My friend Hunt Lyman asked me to write a music history lesson, so here it is.

The early days of the World Wide Web were remarkable. From your desk in Middleburg, you could “log in” to a computer across the planet, and get data on a topic of interest.  It was a time of modems, tiny data pipes, and graphics made of characters.  Sharing music through the Web was a notion completely inconceivable at the time, instead the bootleg cassette ruled—the sharing platform being the US Mail.

Moore’s Law says that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years, thus the capabilities of digital technology has evolved in a similar fashion. USENET groups, Prodigy, AOL, Geocities–all of these early social media platforms allowed people with certain interests to gather virtually to discuss their interests, whether they be computers, southern rock, television game shows, or Frank Zappa.  Newsweek magazine, perhaps secretly worried about the long-term sustainability of print media, published the now laughable headline piece “The Internet?  Bah! Hype Alert:  Why Cyberspace isn’t and will never be Nirvana”.

The growth became explosive.  Weblogs, or “blogs” were proliferating by 1997, and every middle school girl was chatting with friends over AOL Instant Messenger.  With powerful demographics like that, the commercial interests rapidly jumped into the web, and websites proliferated by the thousands every day.  By the time the “dot com” bubble fully burst in 2001, more than 70 million computers were hooked to the Internet.  A good place to look at this history is the Wayback Machine (archive.org/web/ ).  You can type in a website and see snapshots, from its first days on the web to today.  When I looked for examples of band websites on Wayback, I found most began their web presence in the late nineties.

The term social media began to be used in the early 2000s.  Websites like Friendster started the efforts, to be joined by MySpace, LinkedIn, Bebo, Classmates, and ITunes, to name a few.  Then, in 2004 came the true revolution, when Facebook was launched at Harvard and was soon proliferating at college campuses across the country.  It was only a matter of time before Facebook was being used by high school kids, and eventually, to the chagrin of the Millennials, their parents.

New social media sites continued to popup, some using Facebook as a way to proliferate their goods and music.  In 2016, social media usage is more than 2.6 billion users, with sophisticated mobile devices fanning the flames of use even further.  And these sites have helped push the total transformation of the music business, and how we get our music.

Today, when I listen to a song on Spotify, it is often shared to my network of friends over Facebook. My playlists can be shared over Playlists.net, where people can subscribe to these lists of music you create.  Bands often offer free downloads if you share a concert or new album announcement to your friends on Facebook, it’s great marketing.

Social networking sites are the norm on the Internet.  While websites are viable and will remain so as mostly for reference or commerce source; social networking platforms are where the action is.  They bring people together based on their personal preferences and relationships.  If you want to get together with other people who like concert posters, you can join a concert poster group on Facebook.  If that group doesn’t talk about the type of posters you collect, all you have to do is start your own group, and in a month or so, it could have a few hundred members.  This goes for music groups of all kinds—band fans, concert pins, concert setlists, bootleg recordings, and festival alumni.  If you can think of it, it can be a group.  I’m in a bunch of these groups, including Steam Powered Preservation Society, Zappologists, All Things Pinja, and Umphrey’s Discussion, to name a few.

In the old website model, you would have to create the website, code it out, add a forum component…that’s a lot of work when you compare it to our current model, where you can create a Facebook group in a matter of seconds. We’ve come a long way in 20 years, and to be sure it will be onward and upward in directions we can’t yet imagine.

This month’s playlist would be a good soundtrack for your Fall party, opened up by our local hot band, The Plank Stompers.   Listen to it here: http://tinyurl.com/gpme4zo