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More music, more streams, more love – yes, MORE music listening stats from IFPI

By | Published on Tuesday 24 September 2019


The International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry has published its annual report on music consumption, now called the ‘Music Listening’ report. More people are streaming, they are listening to more music, and they love the music they hear. But more than a quarter still tap illegal sources for some of those tunes. So, basically, the world is full of super-duper music-loving copyright-infringing bastards. No change there then.

There are some changes contained in the report, though. But the trends those changes confirm are unsurprising. Of the 34,000 internet users surveyed across 21 different countries, 64% had listened to music through an audio streaming service in the last month. That figure is somewhat higher for 16-25 year olds (83%), but the biggest year-on-year growth in terms of users regularly tuning into a streaming service is found in older demographics – with a 9% increase among both the 35-44 and 55-64 age groups.

In terms of devices, although smart speaker usage is on the up (20% had used a smart speaker in the last quarter, 30% in the UK and 34% in the US), smartphones remain the key device for accessing online services. That’s particularly true, of course, for the younger demographic, with 68% of 16-24 year olds saying that – if they had to pick just one device for listening to music – it would be the smartphone.

That said, across the whole research group, the device that still accounts for the most listening overall is the good old fashioned radio set. And given that just over half of those surveyed said that they also listen to radio services on their smartphone, that confirms that – globally speaking – radio remains an important music platform.

Back in the streaming domain, across the 34,000 respondents, the average user listened to about four hours of music on their streaming service of choice each week.

Which, for any full-on music fans browsing the stats, might seem quite low. And that fact illustrates why shifting to user-centric royalty distribution in the streaming domain would have an impact on how streaming monies are shared out each month. Because the four hour weekly average suggests that there are a lot of low-usage subscribers, whose monthly subs are being shared out with artists listened to by high-usage subscribers.

Of course, a disproportionate number of the low-usage subscribers may be mainly using free streaming platforms. But where they are paying into the system each month, a chunk of that money is certainly going to artists they never listen to.

That might be why, although this new report lists pop, rock and oldies as the most popular genres overall, it’s generally felt that fourth place hip hop does particularly well out of streaming, financially speaking. Unsurprisingly, hip hop ranks highly among younger demographics, who are much more likely to be high-usage subscribers.

Respondents were also asked about how important music is to their lives. Do they love it? Are they fanatical about it? 54% answered “yes” to at least one of those questions. Among the 16-24s the loving-it/fanatical-about-it brigade constituted 63% of those being surveyed. And across all age groups, only 2.5% adopted a glum expression and mumbled that music was “unimportant” to them and their miserable lives.

As for all the sneaky music thieving, 27% said they had accessed music from an illegal source in the last month. Stream-ripping was the most commonly used piracy platform.

Commenting on all this, IFPI boss Frances Moore said: “This year’s report tells an exciting story of how fans are increasingly engaging with music. At a time when multiple forms of media vie for fans’ attention, they are not only choosing to spend more of their time listening to – and engaging with – music, but they are doing so in increasingly diverse ways”.

However, she added, “the report also highlights that the availability of music through unlicensed methods, or copyright infringement, remains a real threat to the music ecosystem. Practices such as stream-ripping are still prevalent and return nothing to those who create and invest in music. We continue to co-ordinate worldwide action to address this”.

For those Brexiters out there who don’t want foreigners interfering with their music listening stats, in the UK about 60% of respondents had accessed an audio streaming service in the last month, up from 52% last year. Among the kids (16-24), the figure is 88%. But, despite all that, many Brits continue to buy CD or vinyl releases alongside the streams, with nearly a third buying music in that way at least once a month. The percentage of people still buying physical music products is higher in the UK than on a global basis in every age group.

Providing a British spin to the new IFPI data, the boss of UK record industry trade group BPI, Geoff Taylor, said: “The way we make and discover music may be going through a radical shift, but the passion we Brits have for the music we love never changes”.

“There are now more ways to access and enjoy the songs and albums we love”, he went on, “whether on radio, our smart phones and speakers and, of course, on turntables and CD players. And with all this choice, we are giving more people across all ages the opportunity to engage with the music they love the way they want to”.

You can download the IFPI’s report and then glare intently at a wide assortment of diagrams and stats here.