Discovering New Music

Contributor: Nicole Beniamini, Vice President, Edison Research

Fridays are my favorite day. Not just because it’s the end of the workweek and the start of the weekend, but because I know that every Friday is a chance to listen to brand-new music. Hearing the latest music has always been a passion of mine, starting from my childhood days of keeping a cassette tape in my stereo, ready to (illegally) record any new songs that came on the radio.

However, that’s not to say that music discovery is important to everyone. My company, Edison Research, recently released data from our annual Infinite Dial® study, which revealed that 24% of Americans age 12 and older say it is “very important” to learn about and stay up to date with music. This strong interest in music discovery is highest among younger Americans, with 35% of those who are age 12-34 saying it is “very important,” and lowest among Americans age 55+ (10%). However, this does not mean you have to be young to place a high value on discovering music. In fact, more than half of these “new-music seekers” are age 35 and older.

Having an appetite for the latest music means new-music seekers are consuming audio wherever they can get it, including social media. One-third of new-music seekers currently use TikTok, the video-sharing social networking site that has already helped to produce several hit songs, such as “Old Town Road” and “Dance Monkey.” Social media sites allow new music to spread quickly, especially because 53% of new-music seekers say they share the music they are listening to through social media.

A great deal of audio consumption occurs in a vehicle, and inside those four steel walls, AM/FM radio dominates, with 80% of new-music seekers using it while in the car. In addition, 35% of new-music seekers report that AM/FM radio is the audio source they use most often in the car.

Music listening is also often done through the many online audio services. The ability to create and share playlists, along with the strong image of helping you discover new music, are likely the driving forces behind the use of online audio services. Forty-nine percent of new-music seekers state they have used Spotify in the last month.

So, with all these opportunities to hear music, where do new-music seekers go to discover music? When it comes to traditional media platforms, radio continues to dominate – 46% of new-music seekers choose AM/FM radio. But new music seekers will use all options available to them, with 68% of new-music seekers using YouTube, followed by 47% who rely on friends and family. While usage of AM/FM radio as a discovery source is highest among those age 35 and older, 37% of new-music seekers who are between the ages of 12 and 34 report using AM/FM radio, placing it higher than Apple iTunes (30%) and Facebook (27%). When our new-music seekers were asked which source they use most often, more than one-quarter of them said YouTube (26%). Spotify ranks second at 19%, and AM/FM radio comes in third at 11%.

But just because someone doesn’t believe keeping up to date with music is very important doesn’t mean they aren’t still discovering it. When we looked at music discovery source used most often among the 33% who say it is “not at all” important to stay up to date with music, we found that AM/FM radio takes 35% of the pie. This group, who we have labeled as “Satisfied Listeners,” are content with the music library they already have and are much more likely to turn to the radio when they are interested in hearing the latest songs. This, perhaps, seems to demonstrate a unique function that AM/FM radio serves. While it is an important resource, among others, for the latest songs, it is still the main resource for the latest hits.

Not all new music will become hits, so radio is still an important way for music listeners to weed out which songs are worth listening to or at least to know what others are listening to.

Are you a new-music seeker or a satisfied listener?


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