Digitization of Music

Hi guys, I did my project, on discussing the digitization of music.

Until very recently, Music could only be consumed in “traditional” forms (live performances, physical media, radio, etc.). In today’s internet age however, music is mostly consumed digitally whether that be from a Spotify steam or a local playlist from your smartphone. The rise of digital is phasing out most physical forms of media. This is not surprising because digital music has huge advantages over physical media. It is cheaper, easier to store and maintain, and offered way more convenience. Though physical has the advantage of higher quality playback and a greater sense of collectibility, most causal listeners simply don’t care.

I’m going to quickly go over the pros and cons of both forms of music.


The convenience of searching for a specific song and clicking on it is far more appealing than finding a CD in your collection, inserting it into your CD player and letting the album play. Music purchased from iTunes or other digitally stored music is much easier to transport from device to device.

Pandora as a service is a very helpful way to discover new music. It is a radio searched that is tailored to each individual user. Traditional radio only plays music confined to a single genre. Pandora narrows music selection by using user inputted preferences and its complex algorithm to provide the best user experience.


I’m sure you’ve all heard of Spotify by now. It is a music streaming service that saves all your favorite songs and playlists on the cloud under your Spotify account. This allows you to carry your music “library” to all your devices.


You can carry much more music digitally than you can with physical music. 1TB of storage hnas become standard for most personal computer manufacturers. A terabyte of storage can hold approximately 100,000 songs. Physical music collections can span bookshelves of space.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 1.18.26 AM

Above is a picture of my vinyl collection (with a banana for scale) compared to my iTunes library on my phone (which occupies only 12/64GB)


Another advantage that digital has over physical is the price. Digital music is almost always cheaper than physical. Spotify is a free service (the premium version only costs $5/mo for students) that gives you a nearly unlimited music library. Other streaming services such as YouTube and Pandora are free. Singles on iTunes are $1.29 and albums constantly go on sale.

Artists benefit from the inexpensive nature of the internet as well. Underground artists who don’t have an established fanbase can publish their music to free publishing platforms (such as DatPiff). Chance the Rapper who was the headliner for UMass 2015 Spring Concert releases all of his music for free through DatPiff and has gathered a huge fanbase in doing so.


The playback quality of digital music is the only real disadvantage and is the primary reason that audiophiles will never switch over. Because all digital data is represented in binary (1’s and 0’s) at the lowest form, the audio signal outputted from a digital media file will never be as “smooth” as the analog signal from a vinyl record.


As this is the only real disadvantage, and most people would not be able to really tell you the difference in sound, the digital music industry will continue to grow and dominate the market. Physical music will never be completely phased out simply because there will always be the die-hard music fans and audiophiles that need to have their favorite records on vinyl.

Inspiration for my project:

I think it is fascinating that grooves on a circular chunk of vinyl can represent the same information as a sequence of 0’s and 1’s on a hard drive. I attempted to scan some of vinyl music records. My plan was to 3D print a scan of my record and compare it to the raw data file of the same album on my computer. I wanted to show how amazing digitization is by comparing the two very different representations of the same album. Even though the binary sequence looks vastly different than the grooves on the vinyl, they would both play  the same song. The other information that is included in the music experience would also be the same. Album art, lyrics and credits would be present in both forms (it would be printed on the cover of the vinyl and embedded into the metadata of the digital file).



Unfortunately the structure scanner could scan the ultra fine grooves on my records. Because vinyl records rely on the texture of the grooves, 3D printing a rough scan of a record would not provide any results. Instead, I scanned some of my equipment involving the playback of records. I’ve provided Sketchfab links to my scans.

Boston’s self titled album

Run the Jewels 2

Run the Jewels 2 packaging

As you can see in the above scans the detail on both records are very poor. For some reason the structure scanner had a really hard time scanning these objects

Sony turntable setup w/speakers

Crosley portable turntable

The detail on the turntable and setup turned out a little better than the individual records themselves.

Here is the text representation of “Jeopardy” by Run the Jewels, the first track on Run the Jewels 2: Jeopardy.txt

This text file is encoded in hexadecimal (which is simply base 16 as opposed to binary which is base 2) and there are 517,555 lines of text. Overall the file is 20.7MB but the actual mp3 file is only 8MB (the mp3 is a compressed version of the raw audio to maximize portability).

Whether you want to build your own music library and collect your favorite albums on vinyl or just listen to the trendy new pop single on the go, there are options for both. You can see the vast differences in both forms of music even though at the end of they day, both function almost identically.

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