Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.
– Ludwig van Beethoven
Music moves us, recalls memories, and holds a distinct feeling for each one of us. Live or recorded well, it has the power to change people. Over the course of the last century, we have advanced music in many ways like architectural acoustics and new kinds of instruments. Yet one innovation brings up a question about the tradeoff between quality and mobility.
For decades, music was recorded on vinyl or tape. These formats offered a very high level of quality. Albums and cassettes were harder to attain, harder to store, and relatively fragile. So in the late 1990s, recordings moved from tape to digital. This was an innovation that completely altered how we experience music in everyday settings. It democratized music by putting it in an efficient, inexpensive format that could be accessed and shared via countless devices. It also lowered the quality of the music – yet it has continued to gain adoption. Incremental innovations like on-demand streaming music have more than doubled in adoption year over year, while albums and cassettes are embraced primarily by ‘retro’ listeners and aficionados.