Digital Music Consumption – Theoretical Framework

Project Question

How has digital music consumption changed over the last thirty years? What supervening social necessities lead to its evolution from Compact Disc to .MP3 to online streaming? It’s this evolution of music over this timeframe that I’ve focused my project on.


The framework for my project is centered on the course theory of Winston. I plan to argue that the supervening social necessity that brought us from CD players to peer-to-peer .mp3 file sharing was the personal computer, coupled with household Internet access. Personal computers and Internet access slowly began to change the way we consume music. I believe personal computers became the conduit to a whole host of innovations that the music industry could not foresee. In essence, personal computers played the role of technology and change that lead to a whole host of new ways to consume music: peer-to-peer sharing, home CD burning etc.

Christensen’s theory of new-market disruption also plays a huge role in my analysis of music consumption. The music industry initially viewed website (1999) to be a ‘trivial’ technology at first – but it turned out to be industry changing. High-speed Internet and personal computers, particularly those with the ability to transfer the contents of a CD to a hard drive, became the disruptive technology that lead to further music piracy and online distribution. This would ultimately help disrupt the music industry altogether. Continue reading