First there were vinyl records. Then cassette and eight-track tapes, followed by CDs. When Apple introduced iTunes at the dawn of the 21st century, allowing people to buy and download a single song for 99 cents, it truly seemed like a musical revolution. Not only was music no longer in physical formats, but people could also listen to their purchased tunes at any time via portable devices. Now, however, some industry experts say it won't be long before people will stop buying music in any iteration altogether, because so much music is available free of charge [source: Stewart].
Today, streaming services such as Spotify allow you to tap into millions of songs without paying a cent; advertising supports the business. If you want to avoid the ads or download tunes you can pay $10 per month (as of January 2017) for premium service. Consumers can also access a wealth of free music via traditional radio stations, which often place their libraries online. And subscribers to Amazon Prime can tap into more than 2 million songs on demand.
With all of these free streamed tunes available, it's no wonder CD and digital track purchases in the U.S. fell 15 and 13 percent, respectively, from 2013 to 2014, while streaming revenue shot up 54 percent. Ironically, the very old-school vinyl is making a comeback, shooting up over 50 percent in year-over-year sales. But even so, vinyl only accounted for 3.5 percent of album sales in 2014 — not enough to counter the huge decline in owning music in other formats [source: Thompson].