Data Material Assignment

The Evolution of Music



The Evolution of Music is a data visualization which compares the number of physical albums, digital albums, and the total number of albums sold from 1996 to 2011. With the advancement of technology and the rise of the Internet, online file sharing has allowed easy access and convenience for all individuals to illegally download music with access to the World Wide Web. To emphasis this, shapes were created in response to the data to demonstrate the decline in overall album purchases throughout the years.


Write Up

The Evolution of Music demonstrates how music sales have decreased throughout the years. It is apparent that before the rise of digital albums, physical compact discs were very popular. As the number of digital albums sold continue to increase, the number of compact discs sold slowly decreases. The issue lies not within the the notion of physical versus. digital music but rather the amount of music that is not being bought.


Upon analyzing the data, we expected the number of total albums sold to increase as there is a growing community of musicians that continue to produce new music everyday. Realistically, the more music produced, the more total album sales there should be. However, through the advancement of technology and the rise of the Internet, online file sharing has allowed easy access and convenience for all individuals with access to the World Wide Web. With that, digital albums were created to convenience consumers. However, individuals began to abuse this privilege by providing easily accessible methods to obtain music.


As the number of illegal music album downloads continue to increase, record company profits begins to decrease. Thus, inducing  financial complications for those involved in the music industry. Through a capitalistic perspective, companies are not benefitting from producing new music due to easy access to the web and illegal online downloading. As this cycle continues, individuals involved in the music industry will reach bankruptcy, resulting in lost jobs, earnings and a loss of funding for artists to produce new music. With online piracy as the number one issue for decreasing album sales, artists and companies are forced to find new ways to maintain sales.


Our data visualization exemplifies the steady decrease of album purchases as a whole. As shown, there was a drastic difference between the number of digital and physical albums purchased in the past. In recent years, the difference between the two is very subtle. The pink circles represent the total purchases of physical CD albums, while the white circles represent the total purchases of digital online albums. The total amount of purchased albums are represented by the purple squares.


The visualization shows that there is a decline in the amount of albums purchased, however there is no decrease in the amount of people listening to music. With the consistent progression of technology, users have abused the privilege of the Internet to illegally download music free of charge, with the simple click of a button. As the number of illegal music downloads continue to increase, the music industry’s revenue will decrease. As a result, companies are pushed to find new solutions  in order to sustain a position in the music industry.



Before making the decision to focus on music album purchases, we wanted to find statistics which were self explanatory. We brainstormed possible ideas in which we could create relatable visualizations that would blend well with the data. Our first concept revolved around abortion, then we gravitated towards volcano eruptions, but realized there was no clear premise for our findings. We then realized that we should focus on something that we are truly interested in, such as music. As we were searching for data related to music, we stumbled upon data which displayed the amount of physical and digital album sales. Upon analyzing the data, it then occurred to us that individuals were no longer purchasing music, but instead using other methods to listen to or obtain music. As individuals, we do not notice the impact we have towards the music industry as we unconsciously and continuously download music without supporting the artists, by purchasing their albums. On a wider scale, companies and individuals associated with the music industry are suffering as a result.


Afterwards, we discovered that the album purchases plummeted after the start of the 20th century. We did not take into consideration what was not visible in the diagram. We recognized that the decline of the total album purchases was a result of illegal online downloads. After some tedious research we discovered that there is no sure way to determine the exact number of illegally downloaded music each year. To make up for this lack of data we displayed the profits made from total albums to demonstrate that the decrease in album purchases was the result of online piracy.


Another issue we came across, was the location of the ellipses.  We had to calculate the coordinates in order to translate it to the right position on the sketch. However, due to the basis of the translate command, it was applied to any code that was beneath it. Therefore we had to take into consideration where to place and modify specific lines of code so it would run accordingly to match our intentions. After spending several days putting the code together, we realized that processing reads the code in a particular order. There were many instances where objects would not appear in the sketch due to the setup of the code. Once we figured out the proper section to insert certain lines of code, we were able to efficiently navigate and create what we intended to do so in the beginning.


When we finished our sketch code, we had difficulty uploading it to the web. We attempted to render the file through javascript, however the sketch would not load in the browser. The first time we uploaded the code, a grey screen would appear in the web browser which meant that our code was not legible. After some research we discovered external libraries prevent processing codes from appearing online. As a result of this, we had to remove our music library, minim, altogether. After the removal of minim, we exported our sketch through javascript a second time and it would only display the black background and the dates along the bottom of the window. We could not figure out what the issue was, but we know are certain that our sketch is connected to the web.
All in all, this assignment has brought to our attention the consequences that could impact the music industry if nothing is done to stop illegal downloading. Based on the data we found, it was interesting to see how the music industry attempted to create a simpler way to distribute albums by making them available online, yet consumers abused that privilege. We also found this assignment worthwhile because it allowed us to review coding skills we learned in previous years and taught us how to input data into Processing which is something that will benefit us in our fourth year projects.






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