In the mid-90s, MP3 decoding software was cheap -- WinAmp, one of the most widely downloaded Windows programs of the era, was free (though it went to a freemium model where extras could be paid for). But encoding software was expensive, and formed the center of the business model.
Within the past few years, online streaming has surpassed digital music sales, adding to the worries that allowing listeners to access music for free (or very nearly free; a premium subscription to Spotify is only $10 per month) will destroy the music industry, as the unnamed English entrepreneur predicted to Brandenburg when he showed off the MP3. Whatever the reason, album sales are tanking, with totals hitting record low numbers, and online streaming is taking off.
Besides being able to quickly access a monumental amount of music, of course, the biggest advantage of this format is that it doesn't require terabytes of hard drive space to store it all. Being able to stream it from the cloud and download a few albums at a time for mobile listening is very space efficient --this was not the case in the days of Napster and LimeWire, in which users had to download all of their music, which both took a long time and required a huge amount of space. 153554b96e