Tag Archives: Pandora

The Evolution of Music Consumption: How We Got Here

Peter Lobner

There is an good survey article on this subject at the following link; tracing the evolution of consumer-oriented media platforms for recorded music from early phonographs through the latest on-line outlets for streaming audio and music videos:



The timeline addressed in the above article starts in 1877 with the invention of the phonograph by Thomas Edison. A significantly expanded timeline is presented below

Year Music Media Milestone
1877 Thomas Edison introduced the first machine that could both record music and play it back, the phonograph, which initially used a metal foil covered cylinder as the media.
1878 Patent granted for Edison’s phonograph.
1886 Patents awarded to Chicester Bell (cousin of Alexander Graham Bell) and Charles Tainter for an improved phonograph, called the graphophone, which used a hard wax cylinder as the media.
1887 & 1888 Patents granted to Emile Berliner for the gramophone, which played a stamped disc record initially made of “Vulcanite” (hard rubber), holding about 2 minutes of music on a disc typically playing at 72 – 86 rpm
1889 Pre-recorded wax cylinders hit the market, initially running at about 120 rpm, holding 2 – 3 minutes of music.
1890 Shellac flat-disc records introduced, initially 5” diameter, then 7”, 10” and 12”. At 78 rpm, the 10” records held about 3 minutes of music and the 12” records held 4 – 5 minutes of music. The 10” 78 rpm disc became an industry standard in the early 1900s.
1904 Valdemar Poulsen presented a paper on the “arc set” transmitter, which produced continuous sinusoidal wave signals that could be used with analog amplitude modulation (AM) for audio transmissions.
1906 Victor Talking Machine Company introduced the first “Victrola” 78 rpm disc record player.
1906 Lee de Forest invented the three-element (triode) “grid Audion”, which provided the foundation for the development of vacuum tube technology.
1908 U.S. patent granted for the grid Audion.
1908 Pre-recorded wax cylinders with finer grooves introduced, holding 4 minutes of music.
1912 – 1913 Columbia and other manufacturers abandoned the cylinder media format, favoring the disc format. Edison continued manufacturing cylinders until 1929.
1912 – 1917 First amateur broadcasts of music radio at a college radio station in San Jose, CA.
1919 First commercial radio station 1XE, Medford MA, broadcast music.
Early 1920s George O. Squier granted patents for a system for transmission and distribution of signals over electrical lines. This technology became the basis for Muzak, a service for streaming continuous music to commercial customers without the use radio.
1927 First selective jukebox, capable of selecting and playing more than one record, introduced by Automated Musical Instrument Company, later known as AMI.
1928 Fritz Pflumer (Germany) invented magnetic tape for making audio recordings, using paper tape, based on magnetic wire audio recording technology developed in the late 1880s.
1929 Last cylinder-playing phonographs and wax cylinder records manufactured by Edison’s Entertainment Phonograph Division.
Early 1030s Vinyl records introduced, primarily for use by music radio stations. Shellac remained the standard media for retail record albums.
1931 Columbia created the first “long-playing” (LP) 33-1/3 rpm record with features similar to the commercial LP records introduced more than a decade later.
1930s German firms BASF and AEG developed improved magnetic tape and reel-to-reel machine technologies, resulting in the Magnetophon
1933 UK patent issued to Alan Blumlein for stereophonic sound recording and reproduction.
1933 Analog frequency modulation (FM) radio patented.
1936 First concert recorded on magnetic tape: London Philharmonic Orchestra playing in Ludwigshafen, Germany, hometown of the magnetic tape manufacturer BASF.
Late 1930s First analog FM radio stations begin broadcasting, including W8HK (Buffalo, NY); W1XOJ/WGTR (Paxton, MA).
1944 Ampex Electric and Manufacturing Company founded; acquired German Magnetophon reel-to-reel recorders and BASF magnetic tape.
1947 The Bing Crosby Show was the first pre-recorded TV show, using AMPEX Model 200 tape recorders, setting the stage for widespread use of magnetic tape technology for recording and delayed broadcasting by TV & radio stations
1947 Transistor invented; enabled later transistor radios and a host of other music delivery platforms.
1948 Columbia Records introduced commercial 12” 33-1/3 rpm “micro-groove” vinyl LP records holding about 22 minutes of music, which soon became the standard for albums.
1949 RCA introduced the 7” 45 rpm “micro-groove” vinyl record holding 8 minutes of music, which soon became the standard for singles.
1949 First pre-recorded music albums on ¼” reel-to-reel magnetic tape introduced in the U.S.
1950 Seeberg Corporation introduced the first jukebox for 45 rpm vinyl records.
Early 1950s RCA Victor and EMI (UK) start selling pre-recorded music albums on ¼” reel-to-reel magnetic tape.
1952 – 1954 New York City’s WQXR initiated its first stereophonic broadcasts in October 1952, and by 1954, was broadcasting all of its live music programs in stereo, using its AM and FM stations for the two audio channels (and requiring the listener to have two radios).
1954 First commercially-produced transistor radio, the Regency TR-1, introduced by Texas Instruments and Industrial Development Engineering Associates.
1955 First transistor car radio, Chrysler Mopar 914HR.
1955 Last commercial-volume 78 rpm records produced.
1957 Audio Fidelity Records released the first mass-produced stereophonic record. Side 1: Dukes of Dixieland; Side 2 railroad and other stereo sound effects.
1958 Mass-produced stereo record albums released by many record companies. Affordable magnetic pickup cartridges for stereo phonographs also became available (price dropped by a factor of almost 10).
1958 RCA introduced a short-lived, not-so-compact (5” x 7”) cassette tape cartridge and player, which disappeared from the market in 1964 when a smaller tape cassette format was introduced.
1961 GE and Zenith FM stereophonic broadcasting systems (theoretically identical) were formally approved by the FCC as the standard stereo FM broadcasting method in the U.S.
1963 Phillips introduced the compact cassette tape, which they licensed free of charge.
1964 Compact cassette tape players / recorders, including some portable models, started becoming commonplace, eventually with about 85 manufacturers worldwide.
1964 Bill Lear introduced the 8-track tape cartridge and player for home audio and automotive use.
early-1970s Sales of music on ¼” reel-to-reel tape media rapidly declined after introduction of smaller tape cassette / cartridge formats.
1979 Sony introduced the Walkman compact portable compact cassette tape player.
1980 Digital compact disc (CD) format standardized.
1981 First popular album released on CD: ABBA, The Visitors.
1981 Video channel MTV (originally an initalism for Music Television) launched in the U.S.
1984 Sony introduced the Walkman compact portable CD player.
1984 Columbia House final release of music on ¼” reel-to-reel tape media. Low-volume audiophile market for recordings in this media continued.
Late 1980s Standards for digital radio transmission defined.
1991 Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) standard for digital audio (MPEG-1 Audio Layer III) finalized.
1991 File extension .mp3 introduced for digital audio files.
1992 Sony introduced the short-lived MiniDisc (later supplanted by mp3 players).
Early 1990s 2G digital cellular phone services introduced, including the ability to access media content on mobile phones.
Early 1990s Two digital audio tape formats, Digital Compact Cassette (DCC) and Digital Audio Tape (DAT) were introduced, but failed to sell in large quantities and never replaced analog cassette tapes.
1993 First band to perform live in the internet: Severe Tire Damage, playing at Xerox PARC.
1995 DVD and DVD-ROM introduced.
1995 Microsoft introduced a media player application that allowed streaming on personal computers (PCs), but only in a proprietary digital file format.
1996 – 1997 First portable mp3 players were released, capable of holding a relatively small number of songs (6 – 12 songs in the early mp3 players).
1997 Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format standardized; intended as a replacement for mp3.
1998 Improved digital format, MPEG-2 Audio Layer III, standardized.
1998 Digital Media Copyright Act (DCMA) signed into law.
1998 The first downloadable content sold to 2G mobile phones was the ring tone.
1998 The firm Compact Disc Data Base (CDDB) was formed to maintain and license an Internet-accessible database containing information about the contents of audio CDs and vinyl records. The digital track identification service also supports mp3 files.
1999 Microsoft and Apple introduced streaming digital media player applications (Microsoft Media Player for PCs, and Apple QuickTime initially for Macs) capable of handling several standard digital file formats.
2000 Pandora internet streaming digital radio service introduced and also started the Music Genome Project to support customization of the user’s music experience with Pandora.
2000 The firm Compact Disc Data Base (CDDB) was renamed Gracenote. Apple, Sony, and others use Gracenote Track ID services.
Early 2000 Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing web sites, such as Napster, proliferated, and many raised digital copyright issues that led to digital piracy lawsuits from the music industry.
2001 Apple introduced iTunes and the iPod, with a 5 GB hard drive capable of holding about 1,000 songs.
2001 First commercial 3G digital cellular phone services introduced (in Japan); included better support for streaming.
2001 XM satellite digital radio service began in the U.S.
2002 FCC selected the digital radio transmission standard for the U.S.: HD Radio, which is a trademarked term for a proprietary in-band-on-channel (IBOC) digital technology that can be used by AM and FM radio stations.
2002 Sirius satellite digital radio service began in the U.S. (4 months after XM).
2003 Apple opened the iTunes Store (originally iTunes Music Store), which is an on-line digital music retail outlet integrated with the iTunes application. This was Apple’s entry into the music sales business and offering a new music sales paradigm: complete albums or individual tracks of an album, all in AAC format.
2007 Apple introduced the iPhone, starting a smart phone revolution and increasing the popularity of streaming and applications on mobile devices.
2007 Merger of satellite digital radio service providers formed SiriusXM.
2008 Pandora Mobile introduced to deliver personalized digital internet radio service to mobile devices.
Around 2009 4G digital cellular phone services introduced, including greatly improved media streaming capability.
2012 Apple reported 350 million iPods sold thru September 2012, but sales were slowing due to the availability of similar music capabilities on smart phones and other mobile devices.
2013 MySXM debuted, providing a personalized interactive online satellite digital radio experience.
Now Customizable streaming media sites are increasing in popularity and streaming surpasses digital music sales, which have been in decline for several years. Pandora, iHeartRadio, iTunes Radio, and Spotify currently are the top four music streaming sites in the U.S.
Now A great percentage of Americans still listen to AM / FM radio (91% in 2013), which allows an easy listening experience without having to create (i.e., no music libraries, playlists, or user preference customization).
2017 Norway plans to be the first nation to end analog FM radio broadcasts. It will transition to Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) as a national standard.
Future Possible “Zero User Interaction (Zero-UI)” music players that can deliver a customized, varied music listening experience based sensing current activities and other parameters, none of which require user interaction. This won’t be for everyone.
Future There will still by music aficionados who will choose their own music delivery platform, content, and venue for their own unique music experience.