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More Americans access tracks via playlists than albums, according to Music Biz research

By | Published on Friday 23 September 2016


Remember how iTunes was going to kill off the album format? That never happened did it? Bloody iTunes, always writing cheques it can’t cash. Though, to be fair, it also wrote an awful lot of cheques that the music business did cash. So, we’ll let it off for failing to destroy the record industry’s long-standing favoured format.

The debate of late, of course, has been over whether or not the rise of the playlist on the streaming platforms render the album format redundant. And if you reckon ‘yes’, then you’ll like the latest stats from US music retail trade group the Music Business Association (aka Music Biz) and research firm LOOP, which say that more Americans are now listening to tracks within a playlist than clicking play on an entire album.

Based on a survey of just over 3000 US music consumers back in May, the latest Music Biz/LOOP report says that playlists account for 31% of total listening time, while albums only account for 22%. Though “single track listening” – so popping into a platform and picking an individual track – still accounted for 46% of total listening time, down on a similar survey in 2015, but still the highest ranked listening approach.

Of course, the process via which people access tracks will be influenced by how they are consuming music in general, ie CD, download, personalised radio, on-demand streaming or YouTube, etc. The fact that single-track listening is down and playlist listening up is likely a result of more people using streaming services of the Spotify and Apple Music kind, rather than downloads or YouTube.

Though, of those participating in this survey, YouTube was the most regularly tapped source of audio content, with 42% of respondents saying that they listened to at least five minutes of audio on the site each week. The continued dominance of YouTube might be contributing to single-track listening remaining high.

The report also asked those streaming whether or not they were paying to access music that way, with 42% saying they were not, and that they didn’t see the need to, they being basically happy with the free streaming services available. Which illustrates the ongoing challenge for the record companies, which increasingly see paid-for streaming as their future business model.

Commenting on the report, Music Biz President James Donio said: “As the music business continues to grow and evolve, it is crucial that we understand the progression of music consumption trends so we can deliver the best experience possible. The data in this report will be invaluable to our members as they decide where, when and how to release and promote new music”.

While LOOP man David Lewis added: “This report confirms that playlists are becoming more and more dominant in the music industry as streaming services gain traction. We hope music companies will keep this data in mind as they make decisions on which platforms, distribution methods and marketing opportunities to invest in”.