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Free, social and video platforms online account for 45% of music consumption, according to IFPI

By | Published on Thursday 21 October 2021


Digital platforms account for the majority of global music consumption – or ‘engagement’ if you prefer – according to new stats from the International Federation Of Phonographic Industry, although nearly two-thirds of that is on free, social and video platforms. That despite the fact that, in 2020, premium streaming services – which account for just over a third of total digital consumption – brought in nearly three quarters of the record industry’s streaming revenues.

These and a sturdy stack of other stats come from the IFPI’s new ‘Engaging With Music’ report, which is based on a survey of 43,000 internet users aged 16-64 in 21 countries. The global stats are based on what respondents said in nineteen of those countries, with stats for China and India published separately due to the size and nature of those markets.

Globally speaking, premium streaming services like Spotify Premium and Apple Music – which are the biggest revenue generators for the record industry – account for 23% of music consumption. The free streaming services, like Spotify’s free tier, account for 9%. And then you have the social and video services, with video streaming like the main YouTube platform accounting for 22% of consumption, social media platforms 3% and TikTok style short form video apps 11%.

Although the free, social and video services bring in a lot less money – despite accounting for double the consumption – they’d likely argue that they play an important marketing and discovery role, driving listening on the premium platforms. Which you may or may not see as a fair exchange.

Beyond the digital music services, radio accounts for 16% of consumption, while recordings that a consumer has bought and owns – so discs and downloads – account for 9%. The remaining 7% comes from things like live music, music on TV, and music shared with friends and family.

Figures specifically for the UK are not that dissimilar to the world at large, though radio scores higher at 22%, as does music bought and owned by the consumer at 13%. Premium streaming also scores slightly higher at 25%, while the other digital options are lower: so free streaming 8%, video streaming 18%, social media 2% and short form video apps 8%.

Other fun stats contained in the stack include that 68% of time spent on short form video apps involves watching videos where the featured music is key to the experience; 29% of respondents had watched livestreamed music in the last year, of which 65% said they’d continue to consume such shows even once COVID rules had relaxed allowing real-world gigs to return; and 52% of the gamers surveyed were interested in virtual gigs that occur within gaming platforms.

There are also some stats around physical releases. 15% of the 25-34 year olds surveyed had bought a CD in the last month, while 11% had bought a vinyl release. And if you think that’s the still-physical-dominated market that its Japan skewing the figures, well, in the UK 17% had bought a CD and 13% a vinyl record.

Finally, the report has the customary section on piracy, which is to say the people engaging with music on unlicensed platforms. 30% of people use copyright infringement of one form or another to access music. 27% are stream ripping. And 14% are getting music from unlicensed social media platforms. Which, of course, means the music industry still wants stronger anti-piracy tools to stop the stream rippers and some good old safe harbour reform to force all social media services to get themselves licensed.

Commenting on the big old stats pack, IFPI boss Frances Moore says: “‘Engaging With Music 2021’ tells the story of how fans around the globe are connecting with the artists and music they love in ways never before imagined, with the rapid emergence of short form video, livestreaming, and in-game experiences, all enhanced by people’s love of music”.

“Record companies have enabled artists to develop their vision, licensed an abundance of music tracks to a multitude of platforms, and harnessed new technologies to pave the way for music fans around the world to connect with artists in these growing and exciting ways”, she adds. “The freedom of record labels to license music to these new and immersive experiences is crucial to the future growth of the entire music ecosystem. We are campaigning worldwide to ensure governments maintain or implement a fair environment in which such commercial deals can be made”.

You can see top-level music engagement stats for the world and the UK here.

Or you can download the full IFPI report here.