Apps, Mobile & SMS

Music Listening – The Least Popular Mobile Activity

image from www.rimarkable.comComScore published its 2010 Digital Year in Review report. In their analysis of what Americans are doing with their mobile devices, listening to music didn't fare well, which is a nice way of saying that it ranked dead last. Instant messaging is even more popular than music listening. And even if you make room for the fact that people listen to music while performing these other tasks, the usage statistics reveal that music listening isn't something people value on their mobile devices.

While music listening could also wiggle its way into the more popular category of using apps, it's likely that comScore stipulated that using apps and listening to music were different behaviors. Given that usage like taking photos, news and information, Web browsing, using apps, and e-mail will only grow, the meager 16% of people that use their mobile devices to listen to music isn't promising.

If you take a step back and realize that Spotify's business model depends on people paying money to listen to music on mobile devices, it doesn't appear encouraging that only 16% of people engage in the activity. Sure, many people still use their iPod Touch and keep their songs and phone calls separate (I know I do.), but mobile is supposed to be the future of music and that stat is quite low.

It suggests that even as the listening to music category grows, most people will only be tuning in while texting, browsing the web, and playing games. And as music continues its march to the background of people's lives, it also moves to the back of their wallets. If a user comes up short for a few months, texting, web browsing, and games will hold their place while Spotify or MOG is put on hold.

Soon enough, music will be the back, background to everything else. It's inevitable. Besides voice calls, the top mobile activities comScore reports are:

  1. texting (68% of users)
  2. taking photos (52%)
  3. news and information (40%)
  4. Web browsing (36%)
  5. using apps (34%)
  6. e-mail (30%)
  7. weather (25%)
  8. social networking or blogs (24%)
  9. games (23%)
  10. search (21%)
  11. shooting video (20%)
  12. looking at maps (18%)
  13. instant messaging (17%)
  14. sports info (16%)
  15. listening to music (16%).

Share on:


  1. I can’t help feeling these statistics are *somewhat* misleading when it comes to people’s actual listening habits.
    The reality is that in the USA and Canada, streaming music on a smartphone is much too expensive for anyone except yuppies to do very often. It’s a data muncher par excellence – hence my own decision NOT to move to mobile when Sirius/XM released its streaming app. It’s cheaper for me to pray that my old Sirius Stiletto hangs in there for a few more years.
    My own usage pattern tends more toward streaming satrad and music ***from my PC*** when at work (where my portable satrad doesn’t work and where my mp3 collection isn’t). That’s 8 solid hours a day of music streaming which are not being reported using the methodology contained in the article.

  2. When you’re using a mobile device, you’re usually on the run. The car stereo is different because you’re sitting in one place, but when you walk or go by train, there is a whole world to be listened to.
    During the 2nd half of last year, I have witnessed the return of headphones on the street, but most people in public transport are not drowning out the world by listening to music. I don’t do that either. I don’t do games, but I see lots of people doing them in the commute. Others are reading or even watching films on their laptops.
    I think a more useful ranking would be “media entertainment activity in the public space” than “activity on a mobile device” because some people use their laptop, others use a phone or single-activity device such as a portable music player or even a gameboy. But it all depends on the situation: walking around in the city is much different to sitting in a train during commute or lying on the banks of the river.

  3. What also must be considered in these results is that music listening zaps battery life. I would like to use my smartphone for more listening on the move, but I don’t want my phone to die on me a few hours into the day. I also believe mobile has a big part to play in the future of music. However, until battery technology improves, this will be problematic.

  4. Exactly. This is why I rarely use my phone to listen to music. He battery life is relatively low as it is, and once I start running apps, it just gets worse.

  5. Not at all surprised by this bit of “news”. There is serious techno-fetishism going on, to the point where it supercedes, in perceived importance, the actual and intrinsic values of basic activities. It’s really very simple because, at the end of the day, who the F*** wants to listen to music on a telephone? It’s like being satisfied with hiking on a Wii.

Comments are closed.