Nielsen's Music 360 Report Concludes Music Discovery Still Led by Radio

New stats are good news for record industry

AM/FM Radio
© 2006 Thinkstock/Ron Chapple
AM/FM Radio
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For all the hullabaloo over the past decade about iPods, iPhones, satellite radio, Pandora, Rhapsody, Spotify, illegal music piracy and YouTube, old-school radio continues to dominate the way fans consume new songs. Forty-eight percent of listeners discover music via FM and AM stations, according to a new Nielsen Music 360 study of 3,000 online consumers. In second place for music discovery are friends and relatives at 10 percent, followed by YouTube at just seven percent.

That's good news for the radio industry and also the record industry, which has been relegated in recent years to using its inside connections to break pop stars over the radio. Otherwise, to a large degree, there's little point for an artist to sign with a record label.

Although Nielsen didn't break down the demographics of the survey group, it almost certainly skews older, i.e. people who have the habit of relying on Top 40 DJs to tell them what's cool or office workers who have little choice but to listen to what's coming over the speakers. In the survey, teen listeners are far more obsessed with YouTube: 64 percent of them discovered music that way, compared to 56 percent for radio, 53 percent for iTunes and 50 percent for CDs. (Fifty percent of teens discover music via CDs? When all the music is available cheaply on Amazon or iTunes or free on Spotify? Hmm. We haven't noticed mobs of teenagers crowding us out of record stores lately.)

Other revelations from the survey:

• Sixty-three percent of music buyers believe digital albums are a "very or fairly good value." Sixty-one percent say the same about digital tracks, and 55 percent about CDs. (Again: 55 percent? CDs, in decline for years, are doing shockingly well in this study.)

• Thirty-six percent of teens have purchased a CD over the past year, while 51 percent have bought some kind of download. We're guessing Adele is singlehandedly responsible for this statistic because otherwise, to repeat ourselves, teens are buying CDs? Really?

• Fifty-four percent have smartphone music apps; 47 percent have radio apps (which makes sense if the survey counted Pandora here) and 26 percent have music-store apps.

• Teens spend a lot: 54 percent of them buy t-shirts at concerts, compared to 46 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds. Also, 33 percent of teens bought a digital track within a week of its release, compared to 21 percent of people 18 or over. In related news, just 28 percent of people between 25 and 34 years old have decreased their spending "to a large degree" since the economic crisis began in 2008. (Actually, the survey says "during the current economy," which really makes no sense.) By comparison, 41 percent of people over 55 said the same thing and 39 percent of people from 45 to 54 similarly reduced spending.