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Three Points About US Music Consumption

Linus Lassus


A couple of weeks ago, Nielsen released their annual music business report for the US music market. Ahead of SXSW and the NOMEX trade mission to Seattle and LA, we thought it would be appropriate to pull out a few points about the American music consumers and music consumption from the Nielsen market report.

1. Streaming is UP

In 2015, American music consumers used on-demand streaming services almost twice as much as in 2014. On demand video and audio streaming, including free services like YouTube, was up by 92.8% from 2014. Audio streaming only increased by 83.1% (from 79.1 billion songs in 2014 to 144.9 billion in 2015).

On the other hand, digital and physical sales decreased, as people started shifting ever more towards the streaming services. The only non-streaming format that did increase was vinyl. In 2015, the US music consumers bought 29.8% more vinyl records than in the previous year (it’s worth noting though, that a large part of those albums were Adele’s 25).

2. Radio is relevant

Streaming might be getting more popular, but if you want to reach the Americans, you should aim for radio airplay. 93% of 18+ music consumers in the US use the radio every week. The radio is used more than any other device – including smartphones. Top five music genres for radio among listeners aged 18-34 were Contemporary Pop, Country, Hot Adult Contemporary, Urban Contemporary and Adult Contemporary.

Radio is also the most important medium for discovering new music. Consumers rated it as the top platform for discovering new music on the radio in 2015, followed by word-of-mouth and movie soundtracks. Online music news and magazines are among the least common ways consumers discover new music.

3. People like live

Especially millenials (age 18-34) like to spend their music budget on live events. 64% of the money they are ready to spend on music ($163 according to Nielsen) goes to concert tickets and admissions, including festivals, DJ club nights and concerts of various sizes. Teens spend 48% of their ($80) budget on live shows in 2015. 51% of music consumers stated they had been to a live show during the year, an increase from 44% in 2014.

It’s worth mentioning that the rating for live concerts as a way of finding new music has also increased – almost doubled – during 2015.

You can find the Nielsen report here. For a critical view and as food for thought, you can read this Stereogum-article on the report by Michael Nelson.