Nielsen Music has released a new study that should make record labels very nervous: Fewer than 20 percent of internet users worldwide pay for downloads of individual songs, and even fewer pay for downloads of full albums. Americans and Europeans are the most likely to purchase downloads, while users in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East overwhelmingly favor free downloads.
The most popular means of accessing music online is watching a music video; the second-most popular is illegal downloading. Nielsen’s data also shows that internet users are three times more likely to watch a music video online than purchase a legal download of a song.
Overall, the way people experience music online is incredibly fragmented, split among videos, illegal downloads, streaming audio and paid downloads. Even the devices used to access this music is varied, divided among computers, mp3 players, cellphones and other gadgets — there is no single channel for consuming music online that is used by even 60 percent of internet users worldwide.