyright fees and problems
  • coordinating with trade unions, supporting and informing record labels
  • providing research results and due diligence for the recording industries and governmental regulators

Historical fact - When the RIAA began, one of their regulatory duties was to set up an equalization curve for "stereophonic black lacquer, acetate, and vinyl disks". This agency established the universal stereophonic groove and size dimensions format for 78 rpm, 45 rpm, and 33-1/3 rpm records.

The RIAA is a significant participant in the collective rights management of sound recording in this music industry. The United States relies on this agency for the regulatory Certification process of Gold and Platinum albums and singles, music royalties, and music software. 


This animated GIF pie chart, designed by Paul Resnikoff of Digital Music News, follows the pathway and evolution of the U.S. music industry over thirty years of innovation and sales.


Source for Graphic: Business Insider (data from RIAA)

This data tracks the decline of LP vinyl albums and singles from 1983, when the music tape cassettes became a new trend. The music industry adopted 8-track cassettes the size of old fashioned VCR tapes for personal sales and use. Then technology reduced the size of standard cassette tapes to a plastic case that could fit into the palm of the hand.

Evolutionary trends of recording music product began to develop into music videos, CD's, DVD's, and the internet enabled new concepts of online viewing and listening to music on computer devices, recordable CD's, (burning), became the trend and users gifted their friends with personalized music playlists. In recent years, complex systems have been taking the place of mortar and brick music stores, and online shopping has leaped into the forefront of metadata and Sound Exchange Subscriptions.

Big dollar deals have developed between the music industry and smartphone companies to market music ringtones, and paid subscriptions for electronic mini-devices like MP3's and iPods.

Two things are certain and are substantiated by the historical data in this evolution data, people will never stop needing direct access to music, and are willing to pay for it, and the United States music industry is continually exploding with new technology and innovations that constantly changes the creative content horizon of personal music enjoyment.