Nicolas Rogès

August 10, 2023

This article may contain affiliate links.

The history of music streaming

On Soundiiz, we talk about streaming services every day. Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Amazon Music, TIDAL, Deezer – they’ve all been there. It’s our passion, and we love to share it with you. But how and when did the history of music streaming begin?

Certain companies and creators have created a business generating billions of dollars. Algorithms are becoming increasingly powerful, users are increasingly numerous, and streaming platforms have become critical players in the music industry. All in just thirty years. 


Technologies have evolved rapidly, and there’s no doubt that the platforms we use today will differ thirty years from now.

In this business, everything moves (too?) fast. That’s why Soundiiz has written a short article – an entire documentary would be needed to detail everything – to explain how the history of music streaming started. And so, help you understand the foundations of what we know today.

Let’s get in the time machine! 

The first upheavals

In the 90s, the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) entrusted its engineers with a mission: to revolutionize the encoding of the audio format. The Internet was gaining momentum. There was a demand for music listening methods to adapt to this new world. Everything is easily shared and stored on the Internet, and music needs to be too. 

The arrival of the MP3 format, created by MPEG in 1993, brought a host of new possibilities. Music is now exchanged quickly, with minimum storage space required. In just a few years, MP3 became almost everyone’s favorite format. The reason: it can be burned to CD, played on small MP3 players able to store a few songs, and above all, it can be easily transferred from computer to computer. And that’s where the whole record industry is turned upside down.


Before June 1, 1999, and the launch of Napster software, the exchange of audio files remained confidential. Or at least restricted to a circle of friends. Music could be shared, but yet to be transmitted to millions worldwide. Napster changed all that. Based on peer-to-peer technology, which enables any user to download data uploaded by another user, millions of MP3 files, and therefore millions of songs and albums, are made available. For free. 

It takes a lot of work to measure the impact of such software on the record industry. In theory, nobody had to pay for music anymore. To learn more about the crazy history of Napster, we recommend this excellent article from the Guardian.

The recording industry, via the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA), reacted quickly. The loss of revenue is monumental, and if all the world’s music is now available free of charge, then a whole sector of the cultural industry is on the brink of collapse or will have to reinvent itself. Legal action against Napster multiplied, artists such as Madonna and Dr. Dre took legal action, and in 2001, Napster was forced to close its doors. Illegal downloading took a beating but didn’t die out. 

iTunes enters the scene

In 2003, just as the iPod, a top-rated MP3 player, sold hundreds of thousands of units, Apple launched the iTunes Music Store. Most songs were available for purchase for 99 cents and could then be transferred to the iPod, which was initially only available on Apple-branded terminals, but was later extended to all types of machines. 


The iTunes Store is thus the forerunner of today’s streaming platforms, where music is available in exchange for a financial contribution. The recording industry welcomes this arrival but has its share of skeptics. While Napster made everything available for free, the iTunes Store charges very little but gives at least part of its profits back to artists and labels

The revolution is underway. or the first algorithm

The year before the launch of the Itunes Store, a new player entered the market: Still active today, the site uses a plug-in to retrieve all listening habits and then offers users new artists corresponding to those they listen to daily. Whether the music is on Internet radios, computer-integrated audio players, or portable players, can scan it all

Thanks to a well-thought-out algorithm, focuses its services on discovering new talent and connecting its users. Each user has a profile with their preferences and favorite musical genres, and they can exchange and recommend albums, songs, and artists to each other.’s identity is based on the “social” aspect that has made it so popular, in addition to its high-performance algorithm, which is still widely celebrated today

Pandora: freemium is on the way perhaps inspires Pandora. Pandora radio, launched in 2005, also relies on the listening habits of its users. Compiling listening habits and relying on a solid algorithm, Pandora offers its users the chance to listen to personalized radio stations

First revolution: Pandora pushes the concept further than It includes a stronger, individualized audio dimension for each user, in line with what music streaming services do today. 

Pandora goes one step further and lays the foundations for Spotify’s business model: on Pandora, you can listen to all the radio stations you want for free but with multiple ads. For $10 a month, the ads disappear. This would be fundamental for companies like Deezer and Spotify years later. 

SoundCloud and Bandcamp: the tipping point

Shortly after Pandora, between 2007 and 2008, SoundCloud and Bandcamp exploited a gap in the burgeoning world of music streaming. Until then, no platform allowed artists to upload their music under their own name. 

Independent artists can now promote their music, exchange ideas with their fans and make their art available without constraints. Artists regain control of their work, shifting the system from a “consumer”-oriented logic to a more “creator”-oriented one. Soundcloud operates on a free model, while Bandcamp allows users to purchase music and merchandise directly from the site. 

Soundcloud and Bandcamp are still prevalent platforms today and have enabled many artists and albums to emerge. 

The beginnings of streaming as we know it today

Spotify arrived on the market in 2008, one year after Deezer, which had already made waves, and it was as if Spotify had summed up everything that had gone before. By forging links with labels, offering an almost infinite quantity of music to listen to, proposing a model that was both free and premium, and creating an algorithm that was constantly being improved – even today – Spotify revolutionized the history of music streaming. It quickly established itself as an ally of choice for artists, labels, and consumers. 

This small revolution soon led to its share of criticism, particularly regarding the remuneration received by artists. Even today, the debate is not over and will probably one day be the subject of an article on Soundiiz.

Following Spotify, Amazon, and Google in 2013, TIDAL and Apple in 2015 positioned themselves on the market. Their arrival, along with that of Spotify, marks the official advent of the music streaming market. 

And then, the history of music streaming changed once again.

And what about Soundiiz?

Soundiiz was created to facilitate the use of all streaming platforms and build bridges between them. With Soundiiz, you can store, transfer, download, and synchronize all your music data.

We noticed that many people decide to switch platforms after a few months of use. But what to do with your music collection? Will it be lost? It includes your playlists, favorites albums or tracks, and followed artists. Rebuilding this library with a new service could be time-consuming and even impossible depending on the size of your collection.

Soundiiz solves this by doing an advanced matching process, allowing you to move easily from and to any platform using our well-known Transfer function.

When transferring a song from one platform to another, Soundiiz makes a matching process between the two platforms. This magic mixture allows us not to lose any information during the transfer and recreate your music collection on the destination service. We can handle complex data, such as remixes, karaoke versions of songs, acoustic covers, sped up etc.

To sum up, if you “like” a song on Spotify, Soundiiz will “like” the same song, if it exists, on Deezer. Sometimes, as metadata and catalog can differ from service to service, matching is impossible or will not be exact (not the same album, for example). It’s a complex mixture, and even if Soundiiz does everything to make it perfect, in rare cases, we can’t find the corresponding song, album, or artist. But to be honest, it rarely happens!

Also, be aware that when you unsubscribe from a streaming service, your data and playlists can be deleted. Using Soundiiz, you can create backups of your playlist as CSV

Is it legal?

Of course! Soundiiz does not download or recover audio files: we do not own them. We are only doing a matching process between the source platform and the destination catalog.

Soundiiz works hand in hand with most streaming platforms. They are interested in our ability to allow users to migrate easily from one platform to another.

We allow everyone who wants to change streaming service to do so without losing data. Thus, we remove some barriers and make subscribing to a new platform easier and almost invisible regarding data. 

Is it free?

Soundiiz is a free tool, but you can only do some things in its free version. For example, you can transfer up to 200 songs from one playlist and transfer one playlist at a time. It shouldn’t block you from moving your data. But if you want to do it in one batch, you might want to consider subscribing to our Premium versions.

You will find everything you need about our free and premium versions here.

Please note that all our offers can be canceled at any time!

Ready to try Soundiiz ?