The release of the MP3 for public use took place in 1995. Its availability and its decades long development happened without much of the recording industry’s involvement and it didn’t hit them until Napster in 1999. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 had direct and immediate effects that shaped, not only the recording industry, but the live music business as well. Both events disrupted the music industry to its core and flipped the entire game upside down.
When you take a cross generational look at the music industry, its sounds, its technologies, the cultures and transitions, you can see that 1994 marked the beginning of the end of how the music industry was before today’s realities.
1994 was the start of genre fragmentation. It was the height and death of grunge rock, before East Coast vs West Coast rap, it was the birth of nu-metal and trip-hop, it was right before electronic music matured beyond dance, and before country music adopted pop productions and became the arena spectacle we know today.
The other major music related event of 25 years ago: the death of Kurt Cobain. It was less than 1000 days since the release of Nevermind when Kurt was discovered in his Seattle home.
Hell froze over, one of the most famous reunions of all time took place in 94 with The Eagles. The 25th anniversary of Woodstock brought with its first reinstallment.
One thing that stands out about chart topping and news making albums in 1994: these weren’t artists’ average releases, they were often their most iconic effort, take for instance:
Selena - Amor Prohibto
Beastie Boys - Ill Communication
Notorious B.I.G. - Ready To Die
Jeff Buckley – Grace
Soundgarden’s Superunknown was released on the same day as NIN’s The Downward Spiral. “Closer” is arguably Nine Inch Nails’ most recognizable song, and same goes for “Black Hole Sun.” Both cannot be compared to any other single in the bands’ discgography.
There were debut albums by artists who would later come to have immense influence: Outkast, The Fugees, Elliot Smith, Usher, Korn, Marilyn Manson, Prodigy.
The soundtracks for Pulp Fiction, The Crow, and Lion King came out that year.
If you zoom in past the arenas, television and radio to take a look at the niche and nuanced, you’ll find albums by Pavement, Method Man, Portishead, Digable Planets, Common, Massive Attack, Orbital, Craig Mack, Gang Starr.
Also released that year: Aphex Twin’s Ambient Works II, Sonic Youth’s Experimental Jet Set, Tom Petty, UGK, John Melloncamp, NOFX, Liz Phair, Mariah Carey’s Xmas Album. Pop music like “Tootsie Roll,” “Kiss From Rose”, Ace of Base was inescapable, Boys2Men, All4One had the biggest selling single that year, Hootie & The Blowfish, Collective Soul, Coolio’s “Fantastic Voyage”, Blues Traveler’s one hit, Cotton Eyed Joe, Lisa Loeb, Veruca Salt.