Consumer Insights: The Music Experience in 2014

by Rachel Cooper, Consumer Insights, VH1

Technological Waste

Today, music is as emotionally relevant as ever – and consumers have a myriad of ways to experience it, from streaming and downloading to live concerts and more. Thanks to social media, fans also have unprecedented access to their favorite artists. Given these changes in the music landscape, the Music Group, which includes MTV, VH1 and CMT, conducted research into the “Music Experience,” taking a deep look into the ever-evolving process of discovering and obtaining music among teens, 20- and 30-somethings, as well as what the fan-music-artist connection looks like in 2014.

Key Findings

Streaming is the new normal. The popularity of streaming is growing quickly as a way of listening to music “on the regular.”

  • There’s year-over-year growth in the streaming category, with biggest growth coming from free streaming.
  • 78% of music fans have streamed music from sites like Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio and other sites in the past three months.
  • Older Millennials are more actively streaming than both older and younger music fans, with 63% of 22-30 year olds streaming daily (compared to 55% of 31-40 and 57% of 13-21).

Getting the music into my life. The music experience plays out over three phases: Discover, Immerse, Acquire. But the “path to purchase” is hardly linear. Because there isn’t really one brand/platform/device that serves a single purpose, each can come into play at any stage in a fan’s relationship to music.

Discover: More ways than ever.  Music is happening everywhere: 96% of music fans say that radio and the Internet are their main sources for music discovery, followed by TV, word of mouth, being out and about, and movies

  • Music’s ubiquity means it’s ambient: 83% of music fans say discovering new music is passive – it usually just finds them.
  • As a result, music listeners are wanting for ways to filter through it all: 70% say, “There’s so much music online it’s hard to stay on top of it all,” while 66% “wish there was someone or something that could point them in the right direction when looking for new music.”

Immerse: From ambient to active. Once fans hear a song, they work to deepen their relationship to the music and the artist – from listening to the song repeatedly on YouTube, Wiki’ing the artist or sampling similar songs on iTunes.

How fans make this “artist connection” largely depends on life stage. Younger audiences are hungry for any and all information on their favorite artists. They want to know them as a person, and expect to have a reciprocal relationship (i.e. having Taylor Swift respond to their tweet).

  • 80% of 13-21 year olds wish there were more direct ways to interact with artists.
  • 90% of 13-21 year olds want to know about their favorite artists’ musical influences and how they got started in music.
  • 76% of 13-30 year olds agree, “When an artist reveals a lot about themselves in social media, I feel a deeper loyalty to them.”
  • For older fans, it’s more about the music: 87% of 31-40 year olds believe an artist’s personal life is personal.

Fans connect with artists through a variety of means and platforms, including TV, social media and concerts.

o    TV gets an A+ for both experiential reasons and discovery purposes.

  • 90% discover new music through TV and the same percentage agrees that if they can’t see a live performance, watching the artist perform live on TV is the next best thing.
  • 94% appreciate when TV shows put a lot of thought into the songs they include in an episode and 88% often look up songs heard on TV shows as soon as they hear them.
  • Nearly three-quarters of music fans 22-30 are more likely to look up a song they hear on TV than the radio.

o    Social media is hailed for the direct access it provides between fan and artist, with the majority of music fans (60% for 13-21 year olds; 51% for 31-40 year olds) reporting that they follow artists on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or other social networks.

  • 63% of fans follow artists on Facebook, which serves as an “official outlet” for tour updates and information.
  • 37% of fans follower artists on Twitter, which offers a “blow-by-blow feed” and highlights interactions with other celebrities.
  • 25% of fans follow artists on Instagram, which provides a direct line into artists’ literal worldview.
  • 14% of fans follow artists on Tumblr, which provides the most intimate glimpse into an artist’s psyche/spirit.

o    Concerts play a significant role in the lives of music fans, particularly as an important way to connect to artists. But attendance is socially motivated in addition to supporting an artist financially.

  • 79% go to live music events to showcase their fandom for an artist/music genre.
  • 88% go to concerts because they can tell their friends they went.
  • 74% go to see live music to financially support artists they like.
  • 76% go to concerts even if they don’t know the artist because it’s a chance to hang out with friends.

Acquire: When fans are ready to invest in a song and incorporate it into their lives. In 2014, the definition of “acquire” is a little more nuanced. It still includes purchasing (83% of participants said they purchased music within the last month), but also illegal downloading, getting music from friends or even streaming it incessantly.

-4 in 5 fans say that the closer they are to an artist, the more likely they are to support that artist by purchasing their music (rather than downloading it for free).

-Most respondents report very mindful, cautious consumption processes:

  • 83% say they make sure they really like a song before they pay for it so they won’t regret their decision later.
  • 91% listen to the song/watch the video on YouTube prior to purchasing.
  • 87% listen to other songs from that artist prior to purchasing.
  • 66% search for info about the song online prior to purchasing.

-While illegal downloading occurs, it is considered socially unacceptable and risky.

  • 63% say illegally downloading music is never appropriate.
  • 64% say they’re more nervous than they used to be about downloading music illegally.

Friend acquisition is a safer bet, with many music fans sharing files through services like DropBox or WeTransfer or even burning CDs.

  • 81% of fans say that they share music to make others happy.
  • 81% of fans say that they share music to support bands or artists that they love.
  • 77% of fans share because it gives them a sense of personal fulfillment.

Our brands deliver on the entirety of the music experience. Though the focus of the study wasn’t on our channels specifically, viewers of each of the Music Group brands see us as places where they can discover, immerse themselves in, and acquire new music:

  • More than 80% of MTV/VH1/CMT fans credit the respective networks with both introducing them to new artists/bands and giving them behind-the-scenes access to artists.
  • And, more than three-quarters of the networks’ viewers have heard a song on MTV/VH1/CMT and purchased it.


  • Music is as emotionally relevant as ever – consumers just have a myriad of ways to experience it.
  • Discovery is happening everywhere, actively and passively. Fans aren’t overwhelmed, but they could certainly use a hand.
  • With so many acquisition options, getting fans to spend is a challenge, but building and strengthening connections between artists and fans increases the chances of fans purchasing music.
  • Videos, TV and social media rank highest in forging that fan-artist connection. But with so many ways to connect to artists, it’s more important than ever to use a variety of media touch points to facilitate a stronger connection between artist and fan.


This study is based on a quantitative survey with more than 1,200 participants 13-40 years old; “blographies” with 34 participants; secondary research; as well as check-ins with proprietary panels and Facebook groups.

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  1. …one more “implication” for you: With the rise of streaming and the dismal royalty stream it generates for artists and songwriters, the music you love will extinct in twenty years. Good job, freeloaders.

  2. Rachel

    Great survey – the really interesting “discovery stat” that catches my attention most and in regards to the music industry is “88% often look up songs heard on TV shows as soon as they hear them”…

    Can you quantify that a bit better please… ie is that 88pc of the 1,200 participants?


  3. # 78% of music fans have streamed music from sites like Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio and other sites in the past three months.

    ^ 78% here you mean in the UK? US? or around the world?


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