Music Marketing

Active vs. Passive Fans: Why Radio & TV Still Rank Tops For Music Discovery [Best Of Hypebot]

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All week we'll be featuring the best and most popular articles that appeared on Hypebot in 2011. This one is by regular contributor Hisham Dahud.

The 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. For most folks, music is a utility, a means to an end… e.g., a mood thing. They like music but don’t invest the time or effort to discover music on their own.

  2. I think its the same reason that a person can only listen to your ipod or media card for so long on a many hour road trip -after awhile you choose to turn the radio back on even if it snaps and crackles with static. You can tailor your stream to what you want but it gets boring… you get to hear stuff you dont like, are not familiar with and might not have thought about in ages, on sites that give you their own content.. and radio offers something else – human contact. Even if the commercials get to be annoying its still a form of human contact and somewhat ‘live’ rather than ‘canned’

  3. Pandora-like algorithms are lame more often than not. I do plenty of active searching, but I also think a good dj on a good station remains one of the best ways to discover music. What exactly is active about letting a computer tell you what you like?

  4. I’d agree with the statement that most people are passive when it comes to music discovery. Furthermore, as Jay Frank (author FutureHit DNA) has pointed out. For most unknown artists – as hard as it is to get people to listen to an unfamiliar song the first time – the hardest thing is to get people to listen to a song twice or more in the era of “active” music discovery. Terrestrial radio breeds familiarity with new songs. Little by little people get more and more familiar with the song and the artist, and start liking their work more and more because of said familiarity. Once this happens the listener (or at least many of them) becomes active and researches the artist online and/or decides to purchase the song or album.

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