Using the internet to buy music

Computer screen showing a band's tour dates, playable video and audio tracks and other information

The Rascals' MySpace screenshot, courtesy of The Rascals

Of the records purchased in western countries today a large proportion are bought through the internet, and many retail outlets exist to service this demand. The range of music that can be obtained in this way is enormous. What impact does this have on how new sounds are heard?

If we are intrigued by something we have read about an unfamiliar musical style - it might be music from another country such as 'konpas' from Haiti or 'mbalax' from Senegal - we can probably obtain a CD in a few days, or even download a track or two, perhaps a whole album, the same day. We can also get to hear existing recordings, or extracts from them, without paying any fee. (This has echoes of the practice that used to be common in record shops of allowing customers to go into a listening booth and hear something they are thinking of purchasing.)

Beyond acting as an intermediary in the buying of records, the internet has another related set of roles to do with information. In the case of 'mbalax', the National Geographic's website is a good illustration of what is available to anyone discovering 'mbalax' for the first time. It provides an historical overview, names of artists with links to further information about them, several featured tracks and links to related styles.

These possibilities give the internet great potential influence as a means to discover music that is new to us. This becomes greater when we consider the lack of boundaries that is one of its fundamental characteristics, and the way that it is used to share news and information in portals such as MySpace.

For further information on websites, see Sites and scenes.