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August 29th, 2012

Music still makes the world go ‘round for Americans

Cheryl Pearson-McNeil
By Cheryl Pearson-McNeil

When you and I talk about technological leaps and bounds, frequently we’re focused on the way we communicate with each other. And, I write here a lot about what we watch and how we watch it. But, let me ask you this: What are you listening to today, and perhaps even more interestingly - how are you listening to it?

My assumption that you are indeed very likely to listen to music today is an educated one, as results from new Nielsen Entertainment and Nielsen 360 studies show that music is an everyday activity for most people in this country.

Those comprehensive results report that 70% of people 13 years of age and older actively listen to music at least once a day. Ninety percent of people actively listen at least several times a week.

We love our music and both exposure and consumption continue to increase. So, now, how are you listening to your music?  Remember back in the dark ages when AM/FM radio was the way to go? When transistor radios (which went the way of the dinosaur) were considered cool? In addition to your personal stereo or turntable - which played records - came 8-tracks, cassette players, boom boxes, the Walkman, then the Discman.

“The accessibility of music has seen tremendous expansion and diversification,” reports Nielsen Entertainment’s David Bakula. His research also confirms that radio still rules as the number one way consumers access music. This is how we listen:

• Radio           48%
• Computer       44%
• CD player        39%
• iPod           27%
• Home stereo       23%
• TV           21%
• MP3 player       17%
• Android       13%
• iPhone       12%
• Satellite Radio       10%     

When we refer to listening via computer, iPods, MP3 players or phones, we’re often referring to internet radio, digital downloads of singles and albums and on-demand streaming. These days, of course, albums don’t necessarily mean vinyl - although data shows there has been a resurgence in interest in vinyl albums - it typically means CDs and digital albums.

For young people, the numbers are a little different. YouTube is the way most listen to music. As the mom of a music-loving teenage son, I can testify to this. Take a look at these interesting numbers:

• 64% of teens listen to music on YouTube
• 56% of teens listen to music on the radio
• 53% listen on iTunes
• 50% listen on CDs

It’s interesting to note, too, that new hot artists aren’t always the most listened to or biggest selling. Because of her heavy exposure, Nikki Minaj’s “Super Bass” was the most streamed song in 2011, with over 86 million plays/views, beating out singles by Adele, LMFAO, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.

With the numerous ways to consume music out there, a couple of more traditional artists made Nielsen’s top 10 list for the first six months of 2012. Whitney Houston was number two across all platforms, with appreciation and interest spiked by her untimely death, which is often the case; Rihanna was number six.

Lionel Ritchie, who, as we all know, has been around for several decades, came in at number eight - outselling all the others in digital tracks and streaming plays. This is probably because of Ritchie’s recent foray into the Country genre, which is interesting because respondents to Nielsen’s survey typically classified themselves as being either Country fans or Hip-Hop/R&B fans.

The reality is that people who put themselves in either of those categories actually enjoy a much broader spectrum of music. Country music fans also reported preferring Rock/Classic/Pop/Top 40/Oldies and Alternative Rock. Data shows those who preferred Hip-Hop/R&B also listen to Pop/Top40/Rap/Classic Rock and Alternative Rock. Of course, there is also taste for Jazz, Adult Contemporary, Gospel/Religious and others.

Another interesting stat is that even though new digital track releases are likely to be purchased by younger consumers immediately after their release, catalog sales are outpacing current sales. Catalog music is at least 18 months old, which includes all the classics. Nielsen analysts attribute much of this to Multimedia Integration. Think about it.  How many traditional artists have you seen or heard on TV shows like “American Idol,” “The Voice” or “Glee?”

It’s another trend to watch as all genres of music are everywhere more than ever. And, you, the music loving consumer, have far greater control (and power) over how you access yours.

Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Nielsen.

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