STUDY: MTV’s ‘Music to the M Power’

by Alison Hillhouse, MTV Research

Millennial music fans demand not just a VIP pass, but full-on access to their favorite celebrities, artists and entertainment experiences. MTV’s study, “Music to the M Power,” examines Millennials’ expectations of the relationship with their favorite artists. The findings reveal the ways social media has dismantled barriers between artist and fans and uncovered a “zero-distancing” effect, or the collapsing distance between artist and audience.

Key Findings

Zero-distancing.  Artists are expected to be constantly accessible, especially on social media, offering unique and intimate moments to their fans.

Artist As “Friend”: Today, there’s an expectation for direct interaction between fans and musicians. Millennials crave intimate glimpses into the mundane daily activities of their favorite celebrities.

  • More than three-quarters of Millennials say they feel a stronger connection to musicians who are open about who they are.
  • 53% say the more an artist shares online about themselves, the closer they feel to them.
  • 91% say it’s OK if an artist has some flaws – it makes them human and likeable.

The Daily Feed: Millennials are looking for constant access to their favorite artist in social media, and have different expectations from different channels.

  • Facebook is the most “formal and official outlet” for tour updates and information.
  • Twitter offers a “blow-by-blow feed,” and highlights interactions with other celebrities.
  • Instagram provides a direct line into their literal world-view, like “seeing the world through their eyes.”
  • Tumblr is the more intimate glimpse into an artist’s psyche/spirit.

Co-creation:  A fan-artist symbiosis has emerged, with the two working together on social media as one another’s branding machines.

  • 1 in 4 Millennial has made his or her own parody of songs, artists or music videos.
  • 64% like to be the source for new music for friends and 58% say they are motivated to post and share music when they get feedback.

Music is on shuffle. Social media has made it easier for Millennial music fans to be exposed to different music genres. They are savvy at using different tools, apps, sites and Wikis to dive into genres or artists from the past – a Millennial list of “fave artists” might be as diverse as One Direction, Etta James, Lil Wayne and The Supremes.

  • 85% agree that “among people my age, it’s cooler to listen to a diverse range of music versus one genre.”

There’s no such thing as selling out. As savvy marketers of themselves, Millennials understand that the system of getting free music/streaming means artists have to make their money somewhere.

  • 68% say when it comes to artists and musicians, as long as they are real and not fake, there is no such thing as “selling out.”
  • Although, 61% say they would think less of an artist who put out a product that didn’t fit with their brand/reputation.

Buying music is symbolic patronage for Millennials. Having grown up with free downloading software like Napster and Kazaa, this generation never needed to buy music. When they buy it now, it’s because they want to support an artist that they respect and connect with.

  • At the time of the study, only 1 in 4 Millennials had bought music in the past week and only 28% within the past month.
  • 68% say they only pay for music out of respect to the artist because they believe music should be free.
  • 81% say the closer they feel to an artist, the more likely they are to support that artist by purchasing music rather than downloading for free.


Marketers who leverage music in their platforms should consider the unique relationships between fan and artists, giving them opportunities for brand-sponsored “zero distancing” moments. Metaphorically, what’s happened to the music industry in terms of the collapse in hierarchy between fan and artist is also being observed in many other industries, and brands should consider giving Millennials opportunities to have a voice, co-create and collaborate.

The Methodology:

MTV conducted online surveys with 500 15-29-year-olds in January 2012. On the qualitative side, the study involved nationwide ethnographies with approximately 30 Millennials. These respondents also kept an online journal for four days, to which they uploaded images and videos of themselves.

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  1. Hi!
    Thank you for presenting the results of this great research. I am curious to know however, what do you define as ‘Millenials’? From my reading and research, there are many different responses as to who belongs to this category based on what year they were born in. So, for this particular article and research, what years are being accounted as being members of the Millenial generation?
    I’d appreciate your response. Thank you for your time.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this! I find this type of information very valuable as I’m looking at ways to engage with fans and market my music.

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