Radio & Satellite

Active vs. Passive Fans: Why Radio & TV Still Rank Tops For Music Discovery

Baby Fed MusicThe data presented in a recent NPD Group/NARM study found terrestrial radio and syndicated television among the main influential sources of music discovery (60% and 49% respectively). With all the new avenues for music discovery out there, why are the majority of people still choosing to shape their musical tastes through premeditated and controlled media sources?

By assessing the data, it leads one to believe that the majority of music consumers are not taking full advantage of this new media age we live in. Personalized services like Pandora and other social-based discovery outlets, allow us to find music we'll enjoy based on how it will cater to our unique individual tastes, as opposed to what we’re told we'll like via the mainstream and Clear Channel controlled radio, or through mass television

If terrestrial radio and passive television still sit atop the music discovery food chain, does this must mean that people haven’t quite caught on to the ease and usefulness of personalized music discovery, or are they just lazy and don’t want to go through the trouble of shifting their paradigms?

The study used the term “active” music fan – which seems to mean anyone who goes out of their way beyond just passive media to find the music they think they’ll enjoy. This again leads one to believe that the majority of the population must be passive music fans. The study also found that online radio and web videos were the top ways that “active” music fans discovered new music. Both of these occur outside the conventional means of passive media consumption, and while they require a little more effort, their rewards are much more intrinsically valuable to the listener.

These days, we have more of a choice than ever to opt out of passive media recommendations, yet the majority of us continually choose to accept them. Perhaps once we better integrate personalized music discovery and consumption into the places where it already happens most passively (the car, the living room, etc), “active” may become the new "passive" and our paradigms will again shift.

What do you think? Are “active” music fans really the minority? Why do you think the majority of people choose to go with the herd? 

This post is by regular Hypebot contributor, musician, and independent music business professional - Hisham Dahud (@HishamDahud)

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  1. Doesn’t matter if they’re the minority, since the 80/20 rule probably applies. 20% of consumers (probably active fans) bringing in 80% of the revenue.
    Will revisit when I have some time. Actually, I might write an article in reply to this – you raise a lot of great points, Hisham! 🙂

  2. A few things to consider…
    America is a car culture and most of us still drive everywhere. Cars have car stereos. Consider a typical 45 minute commute. That’s 90 minutes of car stereo. Unless you work in the music biz you probably don’t listen to 90 minutes of music a day on another device. I think that’s, in large part, where the numbers come from.
    Anyone who works retail has a radio station going in their store for their entire work day. If those numbers were taken into account they probably skewed things at least a little bit.
    Not everyone can work and listen to music at the same time, either due to office, or personal preference, reasons, so things like Pandora won’t work for them.

  3. Technologists seem too often to believe that because their technology can (sometimes) change human behavior relatively quickly that it can also quickly change human nature. This simply isn’t so. Human nature, if it changes at all, changes much more slowly. Of course active music fans are in the minority; they always have been. Most people by nature simply aren’t that actively interested in music, and having Pandora around for 10 years or so isn’t going to change that.
    What’s more, one part of human nature that is not being served by personalized music services is the desire to be connected to a large group of people through song. There is something warm and connective about listening, in real time, to what “everyone” is listening to (even if it appears to be “crap” to the ears of an aficionado). I don’t think that’s going to change very quickly either.

  4. As @spartz correctly points out the lack of mainstream interest may not matter. NPD reports that the mainstream segment only represent 10% of total music sales which sort of jives with @tconrads statement that 50% of Americans don’t pay for music. Not an attractive customer segment.
    @hishamdahud I don’t think the mainstream has really been exposed to music discovery as we all here might think of discovery. Yes, they’re just getting a taste of Shazam and activity streams in Facebook but I think we can all agree that discovery can be so much richer and deeper than that.
    But we don’t build tools for the passive mainstream and it would be irresponsible to do so. Rather we focus on the two segments that NPD stated were open to new music discovery which coincidentally represent 80% of the dollars spent on music. The most active segment is only 10% of the active consumer population but represents 5X more spending per capita. And as a side note, this is consistent with our userbase, see:
    As discovery goes further through the adoption cycle, we’ll look for opportunities to introduce products that meet the mainstream’s needs but for the reasons above, the economics are tough on that segment.

  5. Very good! The herd mentality will eventually lead these mainstream consumers to start consuming like the currently “active fans”. However then again we’ll be left wondering why that herd is not consuming like the future “active fans”.
    Never-ending cycle 🙂

  6. There is a basic rule. The average music listener does not care about music. I am in graduate school right now and more than 80% of people here think there is nothing wrong with ClearChannel-controlled radio. I wonder what it must be like to live inside their heads. People rely on gatekeepers to show them the way. Right now, those gatekeepers are TV and radio. New discovery services should make their way to places where people passively latch on to their music. These aficionado-target broadcasts need to happen in a public venue where the average joe gets to listen to the music discovery service without actually wanting to.

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