The way Americans discover and listen to music is changing. Not so long ago, a Baby Boomer might hear a song on the radio, buy the artist’s latest album from the local record store, and head home to spin some vinyl on a record player. In the age of digital music and MP3 players, this already seems quaint.
With music streaming services on the rise, however, younger generations instantly access millions of songs, all available to listen to anytime and anyplace. They might discover new artists in their car, on a run, or simply hanging out with friends.
While these services aren’t quite mainstream yet – and older generations may be scratching their heads over the appeal – the market is growing steadily. Nearly 68 million people stream music today, up from just eight million in 2010, according to IFPI, a trade association that represents the recording industry worldwide.
Just 35% of U.S. consumers currently listen to music this way, according to a new ReportLinker survey, but growth is clearly being driven by younger generations. 44% of Millennials and 38% of Gen Z respondents say they are streaming music, compared to 45% of older generations who say they’d be very unlikely to use these services.
Still, it’s quite possible that one day this may be the primary way music is consumed. One indication is that the market is highly competitive. Some of the players include Pandora, which tops the market with 34% of music streaming users, and Spotify, the next biggest player with 24%. But there are plenty of others, too, including YouTube, Google Play, Tidal, SoundCloud, and relative newcomer Apple Music.
Unlimited Play, Wide Variety of Music – At Low or No Cost
It’s not hard to see why this method of listening to music appeals to users. The benefits are compelling: unlimited music, a wide variety of genres and artists, playlists, and low- or no-cost subscriptions. Pandora’s popularity, for example, can be traced to its cost. More than a quarter of its users say a free subscription was the primary factor in making their decision, according to ReportLinker. By contrast, 29% of Spotify users rank playlists at the top of their list.
Of all the features, 27% of survey respondents said unlimited listening was most important, followed by a wide variety of music (22%) and continuous updated music (16%). Overall, however, 83% of music streaming listeners say they’re satisfied with their choice of service.
A Profile of Music Streaming Listeners
While younger generations have been early adopters, the profile of music streaming listeners is more nuanced. For many, it’s a relatively new experience. However, more than two-thirds say they have been streaming music for more than a year, and 42% have been regular listeners for more than two years, according to ReportLinker.
Pandora listeners are more likely to be women (42%) than men (22%), and older, with 53% of older generations saying they favor it. It’s most popular with Generation X, 65% of whom say they are listeners, the ReportLinker survey data shows. They’re also loyal: 70% say they’ve been with the service for more than two years.
By contrast, Spotify is most popular among younger users. 36% of Gen Z and 28% of Millennial users say they use the service, and they are clearly attracted by its approach to playlists. A significant majority – 88% – of Spotify users primarily listen to their own playlists. The service has earned media accolades and customer loyalty for its implementation of this feature. Recently, it launched Daily Mix, which automatically creates a new daily playlist based on music the listener has streamed in the past. While only a third of all music streaming users listen to playlists suggested by their service, innovations such as this are likely to attract more users to Spotify’s services.
Smartphones have driven the popularity of music streaming services, and indeed, for 90% of users, smartphones are the main device they use to listen, according to ReportLinker. More than half of streaming users say they spend between one and three hours a day streaming music. This is far more time than non-users, half of whom say they listen for less than an hour a day.
Future Trends: Music and Video Streamed to Your Treadmill
With access to millions of songs for just a few dollars a month, it may not seem all that necessary or desirable for users of streaming services to take the extra step of purchasing music online. But perhaps because they’re regularly exposed to new music, listeners of music streaming services are more likely to purchase and download music than non-users. According to ReportLinker’s findings, 28% of music streaming service users say they buy and download music online, compared to just 17% of non-users.
What’s more, those who pay for music streaming services are also more likely to be video-on-demand customers. Of these users, 86% are connected to video-on-demand services, compared to 55% of those who stream music for free.
These findings indicate potentially lucrative marketing and partnership opportunities for both music and video streaming services. This connection has not been lost on Spotify, which recently added Netflix’s head of content, Ted Sarandos, to its board, and seems poised to enter the video streaming market.
Yet, video is only one of many potential partnerships. With users streaming music at home, as mentioned 77% of the time in the new survey, these services could explore opportunities with electronics and appliance makers. Automobile makers are also a logical fit, as listeners mentioned, 63% of the time, streaming music while driving, according to ReportLinker. And with more than half of users also listening while exercising, there may be potential partnerships with manufacturers of exercise equipment and fitness trackers
Such partnerships almost certainly will help music streaming services build awareness among older generations and expand their subscriber bases overall.
Before too long, music streaming may not be something only the kids do. It may very well become the primary way everyone discovers new music and listens to their favorite artists.
This survey conducted by ReportLinker reached 502 online respondents representative of the US population. Interviews were conducted between September 23rd and 25th.