Broadcast & Satellite

Nielsen Music 360 Report: Radio = Discovery, YouTube = Listening, Friends = Buying

Nielsen-logoNielsen's Music 360 Report, based on a survey focused on music consumption, discovery and related topics, struck a chord with the press this week. In particular, the finding that radio is the top music discovery tool and that YouTube functions for many young people as a music streaming service is news to some and confirmation to others. Also of interest is the confirmation that "positive recommendations from a friend are most likely to influence purchase decisions." Though limited, these findings do have possible implications for indie artists.

The primary document generating widespread media coverage is the press release announcing the report. Here are some of the more interesting findings shared:

Radio is still the dominant way people discover music

  • 48% discover music most often through the radio
  • 10% discover music most often through friends/relatives
  • 7% discover music most often through YouTube

More teens listen to music through YouTube than through any other source

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

Positive recommendations from a friend are most likely to influence purchase decisions

  • 54% are more likely to make a purchase based off a positive recommendation from a friend
  • 25% are more likely to make a purchase based off a music blog/chat rooms
  • 12% are more likely to make a purchase based off an endorsement from a brand

To be honest, it's difficult to evaluate such findings without seeing the actual questions. I've found with a lot of the research reports about music and the web that are made publicly available without charge that questions often include terms with multiple meanings that could easily lead to faulty findings.

For example, I would love to know how some of the questions were phrased and what people think when they hear the word "discover." I'd also like to find out more about how they perceive the path from discovery to purchase, a topic which would not be particularly easy to address through simple survey questions.

Some of the possibilities raised by the answers shared make me want to see what would happen if respondents were interviewed in a more open-ended manner. For example, when they say they are "more likely to make a purchase based off" of one thing or another, I first have to assume they are talking about purchasing music rather than merch since merch shows up in other questions.

Given that assumption, I then have to wonder if they're purchasing music "based off" various influences with or without having heard it. If they're purchasing singles, they've probably heard it so why would other people's recommendations be the basis for purchase? I know we're all influenced by all sorts of factors but don't people buy singles cause they like them? Or am I just an outlier for making such decisions on my own?

That said, if we take the information at face value, the above three findings suggest such possibilities as:

  • Trying to get on radio is still a worthy endeavor for indie artists.
  • Musicians should consider monetizing YouTube videos.
  • Encouraging fans to reach out to friends could be a powerful sales generator.

Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) maintains a business writing hub at Flux Research and blogs at Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. “Encouraging fans to reach out to friends could be a powerful sales generator.”
    I remember reading an article detailing how a lot of the major labels were trying to cut down on expenses so they ended up getting rid of the artist development and promotions departments. The promotions department in particular sent out interns to advertise bands in record shops.
    This struck me as a kind of grass roots marketing campaign wherein the interns could positively influence customers in the stores to buy the CD, the customers in turn would spread the word and the band would profit.
    Also, great article 🙂

  2. Yes let’s, “Take the information at face value”:
    Milk comes from cows. Cheese comes from milk. Cottage cheese does not come in a milk carton. Radio is still prominent. Musicians should “consider” monetizing the number one streaming service. And, thank god Nielsen confirmed it, using your fan/social network as promotion is a good idea.

  3. Nielsen only counts the numbers of those customers they get paid from, so their figures are biased towards label content, and self-releasing artists don’t really play a role in them. The old music industry model with its promotion through radio still works for the labels, no matter if Nielsen’s figures are actually just observations or include promotion of their biggest customers, which is always a possibility when statistical analyses are concerned.

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