Rethinking the needs of music consumers

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Facebook understand how streaming services and social media are changing the way people discover and engage with new music.

With a wealth of music platforms available today, people have an immense amount of choice around where they can discover music and what to listen to. Although traditional channels like radio remain popular among consumers, streaming apps offer services that allow listeners to interact with music in new ways. And the Covid-19 outbreak appears to be accelerating the shift to these platforms, with 37% of consumers globally saying that they’ve been listening to more music streaming services at home.

As streaming enables people to find and listen to a wider range of music, the desire for social connection is also changing how listeners discover and share new tracks and artists. According to Will Page, former chief economist at Spotify, this is a behaviour that could become more common as a result of the global pandemic. He says: “Post-virus, people may crave music with a social experience as opposed to music just on its own.”

To help marketers understand the behaviours of today’s music listeners, Facebook IQ commissioned Accenture to survey 10,253 people in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, the UK and the US, aged between 18 and over. Combining this data with an analysis of emerging cultural shifts and an interview with industry expert Will Page, we sought to identify how digital is impacting the way people discover and choose music and where they engage with their favourite artists.

Digital services make music discovery easier

Digital platforms have already transformed how younger audiences listen to music. Across nine out of ten countries surveyed, a majority of 18–34-year-olds said they listen to music through streaming services more than other sources. In the UK, two-thirds of younger listeners listen to music most often on streaming sites, compared with 27% of those ages 35 and over, for example.

This shift to streaming has empowered many listeners across the world to discover new artists and music. In the US and Brazil, more than half of these avid users of streaming services are very satisfied with their ability to discover music. However, there are geographic nuances. Only 43% of streaming users in Canada and 40% in the UK feel very satisfied with their ability to discover music.

Some people aged 35 and over are yet to reap the benefits of digital discovery, as radio is still the service used most often by this cohort in half of the countries surveyed, above other listening options such as streaming or music that they personally own.

This older cohort is open to exploring a variety of artists — some 78% of those aged 35 and over in the US are genre-agnostic, saying they regularly enjoy music from a number of different genres. This openness toward exploration is significant across all markets and is particularly strong in the UK, where 82% of those aged 35 and over are genre-agnostic, compared with 78% of those in Germany.

Despite this curiosity, people who mostly discover new music on the radio are less satisfied with what they find compared with those who discover it through streaming. This trend holds across countries. In the UK, 40% of people who are avid users of streaming services feel very satisfied with their ability to discover new music, compared with 29% of avid radio listeners. Similarly, 44% of avid users of streaming services in Australia are very satisfied with their ability to discover new music, compared with a quarter of radio listeners. With consumers looking for easier ways to discover music, brands and services can help direct each generation to the offerings that would best suit their preferences and tastes.

People want different levels of control over their music choices

The global shift to digital modes of listening has impacted decision making. For example, younger consumers around the world are increasingly positive about AI making their listening decisions for them. Some 40% of 18–34-year-olds in Australia think algorithms are good at choosing music for them based on their tastes, compared with 17% of those aged 35 and over. But there are national nuances in generational attitudes to algorithmic curation: In South Korea, the difference across generations isn’t as wide compared to other markets, with 35% of 18–34-year-olds and 26% of those aged 35 and over believing algorithms are good at choosing music that suits their tastes.

While younger music listeners are embracing digital recommendations, across generations, familiar sources, such as people they know in real life, are influential in helping find inspiration for new music. This is broadly true across countries, with 44% of Canadians and 38% of UK listeners aged 35 and over saying that people they know are good at giving music recommendations.

When it comes to independently personalising their music choices, the streaming-first younger cohort can most easily tailor music to their in-the-moment preferences. In France, 72% of younger music listeners say they can successfully match music to their moods, and 65% of those aged 35 and over feel the same way — which is a trend seen across all markets.

However, people are willing to relinquish control of actively selecting their music feed if they feel that a service already matches their personal preferences. Some 43% of 18–34-year-old US consumers and 38% of those aged 35 and above, say it is worth paying more for a service that offers a playlist or station personalised with the music they already love.

For those who only partially control what they listen to, consumers show different sentiments in doing this by age group. Across nearly all markets, the top reason consumers 35 and older listen to music they only partially control is because they are in a place where they don’t have the time or opportunity to choose every song. While older listeners view this in more circumstantial terms, 18–34-year-old consumers see this as an opportunity for discovery. Nearly half (46%) of 18–34-year-old listeners in the US say they listen to music they only partially control because they sometimes only have a general idea of the type of music they want to hear (compared to 26% of listeners 35 and older). Additionally, 40% of younger listeners in the US do this because a service they use generally chooses songs they enjoy (compared to 30% of listeners 35 and older).

Online communities enable richer fan connections

Many music listeners around the world want closer access to their favorite artists, with nearly three-quarters of those aged 35 and over in Mexico and Brazil saying they want more intimate fan engagement, and around half in Japan, France, and the US agree.

Social media is proving to be an effective place for fan engagement and for nurturing these connections, especially among younger generations. In the UK, nearly half (49%) of 18–34-year-olds feel social media is helping them get to know artists better. And in the US, 57% of 18–34-year-olds feel the same way.

Social media is also enabling fans to stay up to date with their favorite artists. Almost three-quarters (74%) of music listeners in Australia who follow artists on Facebook and Instagram say they do so to keep up with artist news, and two-thirds of Britons say the same.

Many consumers also believe music is a valuable way to connect with others, with 43% of 18–34-year-olds in the US saying they feel this way. In the context of a global pandemic, a shared experience can accelerate connection among fans. According to Will Page, “It’d be interesting to see whether there’s a move toward much more communal listening [because of COVID-19].”

People also say they are more likely to continue using a streaming service if they feel part of a community related to it or the artists on it. This gives brands the opportunity to build connections with consumers in the digital communities that are already a part of their music journey, keeping in mind that paths to engagement may differ across generations.

What it means for marketers

  • Help make discovery effortless: consumers are looking for hassle-free ways to access music — with some 46% of people in Brazil saying it is worth paying more for the best interface or navigation to access the music they enjoy. By making services and information easy to navigate, brands can enable listeners to get what they want more quickly and help with new discoveries.
  • Communicate the benefits of personalization: a quarter of people in the US say they’d be willing to pay more for a service that offers personalisation, such as curated playlists of songs they played the most this year. To stand out with consumers, brands can tailor services to different listeners‘ unique needs, such as by helping some easily control their own listening queues while making it easy for others to relinquish choice to algorithms.
  • Leverage digital communities for fan connection: online communities are a key channel for fans to forge deeper connections through conversations and shared content. Some 40% of people in South Korea who follow artists on Facebook and Instagram do so to connect with other fans or feel like part of a community. By connecting with consumers through online hubs, brands have the opportunity to help fans gain greater knowledge of their favorite artists and to engage users more closely.

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