How have things changed for music in the last 20 years? Let’s count the ways.

For close to a century, billions and billions were made selling pieces of plastic embedded with music to consumers. Nothing has been the same since. There was an additional expense, of course. With that in mind, here’s a look back at how things used to be and how they are today. [This was my Sunday column for GlobalNews.ca – AC]
We can blame Bill Gates for destroying the traditional music industry. With Windows 95, the operating system had grown too large to be installed on 1.44 MB floppy discs. It could be done, of course — some version of the OS shipped with three dozen installation discs — but a more efficient format was a new thing called a CD-ROM. Record labels, record stores, radio stations, music magazines, and later, video channels, acted as cultural gatekeepers, only letting through a carefully vetted trickle of product. With nearly 700 MB of storage, Windows installs were a one-disc snap. And when the original Napster was released into the wild on June 1, 1999, it was the beginning of the end as the universe moved from physical music product to the virtual realm. 24, 1995, this entire international infrastructure began to crumble. As we were upgrading our computers with this new hardware, the internet hit. No one realized it at the time, but when Windows 95 was released on Aug. Keep reading. Computers now needed a CD-ROM drive, which was essentially a CD player. It wasn’t long before people began transferring their CD collection to their computer hard drives using new ripping software like WinAmp. Those ripped tracks sitting on hard drives with ever-increasing storage capacity (and now able to hold many thousands of music files in a new format called an “MP3”) were suddenly free to roam the planet.
How have things changed for music in the last 20 years? Let’s count the ways.